Archive for September, 2011

“Lekoved yontef, lekoved Shabes” Performed by Zinaida Lyovina and Dasya Khrapunskaya

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

Commentary by Dmitri Slepovitch

Nina Stepanskaya (1954–2007) and I recorded Lekoved yontef, lekoved Shabes (“שבת לכבֿד , טאָב-יום לכבֿוד “, In Honor of the Holiday, In Honor of Shabes) in Pinsk in June, 2005 from two sisters, Zinaida Lyovina (b.1928) and Dasya Khrapunskaya (b. 1931), both born in Turov, Zhytkavichy region (rayon), Gomel oblast, 169 km east of Pinsk. Lekoved yontef, lekoved Shabes is a variant of Gabe, vos vil der rebbe, which has been featured previously in the Yiddish Song of the Week.

The father of the sisters (they were four siblings) became their first source for learning the Yiddish songs. Not to a lesser extent he became a source of their inspiration as they created their own songs, translated several Russian songs into Yiddish and composed new verses for popular Yiddish songs. Zinaida and Dasya told us that the father would never take them with him to the synagogue, but he sang at home, infusing the Passover seder and other home ceremonies with the delicious taste of rare and beautiful Jewish songs.

One of their father’s songs is Lekoved yontef, lekoved Shabes (In Honor of the Holiday, In Honor of Shabes). It is a quite typical dialog song between a rebbe (Hasidic sect leader) and a gabe (gabbai, synagogue assistant) known in several melodic versions (e.g., the one in the Hazamir choir repertoire published in Copenhagen in 1937).

The rhythmical structure of this song brings together a free time recitative in the verse and the clear 6/8 time in the refrain. The given type is inherent to a vast corpus of Yiddish songs, primarily those representing either a dialog (as in this case) or a monologue in first person.

A remarkable feature of this performance (not only of this song, but also of many others that we heard from the two sisters) is that Dasya and Zinaida tend to sing in harmony, most typically in third, sometimes meeting in unison. The reason for that rather non-typical manner of Ashkenazi Jewish vocal performance lies – not surprisingly – in the Belarusian cultural milieu. The two sisters, as some of our other interviewees in Belarus, explained to us that they “felt like singing in harmony because it was customary among their Belarusian friends and they often used to sing with them (before the WWII) in such way.”

Singing in harmony is one of a few amazing regional markers in Yiddish music performance known from both recent recordings and Beregovsky’s and Maggid’s collections, that all give a clear perspective on a given regional style and, in a wider sense, represent a regional soundscape as adapted by and mirrored in a local Jewish tradition.

The following video of Zinaida Lyovina’s and Dasya Khrapunskaya’s remarkable performance of “Lekoved yontef, lekoved Shabes” is featured in Dmitri Slepovitch’s new program, “Traveling the Yiddishland,” produced for the Folksbiene National Yiddish Theater. The show integrates video taken from Slepovitch’s and Nina Stepanskaya’s field research in Belarus with live performances of the music arranged by Slepovitch for his ensemble.


Gabe! ­– Vos vil der rebe?
Der rebe vil ­­– me zol im derlangen.
Vos? – Latkes mit shmalts,
Az der rebe mit der rebetsn
Zol zayn a gezunt in haldz.
 
Gabbay! – What does the rebbe wish?
When the rebbe wishes, he should be offered something.
What? – Latkes with goose fat,
So that the rebbe and his wife
Should have healthy throats.
 
Chorus:

Lekoved yontef,
Bim-bam-bam-bam
Lekoved Shabes,
Bim-bam-bam-bam
Lekoved yontef,
Bim-bam-bam-bam,
Lekoved Shabes, bim-bam.
 

In honor of the holiday,
Bim-bam-bam-bam
In honor of Sabbath,
Bim-bam-bam-bam.
In honor of the holiday,
Bim-bam-bam-bam
In honor of Sabbath, bim-bam.

Gabe! ­– Vos vil der rebe?
Der rebe vil ­­– me zol im derlangen.
Vos? – A telerl mit yoykh,
Az der rebe mit der rebetsn
Zol zayn a gezunt in boykh.
 

Gabbay! ­– What does the rebbe wish?
When the rebbe wishes, he should be offered something.
What? ­– A plateful of chicken soup,
So that the rebbe and his wife
Should have healthy stomachs.
 
Chorus
 
Gabe! ­– Vos vil der rebe?
Der rebe vil ­­– me zol im derlangen.
Vos? – A telerl mit fish,
Az der rebe mit der rebetsn
Zol zayn a gezunt in di fis.
 

Gabbay! ­– What does the rebbe wish?
When the rebbe wishes, he should be offered something.
What? ­– A plateful of fish,
So that the rebbe and his wife
Should have healthy feet.

 Chorus

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“Der blinder” Performed by Tsunye Rymer

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2011 by yiddishsong

Der blinder (The Blind Man), about a blind beggar, was written by the Yiddish poet Mani Leib (1884-1953, immigrated to the U.S. in 1905) and is included in his volume Lider, NY, 1918. p. 52. The poem is untitled in the original publication.

The poem was set to music by Pinchos Yasinowsky (or Jassinowsky, 1886-1954, immigrated to the U.S. in 1917), who also composed the music for “Mayn shifl” previously posted on Yiddish Song of the Week.

I recorded Isaac “Tsunye” Rymer singing it in our living room in the Bronx in the 1980s, introducing it as a song by Mani Leib. He always sang unaccompanied in this slow, heartfelt way. He was in already in his nineties when he sang this.

Though it is included in at least two Yiddish song collections where it is given two different titles 1) “Der blinder” in Zing mit mir, NY, the 1945 edition, compiled by Mikhl Gelbart 2) “In di vign” in Yiddish Poets in Song – Yidishe dikhter in gezang, NY 1966, edited by Mordecai Yardeini, I have yet to find a recording of the song.

Attached are scans of the song from Yiddish Poets in Song, which include photos of Leib and Yasinowsky. An additional musical arrangement is in the Yardeini book but is not attached.

The poem text plays with the many uses and meaning of “tsu” (to) in Yiddish. In the transcription in Yiddish Poets the line reads „Un baym toyer shloft der blinder‟ (“and at the gate the blind man sleeps”), but in the 1918 collection it reads (and Rymer sings) – „ ligt der blinder‟ (“the blind man lies”), leaving it open whether he is alive or not.

In the cradles, children cry,
mothers rock them along;
Liulinke, lui, lui
Luilinke, lui, lul.

With a sack goes the blind man,
Drags his rest with him;
The blind man knocks in a gate,
But the gate is shut.

Cries the blind man
in his sadness,
God, you at least should hear me,
Liulinke, liu-liu

And at the gate, lies the blind man
The night covers him over.
In the cradles, children cry
mothers rock them along.
Liulinke, liu, liu
Llulinke, liu, liu.