Archive for March, 2012

“Der heyliker moshiakh” Performed by Josh Waletzky

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 30, 2012 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This week’s Yiddish Song of the Week features a performance of Der heyliker moshiakh (The Holy Messiah) by New York-based Yiddish singer Josh Waletzky, recorded at the Center for Traditional Music and Dance on January 28, 2011. The song is from Waletzky’s family repertoire (his family referred to it as “The Name Song”); Ruth Rubin collected the song from Waletzky during her fieldwork at Camp Boiberik.

Josh Waletzky

I have attached a variant of this song as found in Noyekh Prilutski‘s collection Yidishe folkslider volume one, Warsaw, 1914. Number 61 (pages 90 – 91). There is no melody given in Prilutski‘s volume, so thanks to Waltezky we have one now!

Der heyliker moshiakh is a great example of a maskilic Yiddish song (composed by Jews who were adherents of the Jewish Enlightenment movement, the Haskalah) in which the irony of the song was confusing or lost to the ‟folk‟, and in this case, to the Maskil as well, Noyekh Prilutski. See his comment on the bottom of the attached Yiddish page 91, footnote number 2,  where he writes:

Typical: as often happens that in the most Hasidic songs, secular [‟fraye”] lines are sung at the end. Perhaps because the song was sung at Simkhes-toyre, when everyone was a little drunk?‟

So Prilutski believed that the song was Hasidic, not Maskilic (anti-Hasidic), and perhaps he had even seen it performed by Hasidim? That would not be shocking, since it was common for similar parodic anti-Hasidic songs such as this, written from the point of view of Hasidim, to be ‟misinterpreted‟ as pro-Hasidic, pro-rebbe. The classic example is Velvl Zbarzher‘s Kum aher du filosof  which was recorded in a typically lyrical fashion by Theodore Bikel.

Is it mis-interpretation? ‟Reinterpretation‟ or just plain ‟interpretation‟ would be preferable. The singer, whose context and audience varies from that of the composer, gives the song a different meaning through his performance.

Waletzky clearly sings it as a parody in the way the Maskilic composer wrote it, and the song has several of the subjects of satire that the maskilim often mocked about the traditional shtetl life: the blind devotion of the hasidim to their rebbe, the fanatic anti-modern/progress attitude (e.g., mocking the popular secular dance kadril  ‘quadrille’ as shmadril, which also alludes to the word for converting, shmadn), and the highlight of the song, the satirizing of Yiddish names that comprises the refrain.

Notice that in Prilutski‘s version there is no reference to shmadril but non-traditional dance is mentioned (Zey veln tantsn mit fremde yunge-layt / They will dance with young strangers).

“Der heyliker moshiakh”

“The Holy Messiah”

un az der heyliker moshiekh vet kumen
vel ikh zayn der ershter af der shlakht.
af di daytshn vet men zikh nemen
un zey shlogn tog vi nakht.
gor on pulver un on blay,
koyln veln flien iber aln.
un az der rebe vet nokh tsugebn a posek derbay,
vi shtroy veln di daytshn faln.

And when the holy Messiah comes
I will be the first into battle.
We’ll set upon the Assimilators
And beat them day and night.
No need for powder or lead,
Bullets will be flying everywhere.
And the moment the Rebbe adds a verse from Scripture,
The Assimilators will drop like straw.

un es vet nokh tsuhelfn
zurekh un burekh, yankev, danil,
zindl, grindl, khayem, smil,
berl, shmerl, getzl, azril,
veln firn dos gantse krentsl.
keyle, beyle, yente, sose,
khane, brayne, yakhne, dvose,
sime, blime, pesi un rose
veln tantsn dos mitsve-tentsl.

And helping out will be
Zorekh and Baruch, Jacob, Daniel,
Zindl, Grindl, Chaim, Samuel,
Berl, Shmerl, Getsl, Azriel,
The ringleaders.
Keyle, Beyle, Yente, Sose,
Hannah, Brayne, Yakhne, Dvose,
Sime, Blume, Pesi and Rose
Will dance the Mitsve Dance…

tshiri-bim-bom…

der rebe vet zayn der komendant.
er vet komedirn ahin un aher.
un ikh vel zayn zayn atyudant,
di khsidim dos militer.
un az der rebe vet onfangen fun toyre tsu shmaysn,
tsu bavayzn zayne havayes,
azoy veln di khsidim onhoybn tsu shisn
af di drabes, af di hultayes.

The Rebbe will be the commander.
He’ll issues orders this way and that.
And I will be his adjutant;
The Chassidim–his troops.
And when the Rebbe begins thrashing them with Torah,
Making his faces at them,
The Chassidim immediately open fire
On the freethinking prostitutes and adulterers.

And helping out will be
Zorekh and Baruch, Jacob, Daniel,…

di daytshn, zey vern dokh poshet dil–
zey veysn nit vos zey zoln tin.
zey hobn a tants vos heyst ‘shmadril’:
eyner loyft aher, un der anderer ahin.
un di daytshke vos tsimblt af dem shlambil
vet fayerdike kneydlekh esn;
un az der rebe vet aroyfleygn zayn lape af ir,
vet zi in tsimbl fargesn.

un es vet nokh tsuhelfn…

The Assimilators will simply get confused–
They won’t know what to do.
They have a dance called the ‘Shmadrille’:
One runs this way and the other runs that way.
The Lady Assimilator tsimbling* her ‘shmambourine’
Will eat hot matzo-ball ammo.
And when the Rebbe lays his paws on her
She’ll forget all about her tsimbl*.

And helping out will be
Zorekh and Baruch, Jacob, Daniel..

*tsimbl = cimbalom/hammered dulcimer; tsimbling =  to play a tsimbl (or in this case, to beat with sticks as if playing a tsimbl)

Der heyliker moshiakh in Noyekh Prilutksi‘s collection Yidishe folkslider (click to enlarge)

“Zikhroynes” Performed by Leo Summergrad

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 23, 2012 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Leo Summergrad

This week’s contribution “Zikhroynes” was sent in by Leo Summergrad who lives in Westchester county, NY. He is a well known lover and meyvn of Yiddish song and a collector of hundreds of LP, tape, and CD recordings.

He learned this song from his father and privately recorded it with Madeline Simon at the piano. He is not a professional singer.

He writes about himself:

“Although I am American born, Yiddish was my first language and, as you can tell, it has remained very important to me, with a special love for Yiddish music. I got further Yiddish education in the shules of the IWO [International Workers Order], graduating from the Bronx Mitlshule. I am married to one of my shule classmates. I am a World War II veteran and served in the Pacific area, through a few major battles. I spent 40 years with the New York City Board of Education as a science teacher, Junior High School principal and Deputy Superintendent of a community school district, all in the Bronx.”

About his family:

“You asked about my father. He came from a little shtetl, called Pukhovitch, which was near Bobruisk in White Russia. My mother came from Bobruisk. They met on the ship on the way over in  1911. As far as my father’s singing; both my parents sang all the time. It was our form of entertainment. We didn’t even own a radio until I was about ten. I remember exactly which songs I learned from each of them.

That recording was made in my living room about ten years ago. I was able to hook a couple of microphones into the amplifier of my sound system and feed it onto a tape deck.”

We are including the translation and transliteration of the song by Leo Summergrad. The original Yiddish text by Morris Rosenfeld, I scanned from his collected works. We know that Rosenfeld composed melodies to his poetry and performed those songs, but according to Summergrad there is no recording of this song, and we are not sure who the composer is. The melody strikes me as very American early 20th century…

Also, be sure to click on the Yiddish words for a larger image.

Zikhroynes

MEMORIES

Far dem tsayml nem mikh Motke, ikh vel zayn dayn ferd,
Nem dem shrikl far a leytz, dem shtekl far a shverd,
Marsh ahin oyf yene berglekh, in der frayer luft,
Itchke vart shoyn mit a bande, herstu vi er ruft?
Zest im oyfn shpitz fun bergl, dortn paze taykh?
Akh ir zise kinder yorn, vayt bin ikh fun aykh.

Take me by the bridle, “Motke”, I will be your horse,
Take a rope for the reigns, a stick for a sword,
March there, on those hills, in the fresh air,
“Itchke” is waiting with a gang, Do you hear him calling?
Do you see him on the top of the hill, on the other side of the river?
Oh, you sweet childhood years, I am so far from you.

Kinder nit fargest di fayflekh, vos ir hot gemakht,
Fregt nor Berken, hot er ale tzvayglekh shoyn gebrakht,
Makht zikh greyt tzu loyfn kinder, gikher nu galop,
vayter, vayter geyt es shneler,flinker barg arop,
Kumt tzum vaser mil, ot dortn, loyft der klorer taykh,
Akh ir zise kinder yorn, vayt bin ikh fun aykh.

Children don’t forget the whistles that you made,
Ask “Berke” if he brought all the twigs.
Get ready to run children, quickly, now gallop,
Further, further it goes more quickly, running down hill,
Come to the water mill, there, where the clear river is flowing
Oh you sweet childhood years, I am so far from you.

Hit zikh, nit tzebrekht di kriglekh, ruik makht kayn gvald,
Veyst ir vu di yagdes vaksn, in dem tifn vald?
Kinder nemt zikh far di poles, Yudke gey farois,
Do iz laykht tzu blondgen kinder, unser vald is grois,
Tzum yagodnik, nit farlirt zikh, kumt zhe ale glaykh,
Akh ir zise kinder yorn, vayt bin ikh fun aykh.

Be careful not to break our armaments, quiet make no noise,
Do you know where the berries grow in the deep woods?
Children hold on to each other.   “Yudke” you lead.
It’s easy to get lost, children. Our woods are vast,
Don’t get lost near the berry farmer’s, let’s arrive together,
Oh you sweet childhood years, I am so far from you.

Zise, sheyne, libe kindhayt, vayt bistu fun mir,
mayn neshome, mayn fantazie,troymt nor vegn dir,
Vi a shotn bistu kindhayt, vi a roykh vus flit,
Vi a blitz, geshvind farloyfstu, un  men zet dikh nit,
Shvebst nor um in mayn zikorn,Vi a ziser troym,
ikh dermon zikh, un mir veynt zikh, un mit gloybt zikh koym. 

Sweet, beautiful, lovely childhood, you are so far from me,
My soul, my fantasy dreams only of you,
You are like a shadow childhood, like a smoke that flies,
You run away as quick as lightning and one doesn’t see you,
You float around in my memory like a sweet dream,
I remember and cry and I hardly believe it.

 


“Mir nemen veytslekh” Performed by Dora Libson

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2012 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Mir nemen veytslekh is a matso-baking song, sung in a Litvish-Yiddish dialect by the singer Dora Libson. This version was recorded in 1977 by Lionel Libson. Dora is from the Western Ukraine. [See her earlier post in this blog for her biography].

The collective baking of matse during the weeks preceeding Passover was, (and is in Orthodox circles today) a joyous event, and the songs that accompany the event, are playful work songs. For another example listen to Michael Alpert sing Dos lid fun matse bakn on the Lori Cahan-Simon Ensemble‘s CD Songs My Bubbe Should Have Taught Me, Volume One: Passover.

The singer sings “moyre” instead of “meyre,” a dialectical hypercorrection. Meyre is the dough of the matse.

I was unsure of the words in a couple of places and any corrections or suggestions would be welcome.

Mir nemen veytslekh

“We Take Wheat”

Mir nemen veytslekh, a fule koyshn,
Afile ot azelkhe.
Un mir moln, un mir moln,
moln veytslekh bilkhe.

We take wheat, baskets full
Even ones like these.
And we grind and we grind
Grinding the preferred wheat.

Itstert kinder nemt a zipke
un tsezipt di mel.
Zipt zhe, zayt zhe, zipt zhe, zayt zhe,
varft aroys di klayen.

Now children take a sifter
and sift the flour.
Sift and strain, sift and strain.
Throw out the bran.

Itstert kinder farkatsht di arbl,
Khane ober [oder] dvoyre.
Shit on mel, gist on vaser,
un farknet a moyre [meyre].

Now children roll up your sleeves,
Khane or Dvoyre.
Pour out flour, pour out water,
and knead the meyre.

Un fun der moyre shnaydt on teyglekh,
shnaydt on teyglekh kleyne.
Velgert, velgert, velgert, velgert,
velgert matses sheyne.

And from the meyre cut up clumps of dough.
Cut up the clumps small.
Roll and roll, roll and roll [with the rolling pin.]
Roll the beautiful matzos.

Itstert kinder nemt a redl,
a redl mit sharfe tseyner.
Redlt, redlt, redlt, redlt,
feln zol nisht keyner.

Now children take the hole puncher,
a puncher with sharp teeth.
Puncture, puncture, puncture, puncture,
And no one should be missing.

Itstert kinder zetst di matses;
der eyvn [oyvn] iz a heyser.
Vasht zikh opet, nemt aroyset,
Esn vi der keyser!

Now children put in the matzos,
the oven is hot.
Wash up and take them out,
Let‘s eat them like the emperor.  

“Sara troyer” Performed by I. Berkovitch

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2012 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The singer of Sara troyer, a Romanian Yiddish partisan song from the second world war, is the Yiddish poet Israel Berkovitch (Israil Berovici). He was born in 1921 in Botoshan, Moldavia and died in Bucharest in 1988. He directed the Jewish State Theater of Bucharest, a Yiddish theater which still exists, for many years. For more on his life, see Dr. Elvira Grozinger‘s essay from the book Under the Red Banner at this link. His archives are at the University of Potsdam, Germany.

In 1985, I traveled to Romania with my parents to visit ‟the old country‟, and particularly my father‘s hometown Siret. At that time, we still had relatives living in Bucharest and Suceava. While in Bucharest we were able to get together with some of the Yiddish writers and activists living there then: writer Chaim Goldenstein, journalist and translator Anton Celaru (Yosl Faierstein) and Israel Berkovitch. At one get-together, I believe at the Berkovitches apartment, I asked if someone knew Yiddish songs, and Berkovitch took me to a back room, so no one else would hear, and sang this song for me. Ceausescu was still the dictator then, and everyone in Bucharest was very wary of everything, so I guess he didn‘t want others to know about the song. I have not found any other information on the song or variants.

Sara troyer in di Moldavishe stepn.

Sara troyer in di Moldavishe stepn.
Vi umetik un troyerik s‘iz dort.
Es benkt un es veynt zikh nokh epes,
tor me nisht redn keyn vort.

Such a sadness in the Moldavian steppes.
How lonesome and gloomy it is there.
One longs and cries for something,
but not one word is allowed to be spoken.

Teg un nekht zenen tribe.
Es busheven zhandarmen, politsay.
Akh! Basarabye mayn libe!
Ven vestu zayn amol fray?

The days and nights are sad,
Gendarmes and police run rampant.
Oh! My dear Bessarabia!
When will you ever by free?