Archive for May, 2011

Four Songs, One Melody

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

In this week‘s entry the reader will get four Yiddish songs for the price of one. What connects them is the same melody. I am not the first to write on the popularity of this tune. The Israeli Yiddish song-researcher Meir Noy wrote an article זמר סובב עולם [The tune that circles the world]  in the Israeli publication אומר, April 13, 1962. I could not find the article yet, so am not sure what he includes.

The first song and perhaps the oldest is a beggar song –  Vu zenen mayne vugn un ferd? (Where are my wagon and horse?); the second song  Yosele mit Blimele (Yosele and Blimele) is a typical lyrical love song. These are sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW, 1893 – 1974), recorded in 1954 in NYC and originate from her Bukovina repertoire that she learned in the small town of Zvinyetchke in the 1890s-early 1900s. I have found no variants of the beggar song, and one of Yosele mit blimele (Oy vey mame,  in the Pipe-Noy collection, see below, page 270-71 with music). The first line as my mother remembers it sung was “Vu iz mayn vugn, vu zenen mayne ferd?” which fits better into the melody; it does indeed sound as if  LSW forgot a syllable or two when she sings it here, and forces it into the melody.

In the interviews that Professor Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett of New York University recorded with LSW in the early 1970s shortly before her death, LSW said that much of her repertoire, particularly the songs about life‘s difficulties, was learned from the older, married women in town, while the younger unmarried women taught her the hopeful love songs. Vu zenen mayne vugn un ferd would fall into the category taught by the married women (vayber) while Yosele mit blimele would be a typical song performed during the Sabbath afternoon walks that the unmarried girls took into the woods. In terms of style, the beggar song is sung slower and more mournful, while the love song is more playful.

LSW sings other versions of Yosele mit blimele including a second verse: 

Az du vest kumen, tsum dokter bay der tir, 
zolst im gebn a vink, azoy vi ikh tsu dir. 
Zolst im gebn a  tuler in der hant. 
Vet er shoyn visn vus mit dir iz genant 

When you come to the doctor’s door,
you should give him a wink, like I give to you.
you should give him a dollar in his hand;
so he will know what embarrased you.

A verse which implies an abortion! But in such a light-hearted song it seems quite incongruous.

The third song – In a kleynem shtibele (In a Small Room) – is sung by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (born 1920) and was recorded May 13th 2011 (last week) in the Bronx. She learned this song in one of her afternoon Yiddish classes in Chernovitz, (then Romania) either at the Morgnroit school (Socialist Bundist) or the Yidisher shulfareyn, a Yiddish cultural group, in the 1920s, early 1930s. Basically the same version was collected by the folklorists Shmuel-Zanvil Pipe and his brother Oyzer Pipe in their hometown of Sanok (in yiddish- Sunik), Galicia, then Poland. Dov and Meir Noy published the Pipe brothers collection in Israel (Folklore Research Studies , Vol. 2, Jerusalem 1971),  and a copy of that version is attached with the music. See the footnote to the song by Dov and Meir Noy (p. 326) for other songs with this melody, and the reference to Meir Noy‘s article mentioned above.

In a kleynem shtibele is a worker‘s song, text written by the writer and ethnographer A. Litvin  (pseudonym of Shmuel Hurvits 1863 – 1943) and the complete original text (Di neyterkes) can be found in M. Bassin‘s Antologye: Finf hundert yor yidishe poezye, volume one 258-259, NY 1917.

The fourth song with the same melody is In shtetl Nikolayev (In the Town of Nikolayev). The Freedman Jewish Sound Archive has information on three recordings: a version by David Medoff (1923); Kapelye (the album „Future and Past‟, sung by Michael Alpert); and the German group Aufwind (from the album „Awek di junge jorn‟). We have included a link to the Medoff performance. See Mark Slobin and Richard Spotwood‘s article on Medoff (David Medoff: A Case Study in Interethnic Popular Culture in American Music, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Autumn, 1985), pp. 261-276.

AUDIO RECORDINGS:

Song 1: Vu zenen mayne vugn un ferd? (Where are my wagon and horse?). Performance by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded in 1954 by Leybl Kahn.

Song 2: Yosele mit Blimele (Yosele and Blimele). Performance by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded in 1954 by Leybl Kahn.

Song 3: In a kleynem shtibele (In a Small Room). Performance by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, recorded May 12, 2011 by Itzik Gottesman.

Song 4: In shtetl Nikolayev (In the Town of Nikolayev). Performance by David Medoff, recorded 1923.

TEXTS AND TRANSLATIONS

Song 1: Vu zenen mayne vugn un ferd? (Where are my wagon and horse?). Performance by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded in 1954 by Leybl Kahn.

Vu zenen mayne vugn un ferd?
Az ikh bin aroysgefurn, hot getsitert himl un erd.
Hant bin ikh urem; shtey ikh ba der tir.
Kimen tsu geyn di sholtikes un lakhn (up?) fin mir.

Where are my wagon and horse?
When I first drove out, heaven and earth shook.
Now that I am poor, I stand at the door.
So the scoundrels come by to mock me.

Vi iz mayn tsiring vus ikh hob gebrakht fin vin?
Vus mayn vab un kinder zenen gegongen ongetin?
Hant az ikh bin urem, shtey ikh far der tir.
Kimen tsu geyn di sholtikes un lakhn up (?) fin mir.

Where is the jewelry that I had brought from Vienna?
That was worn by my wife and children.
Now that I am poor, I stand by the door.
So the scoundrels come by to mock me.


Song 2: Yosele mit Blimele (Yosele and Blimele). Performance by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded in 1954 by Leybl Kahn.

Yosele mit Blimele zey zitsn af a bank.
Oy vey Blimele, ikh bin azoy krank.
Kh‘hob aza krenk, ikh shem zikh oystsuzugn,
Der dokter hot mir geheysn khasene-hobn.

Yosele and Blimele are sitting on a bench.
Oh dear Blimele, I am so very ill.
I have an illness, I am embarrased to reveal –
The doctor ordered me to get married.

Khasene hobn – es geyt dir nor in deym.
Khasene hobn – ken men glaykh ven (?) me vil aleyn.
Khasene hobn – darf men hubn gelt.
Ken men opfirn a sheyne velt.

Getting married – is all you can think of.
Getting married is easy if you want to do by ourselves.
Getting married – you need money for that,
and then you can have a beautiful world.

Yingelekh un meydelekh hot shoyn nisht keyn moyre.
Khasene hubn – es shteyt dokh in der toyre.
As der shnader shnadt – shnadt er mit der mode
un az der rebe vil a vab, meygn mir avode.

Boys and girls, you no longer have to fear.
Getting married – It says so in the Torah.
When the tailor tailors, he cuts according to the fashion
and if the Rebbe wants a wife, then we may too of course.

Song 3: In a kleynem shtibele (In a Small Room). Performance by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, recorded May 12, 2011 by Itzik Gottesman.

In a kleynem shtibele, bay a langn tish.
Zitsn dortn meydelekh un dreyen mit di fis.
Zey dreyen di mashindelekh fun fri biz nakht
Un azoy vern tutsnvayz hemdelekh gemakht.

In a small room, at a long table,
There sit girls and turn with their feet.
They turn the machines from early to night.
And thus by the dozens, shirts are produced.
Girls, so small, tell me why are you pale?

Meydelekh ir kleninke, zogt vos zent ir blas?
Hemdelekh ir vaysinke, zogt vos zent ir nas?
Meydelekh un hemdelekh, zey reydn nisht keyn vort.
Nor di mashindelekh zey geyen imer fort. 

Shirts so white, tell me why are you wet?
Girls and shirts, they do not speak a word.
But the machines, they keep going forever.

Song 4: In shtetl Nikolayev (In the Town of Nikolayev). Performance by David Medoff, recorded 1923.

Transliterated lyrics courtesy of the German klezmer band Aufwind may be found on the Zemerl website by clicking here.

“Brider, Zog” by Sholem Berenshteyn

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 6, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Brider, zog (Brother, Say) is by the 19th century Yiddish poet Sholem Berenshteyn. No one seems to be sure of his life dates (and not even his first name – some say Shmuel) but he lived in Kamenetz-Podolsk, Ukraine, and died before 1880. In 1869 he published his collection Magazin fun yidishe lider far dem yidishn folk in Zhitomir, which was reprinted several times.

The best source for his biography is Zalmen Reisin‘s Leksikon fun der yidisher literatur, volume 1. Reisin considers him one of the first Yiddish folkpoets and even the poet Mikhl Gordon („Maskhe‟, „Di bord‟) considered him a better poet than himself. As Reisin points out, his work sometimes touches upon typical maskilic themes (anti-Hasidic, Russian patriotism) but he mostly stays clear of them, and his most popular poems became songs with traditional themes such as Brider zog and Sholem-Aleykhem which the Bessarabian folksinger Arkady Gendler sings on his recording, released in 2001, Mayn shtetele Soroke, produced by Jeanette Lewicki.

The most extensive discusssion of the song Brider, zog is in Joseph and Chana Mlotek‘s book Perl fun der yidisher poezye which was recently translated into English by Barnett Zumoff as Pearls of Yiddish Poetry, Ktav Publishing. The song was originally titled Zmires has 15 verses; what was sung were the first four verses.

I have attached the Yiddish words and music in the version found in Z. Kisselhof‘s Lider zamlung far der yidisher shul un familye, St. Petersburg 1911 which is very close to the version sung here.

The unidentified singer is clearly more of a „pro‟ than we are used to hearing in the songs posted on this blog. But listening to her interpretation of khasidic song does raise interesting questions about the “art song” interpretation of khasidic style. The late, great Masha Benya, among others, comes to mind in this regard. This singer turns a song, which melodically could be quite boring, into an interesting performance.

I know this song from my mother, Beyle Schaechter Gottesman, who learned it from her mother, Lifshe Schaecther Widman, and the words as they are sung here are almost exactly the same (we sing „Ver vet lakhn, un khoyzek makhn…‟).

Thanks again to Lorin Sklamberg, sound archivist at YIVO, who allowed us to post another song from the YIVO Stonehill collection.

A folkslid…khsidish.
A folksong, khasidic.

Brider zog, vi heyst der tog,
ven mir ale zenen freylekh?
Der yidele, der kleyner, der kusherer, der sheyner
Iz dokh dan a meylekh.

Tell me brother what is the day called
when we are all joyous?
The Jew, the little one, the kosher one, the beautiful,
Then feels himself like a king.

Shabes aleyn, kimt tsu geyn,
Freyt aykh kinder ale!
Oy tantst kinder, yederere bazinder,
Lekoved der heyliker kale.

The Sabbath itself arrives,
Be happy all you children!
O, dance children, each on his own,
in honor of the holy bride.

Dos iz klor, vi a hor
az shabes is di kale.
Der khusndl der sheyner, iz nit keyner.
Nor mir yidelekh ale.

This is obvious as a hair,
that Sabbath is the bride.
The beautiful groom is no one else
but all of us Jews.

Un ver es lakht, un khoyzek makht.
Fun der kale-khusn.
Der vet take esn a make
fun der side-levyusn.

And he who laughs, and mocks
the groom and bride.
He will indeed eat nothing
at the Leviathan-feast.

o, brider zog….