Archive for December, 2010

“Di fishelekh in vaser” Performed by Tsunye Rymer

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

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Di fishelekh in vaser (The Fish in Water) was one of Isaac (Tsunye) Rymer‘s most beloved songs to perform (for more on Rymer see the previous posting on Shpilt zhe mir dem nayem sher). The performer Michael Alpert learned it from him (Alpert was present at this recording, done at a zingeray, or singing session, at our dining room table) and then taught others the song at KlezKamp and other festivals and workshops. The Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band and Shtreiml have recorded Rymer‘s version.

The song itself is a typical Yiddish mother-daughter folksong [see Robert Rothstein “The Mother-Daughter Dialogue in the Yiddish Folk Song: Wandering Motifs in Time and Space,” New York Folklore 15 (1989), 1-2:51-65.] But the couplet “I am a girl with understanding, common sense and ideas/I sought to fall in love (or have a love affair), but cannot attain it” is unique to this song.

The closest printed version I have found is in Folklor lider, Moscow 1936 vol. 2, Z. Skuditski/M. Viner, vol. 2, page 155, recorded in Bela Tservkva (Yiddish – „Shvartse tume‟), Ukraine, 1926 (see their footnotes for similar verses in other collections).

In this recording made at our home around 1980, Rymer sings with great passion and his exclamations of „mame mayne!‟ says it all. When I first heard this recording after many years, it bothered me to hear others at the table join in with Rymer. But I realized that this was how we learned the songs ourselves – singing along, missing a word at first here and there, until we got it right.

Oy, fishelekh in vaser,  zey iz fil beser.
Bay zey iz nit keyn untersheyd, fin klener biz tsu greser.
Oy, fishelekh in vaser, zey iz fil beser.
Bay zey iz nit keyn untersheyd, fun klener biz tsu greser.

O the fish in water, they have it much better.
They don‘t make a difference
between the smaller ones and bigger ones.

„Oy vey tokhter, s‘badarf azoy nit zayn.
Der zeyger hot shoyn tsvelef geshlugn, kim in shtib arayn.‟
„Der zeyger hot shoyn tsevelf geshlugn, kh‘hob moyre far mayn tatn.‟
„Kum zhe shoyn in shtib aran, s‘vet dir gurnisht shatn. „

„O dear daughter, it shouldn‘t be this way.
The clock has already struck twelve, come inside the home.‟
„The clock has already struck twelve, I‘m afraid of father.‟
„Come on inside, nothing will happen to your‟

„Oy vey mame, fartsap mir nit mayn blit,
lomikh mit im reydn, nokh a pur minit.
Ikh bin a meydele mit farshtand, seykhl un gedanken,
a libe shpiln hot zikh mir farglist, ikh kon es nisht derlangen.‟

„O dear mother, don‘t suck my blood,
Let me talk to him, just a few more minutes.
I am a girl with understanding, common sense and ideas.
I sought to fall in love, but I cannot attain it.‟

Fil muzikantn shpiln, mame, oyfn frayen feld.
Ikh hob farshpilt mayn lebn, mame, kh‘ob farshpilt mayn velt.
Ih hob farshpilt mayn leybn, mame, tsures un a shir,
tsi bashraybn mayne layden, klekt nit keyn papir. 

Many musicians, mother mine, play in the open field.
I have lost my life, mother, I have lost my world.
I have lost my life, mother, troubles without end.
To describe my sorrows, no amount of paper would suffice.

Oy, fil brilyantn, mame mayne, hob ikh shoyn gezeyn.
Nor ven ikh kik zikh tsi tsi zey, zenen zey gemeyn.
Nor eyn brilyant, mame mayne, ligt mir nor in zinen.
Un vu ikh gey, un vu ikh shtey, ikh kon im nit gefinen. 
Nor eyn brilyant, mame mayne, ligt mir nor in zinen.
Un vu ikh gey, un vu ikh shtey, ikh kon im nit gefinen.

Many gems, mother mine, have I already seen.
But when I look at them, I find them coarse. 
But one gem, mother mine, do I have in my mind,
And wherever I go, wherever I stand, I cannot find him. 

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“Ven ikh volt gehot dem keysers oytsres” Performed by Ita Taub

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

Notes by Itzik Gottesman

This recording of Ita Taub was done in our dining room in our Bronx home in the 1980s after a meal, as you can hear from the clanging of dishes. For biographical information on Taub see the earlier post on “Oy vey mame.”

Ven ikh volt gehot dem keysers oytsres (If I were to have the Emperor’s Treasures) was written by Mikhl Gordon (1823 – 1890). According to Chana and Joseph Mlotek in their Yiddish-language work Perl fun der yidisher poezye, 1974 (now available in English), this song was originally called “Shlof mayn kind” and included in his first collection printed in 1868.

Mikhl Gordon

The Mloteks also say that Isa Kremer performed the song often and popularized it, though I cannot find a recording of her singing it. The Freedman Jewish Sound Archive lists two recent recordings of the song with the title “Az ikh volt gehat dem keysers oytsres.”

I have not seen Gordon’s work so I am not sure how many verses are in his original but a third verse is included in some recordings and collections such as Z. Kisselgof’s Lider-zamlbuch, Berlin 1914, that concern the father going to hell. That verse adds a little bittersweet humor to the song, and it’s interesting that with a woman singer such as Ita Taub the verse is dropped. As Taub sings it, the song only relates directly to the mother and child relationship.

Taub’s interpretation is truly moving and culminates in that great dramatic last line “Let enter the Tsadik’s mother!”

Ven ikh volt gehot dem keysers oytsres
mit zayn gantser melikhe.
Volt es nit geveyn bay mir nikhe,
vi di bist bay mir nikhe. 

If I were to have the Emperor‘s treasures
and his entire land.
It would not be as pleasing to me,
as you are pleasing to me.

Mayn kind, mayn kroyn
Ven ikh derzey deyekh
Vayst zikh dokh mir oys,
az di gontse velt iz mayn.

My child, my crown.
When I see you
It seems to me
That the whole world is mine.

Shluf mayn kind, shluf mayn kind,
zolst nor leybn un zayn zezint.
Ay-lu -lu -lu, Ay-lu- lu-lu

Sleep may child, sleep my child.
You should only live and be healthy,
Ay-lu-lu.

Ven ikh vel amol darfn
af yener velt geyen,
veln toyern funem gin-eydn
far mir ofn shteyen.

When I will have to
go to the other world,
the gates of Heaven
will stand open for me.

Vayl di mayn kind
vet zayn a frimer un a giter.
Vet me zugn af yener velt –
„Lozst arayn dem tsadiks miter!‟

Because you my child,
will be observant and good,
So in the other world they will say –
„Let enter the Tsaddik‘s mother!‟

Shluf mayn kind, shluf, mayn kind,
zolst nor leybn un zayn gezint,
Ay-lu-lu-lu, Ay-lu-lu-lu

Sleep may child, sleep my child.
You should only live and be healthy,
Ay-lu-lu.