Archive for March, 2010

“Got hot bashafn himl mit erd” performed by Hoda Yudovin-Zavelev

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , on March 23, 2010 by yiddishsong

Notes by Dmitri Slepovitch

”Got hot bashafn himl mit erd”  (God Has Created Heaven And Earth) was recorded by Dmitri Slepovitch and the late Nina Stepanskaya from Hoda Yudovin-Zavelev (b. 1925 in Beshenkovichi, Vitebsk oblast) in Vitebsk, Belarus, December 2001.

This song is an example of a Yiddish cumulative tale. It first starts as a typical moralizing parareligious rhyme, but it finishes with describing a bride and a groom lying on a pillow. A song that begins with the same words is found in Ruth Rubin’s collection, defined as a ballad of Adam and Eve (Ruth Rubin, Voices of a People, University of Illinois Press, 2000, p.497). However, musically the song collected by Rubin is different from this one.


Got hot bashafn himl mit erd (x2)
Vos iz in der erd? –
A sheyner, fayner vortsl (x2)
Der vortsl fun der erd,
Di erd fun Got

God created heaven and earth.
What was in the earth?
A beautiful, fine root;
The root from the earth.

Got hot bashafn himl mit erd (x2)
Vos i’ fun dem vortsl?
A sheyne, fayne beymdl (x2)
Di beymdl fun dem vortsl,
Der vortsl fun der erd,
Der erd fun Got.

God created heaven and earth.
What came out of the root?
A beautiful, fine tree
The tree from the root..
The root from Heaven and earth…
The earth from God

Got hot bashafn himl mit erd (x2)
Vos iz fun dem beymdl? –
A sheyne, fayne tsveyndl (x2)
Di tsveyndl fun dem beymdl,
Di beymdl fun dem vortsl,
Der vortsl fun der erd,
Di erd fun Got.

God created heaven and earth.,…
What came from the tree?
A beautiful, fine twig.
The twig from the tree..etc.

Got hot bashafn himl mit erd (x2)
Vos i’ af dem tsveyndl? –
A sheyne fayne feygl (x2)
Di feygl af der tsveyndl,
Di tsveyndl fun dem beymdl,
Di beymdl fun dem vortsl,
Der vortsl fun der erd,
Di erd fun Got.

God created heaven and earth.,…
What came from the twig?
A beautiful, fine bird.
The bird from the twig..etc.

Got hot bashafn himl mit erd (x2)
Vos iz fun der feygl? –
A sheyne, fayne feder (x2)
Di feder fun der feygl,
Di feygl afn tsveyndl,
Di tsveyndl fun dem beymdl,
Di beymdl fun dem vortsl,
Der vortsl fun der erd,
Di erd fun Got.

God created heaven and earth.,…
What emerged from the bird?
A beautiful, fine feather.
The feather from the bird..etc.

Got hot bashafn himl mit erd (x2)
Vos iz fun der feder? –
A sheyne, fayne kishn (x2)
Di kishn fun der feder,
Di feder fun der feygl,
Di feygl afn tsveyndl,
Di tsveyndl fun dem beymdl,
Di beymdl fun dem vortsl,
Der vortsl fun der erd,
Di erd fun Got.

God created heaven and earth.,…
What came from the feather?
A beautiful, fine pillow.
The pillow from the feather..etc.

Got hot bashafn himl mit erd (x2)
Vos i’ af der kishn? –
A sheyne, fayne kale (x2)
Di kale af der kishn,
Di kishn fun der feder,
Di feder fun der feygl,
Di feygl afn tsveyndl,
Di tsveyndl fun dem beymdl,
Di beymdl fun dem vortsl,
Der vortsl fun der erd,
Di erd fun Got.

God created heaven and earth.,…
What came from the pillow?
A beautiful, fine bride.
The bride on the pillow..etc.

Got hot bashafn himl mit erd (x2)
Vos iz bay der kale? –
A sheyner, fayner khosn (x2)
Der khosn ba’ der kale,
Di kale afn kishn,
Di kishn fun der feder,
Di feder fun der feygl,
Di feygl afn tsveyndl,
Di tsveyndl fun dem beymdl,
Di beymdl fun dem vortsl,
Der vortsl fun der erd,
Di erd fun Got.
Got hot bashafn himl mit erd (x2)

God created heaven and earth.,…
What emerged from the bride?
A beautiful, fine groom.
The groom with the bride,
The bride on the pillow,
The pillow from the feather…etc.

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„A bayshpil‟ sung by Jacob Gorelik

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , on March 15, 2010 by yiddishsong

Notes by Itzik Gottesman

Jacob (Yankev) Gorelik was born in Schedrin (Shchadryn, Scadryn) Belarus, and came to the US in the 1920s. This performance was recorded at a concert in New York City on November 10th, 1990, organized by Center for Traditional Music and Dance, then called the Ethnic Folk Arts Center. This event was part of The Yiddish Folksong Project which had similar aims to the current An-sky Folkore Research Project. Other singers performing that evening were Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman and Paula Teitelbaum. We eventually hope to post some of their performances from that concert as well. Gorelik died in Miami in the late 1990s.

Sketch of Jacob Gorelik by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

Jacob Gorelik performed for all the sectors of the Yiddish world – left, center and right – and never mixed politics with art. He had written down the words for the songs he performed in a small notebook which was bursting at the seams after he kept stuffing little notes inside it, so he used rubber bands to keep it together. You can see a clip of him singing with his book in a documentary on Jews in Miami Beach made in the 80s or 90s by Joel Saxe called „The Yiddish Folksingers of Miami.”

The song „A bayshpil‟ (An Example) is a version of „Der alter foter‟ (the old father) by Elyokum Zunser, probably the most famous and popular badkhn of his time (1836-1913). I have scanned the original version of this song in Yiddish as it appears in his collected works, Elyokum Zunzers verk edited by Mordkhe Schaechter, YIVO, NY 1964. p. 242-243, first published in Zunser‘s collection Hamenagin, 1873.

One quick episode from Zunser‘s autobiography which was unforgettable when I read it: his wife fell asleep in a horse and wagon with their baby on her lap in the woods during winter. When she woke up, she realized the baby fell off the wagon and when they went to retrieve it, wolves were in the middle of devouring it.

Zunser‘s songs, in my opinion, aren‘t particularly catchy or melodic, but he was a badkhn/wedding performer who emphasized the ethics of Jewish life, rather than the entertainment value of his work. Gorelik learned this song from his mother in Schedrin and his clear tenor expresses the message beautifully.

A bayshpil ken ikh aykh mentshn gebn,
dem sof fun mir batrakht atsind.
Es iz beser af der velt nit tsu lebn,
eyder onkumen tsu a kind.

An example, i can give you people,
the end of me, please consider.
It is better not to live in this world,
than to depend on your child.

ikh hob ongelebt yorn
mit koved un mit gelt,
gehandlt un geforn,
gefirt gants sheyn mayn velt.

I lived out my years,
in honor and with wealth,
did business and traveled,
and led a beautiful world.

Fardint gor sheyn mayn gildn,
mit kredit, mit erlekhkayt.
gelozt kinder bildn,
zey zoln vern layt.

I earned a pretty penny,
with credit, with honesty.
I gave my children an education,
they should become decent people.

Mayn gvirishaft, mayn gantse kraft.
Tsu mayne kinder ver ikh on;
haynt iz far mir, farshpart di tir
Ikh hob zikh nit vu ahintsuton.

My fortitude, my whole strength,
I lost it all for my children.
Today the door is locked for me.
I don‘t have anywhere to go.

Far kinder hob ikh mayn haldz geshnitn
gevorn gro un oysgedart.
Brider, got zol aykh bahitn,
aza elter vi ikh hob zikh dervart.

For my children, I cut my throat,
became gray and thin.
Brother, may God protect you,
from such elderly years as i had waiting for me.

Ay, ikh hob ertseygn [dialect form of „ertsoygn‟],
mayn kind, mayn bkhor aleyn,
hob ikh tsefoylt di oygn
fun trern, fun geveyn.

O, I raised
my child, my eldest son by myself,
and thereby ruined by eyes,
with tears, with laments.

Rubls iz geshvumen
un kreftn vert men on,
eyder zey bakumen,
in moyl dem ershtn tson,

Rubles were swimming [are spent?],
and one loses one‘s strength,
before they get,
their first tooth in their mouth.

Di pokelekh, di mozelekh,
der tate shtelt zayn lebn ayn in kon.
Haynt traybt men mikh, aroys fun kikh,
ikh hob zikh nit vu ahintsuton.

The pocks, the measles;
the father risks his life.
Today, I am driven out of the kitchen,
I don‘t have anywhere to go.

“A naye geshikhte” performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , on March 7, 2010 by yiddishsong

Notes by Itzik Gottesman.

This week, we present another performance by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, a version of A naye geshikhte (“A New Story”) recorded in the Bronx in 1954 by Leybl Kahn (on the life of Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, click here to see the earlier post for Fintster, glitshik).

A naye geshikhte is a ballad that tells a story that purports to be true, a legendary ballad. This song was published, with the melody, by the collector Leybl Kahn in the second issue of the journal Yidisher Folklor, June 1955, page 28, a publication of I.L. Cahan Folklore Club in NY. Chana Mlotek, expert on Yiddish song, currently a music archivist at YIVO in NY, and longtime columnist of “Leyner dermonen zikh lider‟ (Readers Remember Songs) in the Yiddish Forward newspaper, added her comments and parallels to this widely distributed ballad in that issue. Among the comments she says that every singer of this song says that it describes a true story that happened in her/his town.

I would add a version collected by Shmuel-Zaynvil Pipe in Sanok, Galicia (Sunik/Sonik in Yiddish) and printed in Yiddish Folksongs From Galicia edited by Dov Noy and Meir Noy, 1971, page 115. Pipe‘s collection and the song repertory found in the volume, which includes the melodies, comes closest to LSW‘s Bukovina repertory of any other collection of Yiddish folksongs.

The two powerful images/motifs in the ballad – the drowned youth bitten by the fish, and the distribution of his clothes to the poor, so that kaddish can be said for him – are found in the other versions as well. I have found reference to this custom of clothes distribtion only in one other place – a joke told about the prankster Hershele Ostropolyer!

LSW sings in her slow, emotional style and reinforces the trajedy of the story when she repeats the last two lines in each verse, slower and with more sentiment. The melody of the song is similar to “Der beker yingl‟ also called “Beker lid‟ recorded by Ruth Rubin, and later by the group Aufwind.

A naye geshikhte ken ikh aykh dertseyln
vos er hot zikh getrofn do nisht vayt.
A khosn hot zikh dertronkn fun zayn kale
dertsu fun di fayne layt.

A new story I can tell you
that happened not far from here.
A groom was drowned from his bride
and from one of the finer families.

Fil toyznter mentshn zenen shpatsirn gegangen,
di zun zetst zikh vos amol arop.
Fun yener zayt taykhele, shteyt a sheyne kale
zi yomert, zi veynt,  zi klogt.

Thousands of people were strolling along,
the sun was slowly setting.
On the other side of the river
stands the bride, crying and moaning.

Ven me hot im funem taykhl aroysgenemen
fun di fishelekh iz er geven tsebisn,
Vi di kale hot im nor derzen
di kleyder fun zikh hot zi tserisn.

When they pulled him out of the river
he was bitten all over by the fish.
As soon as the bride saw this
she tore her clothes.

Oy mentshn ir gite, oy mentshn getraye,
ir gedenkt dokh vos far a kleyder er hot getrogn.
Tselteylt di kleyder far oreme laytn
me zol nokh im kadish zogn.

Oh good people, oh dear people,
you remember, of course, the clothes he wore.
Donate the clothes to the poor people,
so they can say Kaddish for him.

אַ נײַע געשיכטע קען איך אײַך דערציילן
וואָס ער האָט זיך געטראָפֿן דאָ נישט ווײַט.
אַ חתן האָט זיך דערטראָנקען פֿון זײַן כּלה,
דערצו פֿון די פֿײַנע לײַט.

פֿיל טוינזטער מענטשן זענען שפּאַצירן געגאַנגען,
די זון זעצט זיך וואָס אַ מאָל אַראָפּ.
אויף יענער זײַט טײַכעלע, שטייט אַ שיינע כּלה,
זי יאָמערט, זי וויינט, זי קלאָגט.

ווען מע האָט אים פֿונעם טײַכל אַרויסגענומען,
פֿון די פֿישעלעך איז ער געווען צעביסן.
ווי די כּלה האָט אים נאָר דערזען,
די קליידער פֿון זיך האָט זי צעריסן.

אוי מענטשן, איר גיטע, אוי מענטשן געטרײַע,
איר געדענקט, דאָך, וואָס פֿאַר אַ קליידער ער האָט געטראָגן.
צעטיילט די קליידער פֿאַר אָרעמע לײַטן,
מע זאָל נאָך אים קדיש זאָגן.