“Oy, di ershte zakh” Performed by Tsunye Rymer

Oy, di ershte zakh
O, The First Thing
Sung by Tsunye Rymer
Recorded in NYC by Itzik Gottesman, 1985
Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Tsunye (Isaac) Rymer learned this in his hometown of Krosne (Krasna), Ukraine, from a tailor who was a wonderful singer and therefore called “Kanarik” – canary.

RymerphotoTsunye Rymer

Just as Rymer was leaving for America in 1921, he visited Kanarik on the “Tailor’s Street.” It was summer but Kanarik was covered with a blanket.  It was said he had tuberculosis. He called Rymer over and asked him to sing something together with him. “This was the last song we sang together in Krosno”.

Often Yiddish songs that employ Russian/Ukrainian words for the rhymes use them to humorous effect, but in this serious song that is obviously not the case.

Thanks to Paula Teitelbuam for helping with this week’s blog.

TRANSLITERATION 

Oy, di ershte zakh vel ikh dikh mamenyu beytn
in di zolst es mir tin tsilib.
Az Got vet helfn un az ikh vel shtarbn,
Zol men mekh derkhtrugn derkh mayn libstn shtib

Un nokh a zakh vel ikh dikh mamenyu beytn
in di zolst es yisponyayen. [carry out, execute]
Az mayn gelibter vet in shtib araynkimen
zolst im khotsh nisht obizhayen. [offend]

In dus iz mamenyu mayn letste bite –
di zolst im in gurnit obvinyayen. [blame, fault, accuse]
kh’hob man leybn zikh aleyn genemen
ikh zol nit darfn mer stradayen. [suffer]

TRANSLATION

O, the first thing, mother, that I ask of you,
and you should do it for my sake.
God willing, when I die,
they should carry me past my loved one’s house.

And another thing, I ask of you mother,
and you should carry it out.
If my loved one should enter our house,
at the least, do not offend him

And this, mother, is my last request:
you should not blame him for anything.
I took my own life,
I should no longer have to suffer.
zakh1

zakh2a

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2 Responses to ““Oy, di ershte zakh” Performed by Tsunye Rymer”

  1. Slobin, Mark Says:

    Such a sad song in sort-of major. Nice bilingualism. Wonder if the emotional delivery is due to the association with seeing his friend the last time as much as the text. -Mark

    • Thanks Mark! Good hypothesis, though the emotional content of Rymer’s performances seems pretty consistent to me across most of the 5-6 songs posted that feature him. He was a master, and I love how he makes each song his own. I don’t know if Rymer was a particularly observant man but he would’ve made a heckuva ba’al t’fila on yom kipper.

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