Archive for August, 2010

Urke Nakhalnik’s “Din-toyre” Performed by M. Bauman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 25, 2010 by yiddishsong

This week’s Yiddish Song of the Week, Urke Nakhalnik’s Din-toyre, was recorded by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman in the Bronx, 1980s. The singer was a neighbor, M. Bauman, from either Lodz or Warsaw.

Urke Nakhalnik (1897-1942?) was a convicted criminal and after his release from prison in 1933, he became  a writer in Yiddish and Polish writing a hit book based on his experiences in the Jewish underworld. During the Second World War, living in Otwock, he died a hero’s death. His life was truly amazing. See Edward Portnoy’s entry on him in The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, but even better, see Portnoy’s article on him in Tablet in which he discusses the play Din-toyre (a “din-toyre” is a case before a rabbinic court) produced in Warsaw 1933. Portnoy believes this song was sung by the character who played Urke.

Urke Nakhalnik

Another Yiddish song that refers to a din-toyre is Levi-Yitskhok Bardichever’s 19th century “A din toyre mit Got” and one wonders whether this one is dialogically connected to the earlier one.

Bauman does not have a strong voice, and is barely on key, but he nicely captures the theatrical nature of the song– particularly his “Rex Harrison/My Fair Lady” spoken lines in the middle of the performance. The fine line between the underworld and revolutionaries is underscored in the text.

 Finster khoyskhek shpet bay nakht 
Tir un toyer zenen farmakht 
Krikh ikh, zikh ikh broyt far vayb un kind 
Sʼvert nor tinkl af der gas 
Nemt zi bald dem shvartsn pas*
In a vinkl, gants tinkl 
Farkoyft zi dort ir layb.

Dark, gloomy late at night, 
Door and gate are locked 
I crawl, I search a piece of bread for wife and child 
As soon as it gets dark on the street
She takes out her black pass*
In a corner, quite dark 
She sells her body.

Oy vi biter iz dos lebn fun a nash brat
Finster khoyshekh iz dos lebn fun undzers a yat. 
Es felt keyn mol key mure-skhoyre, skhoyre 
Shtendik nor in shrek, in moyre, moyre 
Vi shver kimt undz on dos trikn shtikl broyt.

Life is bitter for a fellow in crime 
Dark and gloomy is the life of one of us lads.
Gloom is never short in supply,
Always fearful, afraid, afraid,

How hard it is to get a piece of bread [to make a living]

Farvos kimt aynem raykhkayt farmegn 
dem tsvaytn nisht?
A din-toyre vil ikh fregn 
An entfer git.

Why is one rewarded with riches and wealth, 
and not the other?
I want a lawsuit [before a rabbinic court]
Give me an answer.

Farvos kimt aynem raykhkayt, ashires, ashires, 
Lukses oysgeputste, dires dires, 
Un azoy fil lebn in tsores un groyser noyt?

Why is one rewarded with wealth and riches 
luxurious decorated apartments,
and so many live with troubles in great poverty?

Ikh trakht un ken dos nisht farshteyn 
Farvos men halt undz far gemeyn 
Shpasn, undz hasn,
ver git zey dos rekht?

I think but I canʼt understand 
Why we are considered so vulgar,
Mocked, hated,
who gives them the right?

Farvos iz haynt aza min velt? 
As shtark iz der vos nor hot gelt
hipokritn, banditn,
men shekht, men blaybt gerekht. 

Why do we have such a world today? 
Where only the one with money is strong? 
Hypocrites, bandits,
They slaughter and are considered just.

Zey zaynen dos di faynste mentsn,
zey, alts far zey 
Far zey horoven oreme mentshn,
 far zey, alts far zey.

Hey are the finest people,
everything goes to them
 
Poor people slave for them,
everything goes to them.

Kleyne ganovim hengt men, hengt men. 
Groyse ganovim, shenkt men, shenkt men, 
Un azoy iz dos lebn, tomid ayngeshtelt. 

Small thieves get hanged 
Important thieves are rewarded
Thatʼs how life has always been.

Un azoy geyen di teg un di yorn
shnel, gikh farbay.
freg keyn kashes, un keyn khasroynes 
shtil ayngeshvaygt.

And so the days and years go by
 fast, quickly,

Donʼt ask questions, and see no faults, 
still, remain quiet.

Se helft kayn veynen un keyn trern, trern, 
keyner vil dem krekhts nit hern, hern, 
zey zaynen dos di faynste mentsn 
zey alts nor zey. 

Your crying and tears wonʼt help, 
No one wants to hear your groaning 
They are the finest people, 
All goes to them, only to them.

*shvartser pas = black permit. In interwar Poland, prostitutes could legally work with a “black permit”

Notes by Itzik Gottesman

“Der shadkhn” Performed by Clara Crasner

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2010 by yiddishsong

Notes by Ethel Raim

Der shadkhn (The Matchmaker) is a humorous song describing the special skills that a shadkhn needs for his trade. The performer, Clara Crasner, was a truly marvelous singer who possessed a vast repertoire of Yiddish songs. I only regret never having met her or having heard her sing in person. We’re so fortunate that her son-in-law, Bob Freedman, made a recording of her singing in 1972. Clara’s singing is wonderful – feisty, straight forward and yet beautifully nuanced, and narrative to the core.

Picture of Clara Crasner with her daughter Molly Freedman

Here’s an excerpt of Crasner’s biography written by her daughter, Molly Freedman:

“My mother Clara Fireman Crasner was born in 1902 in Shargorod, not far from Vinnitsa, in the Ukraine. She learned many Yiddish songs as a child in the shtetl. She left Shargorod in 1919, stayed in Romania with relatives for two years, (and learned more songs there) while waiting for immigration papers from an older brother in New Jersey. My mother was always singing Yiddish folk songs at home while she did her housework. She knew many, many songs and I learned the songs from her as a child. Clara lived in Philadelphia until about 1970 and then moved to Miami Beach, where she was part of a group of senior citizens who had a regular Yiddish singing session on the beach every day. My husband recorded Clara in 1972 at our home in Philadelphia. She was just singing her favorite songs from memory. She came back to Philadelphia in the mid-80s and lived at the Jewish Geriatric Center where she continued to sing, sometimes alone and also with other seniors. She lived to be 97 and often would remember songs that we had not heard before, while we were driving in the car…  She was the inspiration for my love of Yiddish music and my husband and I continue to collect and share our music through our website at the University of Pennsylvania.”

Click the following link for the The Robert and Molly Freedman Jewish Sound Archive.

Itzik Gottesman adds:

A version of the song “Der shadkhn” can be found in the book Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive edited by Chana Mlotek and Mark Slobin, page 82-83. There it is called “A shadkhn darf men kenen zayn” and the melody is printed on page 82. Rubin writes that the song originates from the pen of Avrom Goldfaden. The words are somewhat different.

Ethel Raim, Michael Alpert and I traveled to the Yiddish Summer Weimar program the last week of July (2010) to teach traditional unaccompanied Yiddish folksong style – the focus of this blog. Ethel and Michael taught the vocal style, and I spoke on the songs and singers of this tradition. I believe this was, if not the first, then one of the first attempts to pass on this tradition to a new generation of singers, and kudos to Alan Bern, director of Yiddish Summer Weimar, who also co-taught, for his suggestion and decision to teach this. The students were seriously interested in learning the songs and style and were wonderful. Ethel taught another of Clara Crasner’s songs in her class at Weimar “A meydl in di yorn.”

Di lid hot mayn shvegerin gezungen; zi’s a Malover, Podolyer gubernye. Mayn shvegerun un mayn brider zingen es.
Zey zogn az zeyer futer hot es zey oysgelernt, mit a sakh yurn tsurik. Di lid heyst “der shadkhn.”

This song was sung by my sister-in-law. She is from Malov, Podolye. My sister-in-law and my brother sing it.
They say that their father taught it to them many years ago. The song is called “Der shadkhn.”

A shadkhn tsi zayn iz a gute zakh.
Es iz fun Got a brukhe.
Me makht zikh a bisele kushere gelt.
Un me tit nit keyn groyse melukhe.

To be a matchmaker is a good thing.
It is a blessing from G-d.
One earns a little honest money.
And you don’t have to work too hard.

Refrain:
Tsu deym darf men kenen a koysye makhn.
Makhn mit di hent,
Fun a shadkhn meyg men lakhn
Tsuzamen gefirt di vent mit di vent.

For this you need to take a drink.
Take it with your hands.
You can laugh at the matchmaker-
who brings together a wall with a wall.

Un az di mekhiteyniste vil nit di kale
darf men ir makhn meshige
Me darf ir azoy dem kop fardreyen
Zi zol shrayen gevold zi’s a klige!

And if the mother-in-law doesn’t want the bride,
You have to make her go crazy.
You should drive her so nuts,
That she yells “Wow, she’s is a smart one”.

Refrain:
Tsu deym darf men kenen a koysye makhn.
Makhn mit di hent,
Fun a shadkhn meyg men lakhn
Tsuzamen gefirt di vent mit di vent.

For this you need to take a drink.
Take it with your hands.
You can laugh at the matchmaker-
who brings together a wall with a wall.

Un az der mekhitin vil nisht dem khusn.
Darf men im makhn dil.
Me darf im azoy dem kop fardreyen
Er zol shrayen “Gevald ikh vil!”

And if the father-in-law doesn’t want the groom,
You should make him batty.
You should drive him so nuts
that he yells “Wow, I want!”

Refrain:
Tsu deym darf men kenen a koysye makhn.
Makhn mit di hent,
Fun a shadkhn meyg men lakhn
Tsuzamen gefirt di vent mit di vent.

For this you need to take a drink.
Take it with your hands.
You can laugh at the matchmaker-
who brings together a wall with a wall.

Un az di kale iz finef un tsvantsik yor alt
Fregt der khusn mir.
Zug ikh im az zi’s akhtsin yur
un dus iberike halt ikh mir.

And if the bride is 25 years old
and the groom asks me about it.
I tell him that she’s only 18,
and the leftover years, I will keep for myself.

Refrain:
Tsu deym darf men kenen a koysye makhn.
Makhn mit di hent,
Fun a shadkhn meyg men lakhn
Tsuzamen gefirt di vent mit di vent.

For this you need to take a drink.
Take it with your hands.
You can laugh at the matchmaker-
who brings together a wall with a wall.

Un biz ikh nem up dus shadkhones-gelt
Tserays ikh tsvey pur shikh.
Un az ikh nem up dus shadkhones-gelt.
Khapt zey ale dus riekh.

By the time I pick up the matchmaker fee
I tear up two pairs of shoes.
And when I finally pick up the matchmaker fee,
The devil take them all!

Refrain:
Tsu deym darf men kenen a koysye makhn.
Makhn mit di hent,
Fun a shadkhn meyg men lakhn
Tsuzamen gefirt di vent mit di vent.

For this you need to take a drink.
Take it with your hands.
You can laugh at the matchmaker-
who brings together a wall with a wall.

 

“Oy vey mame” Performed by Ita Taub

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , on August 4, 2010 by yiddishsong

Notes by Itzik Gottesman

Ita (or Eta) Taub (1908 – 2003) was born in the Ukrainian town of Stidenitse on the Dniester river. She immigrated to Montreal and then New York. She published two volumes of autobiography in Yiddish, Ikh gedenk (I Remember), with one volume appearing posthumously. She also wrote a volume of poetry, In klem fun benkshaft (In the Fetters of Longing, Jerusalem, 1993) and published the Yiddish love poetry and love letters sent to her by an admirer (Libe briv un lider by Itzik Freiman).

She was well known for her philanthropic generosity and financially supported numerous Yiddish causes, especially those connected to Soviet Yiddish literature. She was a classy lady, as they say, with a huge apartment on 106th Street on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. By the time I recorded her, her voice was clearly not very powerful, but she still could sing an unaccompanied Yiddish folksong in a compelling way.


Ita Taub in the Gottesman’s Sukke in the Bronx, 1990s

The song Oy vey mame was one of two she remembered from her shtetl. Ruth Rubin recorded her singing both in 1962 and they are in included in the publication Yiddish Folksongs in the Ruth Rubin Collection (Mlotek/Slobin, 2007). Oy vey mame is on page 54; a scan of that page is reproduced below. As Rubin notes, the closest variant found to this song is in I. L. Cahan’s collection Yidishe folkslider mit melodyes (1957, #150). The dramatic last line that Ita sings about commiting suicide is not found in that version. This recording was made in the Bronx in the mid-1980s at the Gottesman’s house.

Ita’s other shtetl song, Got hob bashafn mentshn af der velt is found in the Rubin collection on pages 61-62. She picked up many other songs on her travels which we hope to present in future postings.

Pete Rushefsky adds: Each verse of Oy vey mame is comprised of two sections employing distinct modal characters. The modulation between the two sections creates a haunting sound that imbues the piece with gravity and tragedy. The first section is transcribed in B-major, but the melody initially implies the subdominant F# major. The second section shifts to a tonal center of C# in a mode described by the pioneering Jewish musicologist Abraham Zvi Idelsohn as the “Ahava Raba” scale, also known by cantors and klezmorim as “freygish” (an allusion to its similarity to the phrygian scale). Ahava Raba is additionally consistent with the Turco-Arabic maqam of hijaz/hicaz. Here, the melody descends from F# to the new C# tonal center, followed by a second descending passage from F# further down to the subtonic B.  Finally the section resolves through an ascending/descending sequence with an ending that mirrors the initial F# to C# descent. The written musical transcription below contains a few discrepancies from the recording – it is likely there are errors in the transcription, though I have not heard Rubin’s recording of Taub to analyze differences with the Gottesman recording made two decades later.