“Ze vi gru” Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

Posted in Yiddish Song of the Week with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 15, 2014 by yiddishsong

Ze vi gru (See How Gray)
Performance by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman
Recorded 2013, Bronx, by Itzik Gottesman

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Before we enter the new year, let us do our part to remember that 2014 marked 100 years since World War One and post a song about that time.

In memory of her first yortsayt (memorial anniversary), the 2nd day of Khanike, I am posting the last song that I recorded from my mother, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, a few months before she died. At 93 years of age she could still sing well.

DP Beyle LifshaVienna 1948-49. From left: Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, Mitsi Weininger.

I cannot find the full text for the song, but my mother knows it from Chernovitz, which was Romania when she grew up. We both agreed that it was about WWI but have no other information on the song. Could “in akhtsetn geboygn” refer to something else other than 1918? The rhyme “nayes” (news) and “Ashmoday’es” (Asmodeus’s) is wonderfully original.

As usual, any help finding more lyrics to this unusual song would be appreciated.

(The transliterated Yiddish reflects her dialect; the lyrics written in the Yiddish alphabet are transcribed in standard Yiddish.)

Ze vi gru der himl iz.
Gru vi dayne oygn.
S’iz der Balkan shoyn fun tsar
in akhtsetn geboygn.

See how gray the skies are;
Gray as your eyes.
The Balkan has already, from grief,
bent over in the 18th. [1918?]

Kruen brengen psires un.
Loyter shlekhte nayes.
Kruen brengen psires un.
Psires Ashmodayes.

Crows bring us over news,
just bad news.
Crows bring us over news,
News from (or “of”) Ashmodai. [the devil]

ZeViGru

“Shluf mayn kind in a gliklekhn shluf” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Yiddish Song of the Week with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 9, 2014 by yiddishsong

Shluf mayn kind in a gliklekhn shluf
Performance by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW)
Recorded by Leybl Kahn, Bronx, NY, 1954

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This song smells, tastes and sounds like an Avrom Goldfaden (1840 – 1908) song from one of his plays, but I cannot find the original text yet. The sentimentality, the lament of the Jew in the Diaspora – all are in the style of the “father of the modern Yiddish theater”. Goldfaden had a talent for composing a memorable lullaby, as in Rozhinkes mit mandlen and as we see here. LSW sings this powerfully with her slow, emotional style.

schaechter familyChernovitz,Romania 1937: from left – Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, cousin Lusye (Gottesman) Buxbaum, brother Mordkhe Schaechter, mother Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (Beyle’s mother), father Binyumin Schaechter, grandmother Taube Gottesman.

As usual, the transliteration reflects LSW’s Yiddish dialect more accurately than the words in Yiddish.

Shluf mayn kind in a gliklekhn shluf.
Shulf, inter mayn lid.
Di bist nokh tsi ying tsi erfiln dayn shtruf.
Derfar vayl di bist a yid.

Sleep my child, sleep happily.
Sleep under my song. 
You are still too young to complete (carry out) your punishment.
Because you are a Jew.

Shluf zhe kindele, shluf
di vest nokh derfiln dayn shtruf.
Shluf zhe kindele, shluf
di vest nokh derfiln dayn shtruf.

Sleep my little child sleep.
You will yet complete your punishment.
Sleep my little child, sleep.
You will yet complete your punishment.

Di vest geyn af der velt dayn broyt  fardinen.
Di vest geyn un vest vern mid.
Di vest farsheltn dem tug fin dayn geboyrn
Derfar vayl di trugst dem numen yid.

You will travel the world to earn your bread.
You will go and become tired.
You will curse the day of your birth,
Because you carry the name Jew.

Shluf zhe yingele, shluf
di vest nokh derfiln dayn shtruf.
Shluf zhe yingele, shluf
di vest nokh derfiln dayn shtruf.

Sleep my little boy sleep.
You will yet complete your punishment.
Sleep my little boy, sleep.
You will yet complete your punishment.

Oy libe mentshn ikh beyt aykh zeyer
tsu zingen dus lid, rifts mekh nit mer.
Vayl tsi zingen dus lid bin ikh shoyn mid.
Vayl ikh bin oykh a yid.

Oh dear people I beg of you,
if you want to sing this song, call me no longer.
Because I have grown tired of singing this song.
Because I too am a Jew.

Shluf zhe yingele shluf
di vest nokh derfiln dayn shtruf.
Shluf zhe yingele, shluf
di vest nokh derfiln dayn shtruf.

Sleep my little boy sleep.
You will yet complete your punishment.
Sleep my little boy, sleep. 
You will yet complete your punishment. 

shluf1shluf2shluf3

“Zets zikh avek bay dem ‘kitchen table'” Performed by Izzy Young

Posted in Yiddish Song of the Week with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2014 by yiddishsong

Zets zikh avek bay dem “kitchen table”
Performance by Izzy Young, Stockholm, Sweden
Recorded by Itzik Gottesman, May 2014.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Izzy Young (born 1928) is a well-known figure in the history of the American folk music revival. His “Folklore Center” in Greenwich Village, established in 1957, often served as the first performance space for up and coming singers such as Bob Dylan.

izzy young folklore center

He later moved to Sweden, and in 1973 he opened a “Folklor Centrum” in Stockholm. In May 2014 I recorded him in his storefront singing Zetz zikh avek bay dem ‘kitchen table’ to the melody of Hob ikh mir an altn daym. He explained that his father had owned a kosher bakery in the Bronx and this song was composed during a baker’s strike in the late 1920s or 1930s. Izzy Young’s mother Pola Young used to sing Yiddish songs and even performed them once in the 1960s at a folk music concert.

The melody of the Yiddish drinking song Hob ikh mir an altn daym itself borrows the melody of George Enescu’s “Romanian Rhapsody n. 1″, Op 11:

The words to “Hob ikh mir an altn daym” can be found in many Yiddish song books including the Mlotek’s collection Mir trogn a gezang.

Zets zikh avek bay der “kitchen table”
Tra-la-la-la-la
Esn a broyt mit der “union-label”
Tra-la-la-la-la

Take a seat at the kitchen table.
Tra-la-la-la
Eat some bread with the union label.
Tra..tra…tra..

International union broyt
makht di bakn sheyn un royt.
tra-la-la-la-la….

International Union bread
makes the cheeks nice and red.
tra..tra…tra..

Spoken (possible second verse that Izzy Young tries to remember):
“And if you buy Union bread
may you live a long time…”

“Az ikh heyb mikh on tsu dermanen” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Yiddish Song of the Week with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 14, 2014 by yiddishsong

Az ikh heyb mikh on tsu dermanen
Performance by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman
Recording by Leybl Kahn, NYC,  1954

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

We have drawn on three sources to look at Lifshe Schaechter-Widman’s singing of Az ikh heyb mikh on tsu dermanen, a Yiddish woman’s song if ever there was one. The wide geographic range of variants (see the notes to the song in Yidisher folklor, 1938), indicates that it dates at least as far as the mid-19th century. The song is a mediation on the tragedy of divorce/abandonment from a woman of the times’ perspective.

w-forwardlookingback-011913The Jewish Daily Forward newspaper in NY ran a column “Gallery of Husbands Who Disappeared” to track down men who abandoned their wives, leaving them “agunes”.

The first source is the recording itself. Since I also heard this song from Lifshe’s daughter – my mother, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman – I have put Beyle’s alternate words in brackets and I believe those are the “correct” words: “dermanen” not “baklern”, “di blum” instead of “der boym”. Beyle learned the song from Lifshe and there are grammatical indications to support her version.

The second source is the YIVO volume Yidisher folklor, 1938. Song #132 in that work is the same song but heard in Podbroz, near Vilna, Lithuania; quite a distance from Lifshe’s Bukovina homeland. We have included the words and melody of that version in which the singer sings “di roze” instead of Lifshe’s “boym” and “agune” (an abandoned wife) instead of Lifshe’s “grushe” (a divorcee). My mother also sang “agune” and I believe that is how it was most widely sung.

The third source is the Ruth Rubin field-recording housed at YIVO of the fine singer Bill Lubell (hometown unknown). We have not included the recording but have transcribed his words.

In his performance a “woman’s song” has been adapted for a male singer. No longer is there a mention of “widow”, “divorcee” or “abandoned wife”. Without the build-up found in the woman’s version leading to the climactic description of an agune being discarded, the “man’s version” pales in comparison.

In my mind, it does not take too much imagination to interpret the verse “The flower blooms in the woods – the rain falls on her – she then loses her color” in a Freudian manner.

VERSION BY LIFSHE SCHAECHTER-WIDMAN

Az ikh heyb mikh on tsu baklern [dermanen]
Az ikh heyb mikh on tsu badenken.
Fal ikh arayn in alerley krenken,
fal ikh aran in alerley krenken.

When I begin to ponder [remember]
When I begin to consider,
I fall into all
sorts of illnesses.

Alerleyke krenken
ken a doktor heyln.
Nor mayn krenk
Ken ikh keynem nisht dertseyln.

All kinds of illnesses
can be cured by a doctor.
But about my illness
I can tell no one.

Der boym [di blum] vakst in vald
Der reygn geyt af ir.
Farlirt er [zi ] dekh oykh
dem sheynem kolir.

The tree [flower] grows in the forest.
The rain falls on it.
And so it loses
its beautiful color.

Nisht azoy di kolirn
vi di sheyne farbn.
Eyder aza leybn
iz beser tsi shtarbn.

Not so much the colors,
as the beautiful colors.
Rather than such a life,
it would be better to die.

Yingerheyt tsi shtarbn,
iz dokh oykh a sakune.
Eyder tsi blabn
a yinge almune.

To die young
is also a danger.
Better than remaining
a young widow.

An almune blaybt men
A’ der man shtarbt avek.
A grishe [an agune] nor blaybt men
ven der man varft avek.

One becomes a widow
when the husband dies.
A woman becomes divorced [abandoned]
when the husband discards.
badenken1badenken2badenken3
VERSION FROM PODBROZ, VILNE REGION (from Yidisher folklor, 1938, click to enlarge):

sheyneRoza
DiSheyneRoze

“Oy vey rebenyu” Performed by Josh Waletzky

Posted in Yiddish Song of the Week with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2014 by yiddishsong

Oy vey rebenyu
Performance by Josh Waletzky
Video-recorded at Center for Traditional Music and Dance’s office, New York City, by Peter Rushefsky, Ethel Raim and Benjy Fox-Rosen, January 28th, 2012.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

New York Yiddish singer Josh Waletzky learned this maskilic/anti-Hasidic song from from his grandfather Morris (Moyshe) Waletzky. Oy vey rebenyu has been recorded in a similar version by Jan Bart, with another version by Cantor Isaac Goodfriend.

The Soviet folklorist Z. Skuditski pointed out the similarity to the Mikhl Gordon song Mayn Tshuve (see note in Folklor-lider, volume 2) and it has been considered a Mikhl Gordon song ever since (I could not obtain the original Gordon version). However this anti-Hasidic song was later adapted and interpreted in some circles as a song to praise the rebbe, not mock him.

Interpretations praising the rebbe:

The Yiddish poet Yermye Hescheles (1910 – 2010), from Glina, Galicia, Poland,  told me that on the holiday of Lag B’omer, when the melamed (teacher in the kheyder) walked with them into the woods, he taught the children this song in praise of the rebbe. (I would imagine that the verse with the cook Trayne was cut).

Di Naye Kapelye in Budapest recorded the song – only the refrain – in a slow, spiritual interpretation, on their album –  “A mazeldiker yid” released on the Oriente Musik label.

According to band leader Bob Cohen, the source is a tape recording made in Maramures in 1970 by Romanian-Jewish ethnomusicologust Ghizella Suliteanu of a Roma band from Borsa led by Gheorghe Stingaci Covaci.

Refrain:

Oy vey rebenyu, ikh shuteye un tsiter
un in hartsn brent a fayer.
un in hartsn brent a fayer.
Yakh vil zayn a khosidl a guter,
a khosidl a getrayer.
Yakh vil zayn a khosidl a guter,
a khosidl a getrayer.

O rebbe I stand and shiver
In my heart burns  fire.
I want to be a good khosid,
a faithful khosid.

Bay dem davenen vel ikh zikh shoklen,
makhn alerley hevayes.
Far dem rebn mit zayne khasidim
geyt mir oys dos Hayes.

When I pray I will rock,and make all kinds of gestures.
For the rebbe and his khasidim,
my strength gives out.

Vinter in di greste keltn.
Far dem rebn mit zayne Chasidim
gey ikh aynleygn veltn.

Winter in the greatest cold.
For the rebbe and his khasidim
I will tear down entire worlds.

Refrain

In Folklor-lider, vol. 2 the verses are:

A kalte mikve vel ikh zikh makhn
vinter in di greste keltn.
Far dem rebenyu, far zayne khsidimlekh
vel ikh kereven veltn.

A cold mikve I will prepare
winter in the greatest cold.
For the rebbe, for his hasidim
I will turn over worlds.

A vareme shal vel ikh zikh koyfn
zumer in di greste hitsn.
A zaydenem gartl vel ikh mir koyfn,
a hitl mit zibetsn shpitsn.

A warm shawl will I buy
summer in the greatest heat.
A silk belt will I buy, 
a hat with 17 corners.

Dem rebn vel ikh leygn in fodershtn alker
tsuzamen mit der kekhne Trayne.
Un ale kshidemlekh veln hobn tsum rebn
gor a groyse tayne.

I will put the rebbe in the front den
with the cook Trayne.
And all the Hasidim will complain
to the rebbe. 

oyveyrebenyu1

oyveyrebenyu2

“Kegn gold fun zun” Performed by Chaim Berman

Posted in Yiddish Song of the Week with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2014 by yiddishsong

Kegn gold fun zun (Toward the Golden Sunrise)
Performance by Chaim Berman
Recording by Rabbi Victor Reinstein
Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The words and music for the Soviet-Yiddish song Kegn gold fun zun have been published in Ruth Rubin’s Treasury of Jewish Folksong and Chana and Joseph Mlotek’s Songs of Generations (see below). The words were also included in Sam Liptzin’s collection Zingen mir (1974). Apparently it was a well-known song in the 1930s- 1960s; however, the only recording of the song that we are aware of is on Ruth Rubin’s 1940s 78 rpm recording Ruth Rubin: Jewish and Palestinian Folksongs and among the field recordings in Ruth Rubin’s collection (tape 81) found in YIVO and other archives.

Kegn78-1The composer is unknown, but the text was written by the Soviet Yiddish poet Shloyme Lopatin (Lopate). According to Chaim Beider’s Leksikon fun yidishe shrayber in ratn-farband, (pp.194 – 195) Shloyme Lopatin was born in Belinkove, Ukraine in 1907. He settled in a Jewish colony in the Kherson area for several years and became a colonist. In 1929 he came to Odessa to further his studies. He published his first songs in 1928 in the Kharkov Yiddish journal Prolit, and among these first published writings was the poem Ikh, der yidisher muzhik (I, the Jewish Russian Peasant). Beider writes that this poem “immediately became so popular that people began to sing it as if it were a folksong, and it was then included as such in anthologies”. Lopatin died fighting on the Russian front in 1941.

This week’s recording of folksinger Chaim Berman (d. 1973) was made by Rabbi Victor Reinstein in the 1970s. Berman’s words vary from the printed texts in the second verse, where he repeats the first two lines from the first verse.

Kegn gold fun zun

“Zhumen binen” Performed by Chaim Berman

Posted in Yiddish Song of the Week with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2014 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

To help us enjoy a sweet new year, we have a Soviet-Yiddish song about Jewish beekeepers with the wonderful refrain “Makhn honik iz gevorn a yidishe parnose” – “Making honey, has become a way for Jews to make a living”.

beekeepJewish beekeeper at Kibbutz Yad-Mordechai

This song comes from a field recording of the folksinger, Chaim Berman, done by Rabbi Victor Reinstein in the early 1970s. Zhumen binen (Bees are Buzzing) is found in Sam Liptzin’s collection Zingen Mir/ People’s Sing for Peace (1974 edition, page 49 – thanks to singer and collector Leo Summergrad for that information).

We have also added a link to the song performed by Marina Gordon that we found on the Florida Atlantic University Judaica Sound Archives site. There it is called “Honigmakher.” This recording is from the cassette re-release of her Soviet recordings on the Musique Internationale label in Chicago, run by Barry Serota.

From this recording we see that the words are by the author Emmanuel Kazakevitch (1913 – 1962), known for his connection to Birobidzhan. The music was composed by the prolific Soviet Yiddish composer Leyb (Lev) Yampolsky. The song was written for Kazakevich’s play Milkh un honik (1938) and performed by Birobidzhan Goset in 1940. See the book In Search of Milk and Honey by Ber Kotlerman. It is quite possible that the song became known in the US through this Gordon recording, originally a 78 RPM. In the on-line Robert and Molly Freedman Jewish Sound Archive the question is asked whether the song appears in a film on Birobidzhan. This could also explain how it became known in the US.

FotoMarinaGordonMarina Gordon, one of the great post-war Soviet Yiddish singers was born in Minsk in 1917 and died in Brooklyn last December 2013. She was one of the first to sing Yiddish in public performances in the USSR after the Second World War. See Joel Rubin and Rita Otten’s CD on the Wergo label, Shalom Comrade and Gennady Estraikh’s work Yiddish in the Cold War for more information on this period. On Marina Gordon – see Rita Otten’s article – “Ich möchte stolz sein auf die Kunst meines Volkes”: Die jüdische Sängerin Marina Gordon. Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, 2006/04 (July/August). Mainz: Schott: 62-64.

Zhumen Binen 
Words by Emmanuel Kazakevitch
Music: Lev Yampolsky

Zhumen binen, binen zhumen.
Es klingt fun vaytn a garmonik.
Un arum iz vald un blumen,
un di luft iz zis vi honik.

Buzzing bees, Bees are buzzing,
You can hear an accordion afar.
And around are woods and flowers.
And the earth is sweet as honey.

Refrain:
Oy, sara rakhves, keyn eyn-hore,
S’iz di erd mit zaft fargosn
Makhn honik iz gevorn
Shoyn a yidishe parnose.

O what riches, no evil eye.
The earth is soaked with juice.
Making honey has become
A Jewish livelihood.

Shteyen Binshtoki in reyen.
S’iz di nakht azoy levonik.
Zoln zikh di kinder freyen
mit dem lindn zisn honik.

Beehives stand in rows.
The night is all moonlit.
Let the children enjoy themselves
with the gentle sweet honey.

Refrain

Esn gezunt dem honik zisn,
tsvishn felder, velder bloye
vet gedikhter honik flisn,
est gezunt un hot hanoe.

Eat in good health the sweet honey,
among the fields, the blue woods.
Let the thick honey flow,
Eat up and enjoy!

Refrain

zhumen1zhumen2

zhumen3

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