Four Songs, One Melody

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.

2 Responses to “Four Songs, One Melody”

  1. Lyrics for “In shtetl Nikolaev”:

    אין שטעטל ניקאָלאַיעוו און לעבן שוואַרצן ים,
    געליבט האָב איך מײַן שׂרהלע דרײַ יאָר נאָכאַנאַד.
    געליובקעט און געסמאָטשקעט, איך האָב געפֿילט אַ טעם,
    ווען מיר פֿלעגן שטיין צוזאַמען בײַ דער וואַנט.

    צוזאַמען פֿון דער אַרבעט געגאַנגען אַלעמאָל,
    איך בין געווען אַ סלעסאַר, געאַרבעט אָן אַ צאָל,
    און שׂרקע די מאָדיסטקע האָט אויף מיר געוואַרט –
    גאָט איז מיר אַן עדות, איך האָב דיך נישט גענאַרט.

    זאָרג ניט ליובע מײַנע, איך וועל נאָר דײַנער זײַן,
    פֿון פּריזיוו זיך באַפֿרײַען – וועסטו ווערן מײַן.
    אַ חופּה וועל׳מיר שטעלן אין דער גרויסער שיל,
    און ברכות וועט אונדז מאַכן דער חזן משה־שמואל.

    די שענסטע מחותּנים וועלן בײַ אונדז זײַן:
    יאַנקל־וואָדאָוואָזניק און בערקעלע־פּאַצאַן,
    וועלוול־באַלעגאָלע און יאַנקעלע־פּאָדליעץ,
    איציקל דער שנײַדער און פֿײַוול דער קוזניעץ.

    קלעזמאָרים־מוזיקאַנטן וועלן זינגען – אַך!
    מיר וועלן שפּרינגען־טאַנצן אַ טאָג מיט אַ נאַכט.
    נאָכדעם וועל׳מיר עסן די גאָלדענע יויך,
    אויך אַ זיסן צימעס און אפֿשר עפּעס נאָך.

    דער פּריזיוו איז געקומען, כ׳בין געוואָרן אַ סאָלדאַט.
    מע האָט מיך צוגענומען, געזאָגט מיר “טי נאַש בראַט”,
    צעשטערט מײַן שיינע ליבע, צעבראָכן מיר מײַן גליק,
    באַגלייט האָט מיך מײַן שׂרהלע מיט אַ טרויער־בליק.

    אין שטעטל ניקאָלאַיעוו איז שׂרהלע אַליין,
    נישטאָ קיין פֿרײַנט, קיין אייגענע – עלנט ווי אַ שטיין.
    זײַ געזונט, מײַן חתן, שרײַבט זי מיר אַ בריוו,
    דו זאָלסט מיך אייביק טראָגן אין דײַן האַרצן טיף.

    אין אַ מיטוואָך נאָך דער אַרבעט איז דאָס שרעקלעכע געשען:
    געפֿונען האָט מען שׂרהלען מיט פֿאַרקלעמטע ציין.
    אַ פֿלעשעלע פֿון סם, אין האַנט אַ בריוו צו מיר:
    “זײַ מיר מוחל, טײַערער, איך בענק צו שטאַרק נאָך דיר…”

  2. Itzik Gottesman Says:

    The Presburger Klezmer Band has recorded a version of “Vu zenen mayne vugn un mayne ferd” on their CD “20 yorn” 2015.

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