Archive for April, 2011

“Ikh tu dir a brivele shraybn” performed by Harry Ary

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Benjy Fox-Rosen

A powerful song lamenting the horrors of war. A soldier lies wounded in the hospital and writes to his mother and fiancé.

This recording is from Ruth Rubin’s field recordings courtesy of Lorin Sklamberg and the YIVO Sound Archive. It was recorded in 1955 in Montreal. The singer is named Harry Ary, he is the same singer who sings “In Droysen iz Finster” from Ruth Rubin’s “Jewish Life: The Old Country” LP of field recordings. I love his delivery and especially the very slight differences between each verse. He may be my favorite male singer on that record.

Note the difference in the opening phrase on the first, and later verses; at the beginning of the second and third verses, he sings a sharp fourth instead of the natural fourth.

On the second and third verses, when he repeats the last two lines, I especially like the different way that he treats, “mayn harts” and “mayn kale.” The variations have very much the same shape, but are sung varied slightly each time. Also his final cadences at the end of each verse are of particular interest to me, for he sings almost a quarter tone sharper than a flat second (in the mode), and this is of course intentional. This difference in tuning is often overlooked in transcriptions and re-interpretations of folk sources, however these controlled variations in pitch are what make this singer particularly interesting.


I will write you a letter Mamenyu,
And Mamenyu, I write of my health,
Oy, my hand was amputated,
And in both eyes, Mamenyu, I am blind.

I lie in the hospital, wounded,
And the doctors stand around me,
My heart is gushing with blood,
My dear Mamenyu is not near me.

I write a letter to my bride,
And I write of her alone,
That she should rip up the engagement,
And go with someone else to the khupe.
(translation by Benjy Fox-Rosen)

Itzik Gottesman writes: Below is the version of the song from “Yidishe folks-lider” edited by Moyshe Beregovski and Itzik Feffer, Kiev 1939, page 119. The melody is essentially the same, and the words vary only slightly. However one textual change should be noted: in the Beregovski-Feffer version the singers says in the second line of the third verse “I write to you only about myself” which is the opposite of Harry Ary’s version.”

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“Tsu dir, tsu dir dos glezele vayn” Performed by George (Getsl) Ribak

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 7, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Singer George (Getsl) Ribak was born in Dvinsk, Latvia, and died in 1979 at age 93. He sang Yiddish songs in public at the local JCC.

George Getsl Ribak

The recording was made in the 1960s by Ribak’s granddaughter Cheryl Cohen of Sarasota, Florida. It is one of several songs sung by her family that Cohen sent to Bob Freedman (of the University of Pennsylvania’s Robert and Molly Freedman Jewish Music Archive), and Bob sent it to me.

I do not know this short drinking song, which Getsl Ribak sings with much gusto. According to Chana Mlotek, collector, YIVO archivist and author of Yiddish songbooks, the song originates from the early Yiddish stage, and she will write about this version in her next column in the Forverts newspaper.

Ribak’s melody and rhyming schemes seem a little off. In parentheses I wrote what I believed to be the “correct” ending, grammatical form or dialect pronunciation. Clearly “glik” should rhyme with “kik”, not “kuk” for example.

After the original posting, Cheryl Cohen wrote to provide some additional biographical information:

My grandfather George (Getsel) Ribak was born in Dvinsk, Latvia. He fled  before being drafted in the Czar’s Army to Capetown, South Africa. He became a British citizen while working  in the shoe making trade. He later fled to avoid the Boer War. He was in England, then in Canada, then finally to the United States. He lived with his wife Rose (Rochel Swirsky) in Chattanooga, TN, where he was in the meat market business. I think he also did house painting in Detroit. He and his wife finally settled in Bridgeport, Connecticut where he had a second hand clothing store. He would  take the train into New York and make his purchases there, I believe.

He and his wife raised 3 children, one of which was my mother. I remember spending weekends in their apartment, listening to WEVD, and seeing the Foverts newspaper.  He loved to sing songs in Yiddish, Hebrew, and English with me for fun but he really enjoyed performing at the Jewish Community Center in Bridgeport for various events. He was not a professional singer but had a very strong and pleasant voice. He even performed at the Jewish Home for the Elderly in Fairfield, CT. while he was a resident there. He wanted everyone to be freylach!

In dir, in dir, du glezele vayn,
In dir, in dir, mayn gantser (gantse) glik.
Ven ikh vil mir freylekh zayn
Damolts gib ikh af dir a kuk.(kik)


In you, in you, you glass of wine,
In you, in you, my whole fortune.
When I want to be happy
Then I take a look at you.

Tsu dir tsu dir, hob ikh lust.
Du bist di nekhome
fun mayn neshome.


For you, for you I lust,
You are the comfort
of my soul.

Af kapores darf ikh gelt
A riekh in dos (dem) gelt arayn.
Ikh lakh mir oys fun der gantser velt.
Nor tsulib dir du glezele vayn.


I have no use for money
The devil take the money!
I laugh at the whole world,
because of you my glass of wine.