Archive for August, 2011

“Vus tisti du sheyn meydele?” Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 31, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The ballad “Vus tisti du sheyn meydele?” (“What are You Doing Here Pretty Girl?”) performed in this field recording of Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (my mother) is another Yiddish variant of the international ballad known generically as “Impossible Tasks.” See the previous Yiddish Song of the Week posting for another Impossible Tasks ballad sung by Josh Waletzky.

Schaechter-Gottesman learned this version in Chernovitz before the second World War from her friend Moyshe (Moshe) Barasch (1920 – 2004), who came from a Bessarabian family. Moshe Barasch later became an internationally known art critic and historian in Israel.

The melody is similar to the song “Hey, di, di / Rik zikh tsi, rik zikh tsi mir /Az du vilst a libe shpiln,/ shpil zhe es mit mir” (still looking for a printed version…).

I recorded my mother singing “Vu tisti du sheyn meydele?” at home in the Bronx in March 2011.

Vus tisti du sheyn meydele?
Vus tisti du baym brinem?
Gey, shoyn gey, un gey shoyn gey,
Fun vanen bist gekimen.

“What are you doing pretty girl?
What are you doing at the well?”
“Go, already, go,
Wherever you came from.”

“Fun vanen kh’bin gekimen,
zolsti mir nisht traybn.
Khap zhe mir a ber fun vald
un lern im oys shraybn.”

“Where I came from,
do not drive me there.
Better catch a bear from the woods
and teach him how to write.”

“A ber fun vald vel ikh dir khapn,
un im oyslernen shraybn.
Makh zhe mir zibn kinder,
a meydl zolsti blaybn.”

“I will catch a bear from the woods,
and teach him how to write.
“Then you should have seven children,
yet a maiden remain.”

“Zibn kinder vel ikh dir makhn
a meydl vel ikh blaybn.
Makh zhe mir zibn vign,
un tsvekes in un laystn.”

“I will have seven children,
and I will remain a maiden”
You should then make me seven cradles,
without nails,  with no wood strips.”

“Zibn vign vel ikh dir makhn,
un tsvekes in un laystn.
Makh zhe mir zibn hemder
un nodl in un zadn.”

“Seven cradles, I will make for you
with no nails, no wood strips.
Make for me seven shirts
without needle, without silk.”

“Zibn hemder vel ikh dir makhn
un nodl in un zadn.
Makh zhe mir aza min leyter
er zol kenen in himl shtaygn.”

“Seven shirts I will make for you
without needle, without silk.
Make for me a ladder
that can reach into the sky.”

“Aza min leyter vel ikh dir makhn
er zol kenen in himl shtaygn.
Ikh a nar in di a tsveyter,
lomir beser shvaygn.”

“Such a ladder I will make for you
that will reach up into the sky.
I, a fool, and you – another one,
So let us both be silent.”



“Yo, yo du vilst” Performed by Josh Waletzky

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

“Yo, yo du vilst” (Yes, yes, you want) is a version of the international ballad, often called “Impossible Tasks”, #2 “Elfin Knight” in the Child ballad canon (Scarborough Fair is another example of this ballad type). Many Yiddish versions have been collected over a wide area of Eastern Europe. Hardly any of them, however, included the music when published. A more popular version was recently printed with music in Yiddish Folksongs From the Ruth Rubin Archive, Wayne St. University Press, 2007, page 61 – 62. Adrienne Cooper recorded that version on her CD “Enchanted”. In The Folk Songs of Ashkenaz, edited by Philip Bohlman and Otto Holzapfel, 2007, the compilers compare two Yiddish variants to four German variants on pages 82 – 89, music included.

The version sung by Josh Waletzky (which I recorded from him in 2007) parallels several found in Noyekh Prilutski’s Yidishe folkslider volume 2 (1913), pages 96 – 104, seven versions in all, and another one in the supplement at the end, pages 164 – 165. Most of the variants are from the Warsaw area. Waletzky sings only two verses (which he learned from Leyele Klempner, who sings on screen in Waletzky’s documentary film “Image Before My Eyes”) but one can easily reconstruct a fuller Warsaw version of this song. I did so for the Advanced Yiddish Song Workshop this month at Yiddish Summer Weimar in Germany, but more work needs to be done. Ethel Raim played the class this recording; a beautiful melody quite different from the other melodies for this song.

“This is Josh Waletzky singing a song that I learned from Layele (Warsaw Yiddish pronunciation of Leyele) Klempner, from her repertoire. It’s a fragment and I sing it in my standard Yiddish; she sang it in her Polish Yiddish. She was from Warsaw. ”

Yo, yo du vilst, yo, yo, du vilst
az ikh zol mit dir tnoyim shraybn.
Zolstu mir zibn kinder hobn,
un a meydl farblaybn.

Yes, yes you want, yes, yes you want.
that I should sign the engagement contract with you.
Let’s see you have seven children,
and a maiden remain.

Yo, yo du vilst, yo, yo du vilst
Az ikh zol zibn kinder hobn un a meydl farblaybn
Zolstu mir ale shtern tseyln
vifl in himl zenen.

Yes, yes you want, yes, yes, you want.
that I should have seven children and a maiden remain;
Let’s see you count the stars
as many as are in the sky.