“Zets zikh avek bay dem ‘kitchen table'” Performed by Izzy Young

Zets zikh avek bay dem “kitchen table”
Performance by Izzy Young, Stockholm, Sweden
Recorded by Itzik Gottesman, May 2014.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Izzy Young (born 1928) is a well-known figure in the history of the American folk music revival. His “Folklore Center” in Greenwich Village, established in 1957, often served as the first performance space for up and coming singers such as Bob Dylan.

izzy young folklore center

He later moved to Sweden, and in 1973 he opened a “Folklor Centrum” in Stockholm. In May 2014 I recorded him in his storefront singing Zetz zikh avek bay dem ‘kitchen table’ to the melody of Hob ikh mir an altn daym. He explained that his father had owned a kosher bakery in the Bronx and this song was composed during a baker’s strike in the late 1920s or 1930s. Izzy Young’s mother Pola Young used to sing Yiddish songs and even performed them once in the 1960s at a folk music concert.

The melody of the Yiddish drinking song Hob ikh mir an altn daym itself borrows the melody of George Enescu’s “Romanian Rhapsody n. 1”, Op 11:

The words to “Hob ikh mir an altn daym” can be found in many Yiddish song books including the Mlotek’s collection Mir trogn a gezang.

Zets zikh avek bay der “kitchen table”
Esn a broyt mit der “union-label”

Take a seat at the kitchen table.
Eat some bread with the union label.

International union broyt
makht di bakn sheyn un royt.

International Union bread
makes the cheeks nice and red.

Spoken (possible second verse that Izzy Young tries to remember):
“And if you buy Union bread
may you live a long time…”

13 Responses to ““Zets zikh avek bay dem ‘kitchen table'” Performed by Izzy Young”

  1. Thanks for the recording and posting. How do you know that the Yiddish song borrows from George Enescu’s “Romanian Rhapsody”? Maybe Enescu heard a Romanian song or a lăutăr melody and the Yiddish borrowed it from there, too?

  2. Janina is right, Enescu DID borrow from the Romanian folk motif – this is great, Itsik, if you ever find the second verse, please share it!

  3. I have a recording made around 1964 of a Bukovina Szekley Hungarian band led by Gaspar Lajos playing a double fiddle version of the tune, as well as singing the words in Hungarian “A kis mokus fon a fan” (‘The little squirrel up in the tree'”) The band were from the szekely communities near Radauti who were resettled in Hungary in 1941, and a number of the tunes like this that they played were identified as “Zsido notak” (Jewish tunes.)

  4. Please find the Romanian folk motif so we can see….

  5. yes, since he called it “Romanian Rhapsody” it makes sense that the melodies come from Romanian (or Szekely?) folk music

    • It also makes sense keeping in mind Enescu’s musical era etc. My guess would be that the travel to the Hungarian musicians happened later, but what do I know. Kavé, what is your take on that? The Hungarian text is completely different, both in genre and the concrete words. Interestingly enough, they refer to the tune as a Jewish tune.

      As for Enescu’s music, there is detailed research available (see the thesis below written in Austin! available at University of Texas: http://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/bitstream/handle/2152/1854/zlatevamz61135.pdf?sequence=2) Even wikipedia has it quite detailed, with sources (I am sure there is more):
      “The First Rhapsody is ebullient and outgoing. It begins by quoting the folk song “Am un leu şi vreau să-l beau”[1] (variously translated as “I want to spend my money on drink”, “I have a coin, and I want a drink”, “I want to spend my shilling on drink”, or, more literally, “I have a leu and I want to drink”), which is played by oboes and clarinets. The tune was played by the Romani violinist Lae Chioru (Nicolae Filip), from whom Enescu had his first violin lessons at the age of 4,[7][9] but there is some doubt whether Enescu actually remembered it from Chioru, since the tune had been in circulation in various collections printed as early as 1848 (alternative spelling: “Am un leu şi vreau să-l beu”), which Enescu could have consulted.[10]”

      [1], [9] Maria Zlateva Zlateva, “Romanian Folkloric Influences on George Enescu’s Artistic and Musical Development as Exemplified by His Third Violin Sonata”, DMA thesis (Austin: The University of Texas at Austin, 2003), 17–18.

      [10] Mircea Voicana, Clemansa Firca, Alfred Hoffman, Elena Zottoviceanu, in collaboration with Myriam Marbe, Stefan Niculescu, and Adrian Ratiu, George Enescu: Monografie, 2 vols. (Bucharest: Editura Academiei Republicii Socialiste România, 1971), 1:44–45.


  6. Actually, its me, Zaelic Nazaroff, posted as Kave… sorry. I will try and find the cassette and send an MP3 to Itzik in a week or so (we are packing to move flats.) The band that recorded the version i know was absolutely a folk band: two fiddles, a kontra fiddle and a bass. Besides Bukovina Hungarian repertoire the only other recordings on the tape are described as “Jewish” including this one. Jake S-Ment may also have a copy of this tape.

  7. Itzik Gottesman Says:

    Izzy Young died Feb. 4, 2019

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