Archive for assimilation

“Sonyetshka” A Humorous Russian-Yiddish Song Performed by Feigl Yudin

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2015 by yiddishsong

This is the third and, for the time being, the final song performed by Feigl Yudin at the 1978 Balkan Arts Center (now Center for Traditional Music and Dance) concert at Webster Hall that we will place on the Yiddish Song of the Week blog.

A Russian-Yiddish song that derives its humor from the exaggerated mixture of the two languages. It thereby pokes fun at the Russification of the Jews at the time. The line about only knowing “loshn-koydesh” (the “sacred tongue”, referring to rabbinical Hebrew-Aramaic) is an additional absurdity.

A similar song that mixes Russian and Yiddish to humorous effect is “A gut-morgn Feyge-Sose [or Soshe]” found in the Ruth Rubin collection, in the Mark Slobin/Moshe Bereovski collection Old Jewish Folk Music and elsewhere.

Thanks to Paula Teitelbaum, Yelena Shmulenson and Jason Roberts for the transcription of the Russian and the translation.

Sonyetshka na balkonie stayala, stayala
Dos kleyne shtibl shmirn.
Vdrug prikhodit milenki
Zavyot myenya shpatsirn.

Ya shpatsirn nye paydu; Bo mama budyet shrayen
A papa budyet shlogn..
A yesli ya shpatsirn poydu,
Vos-zhe latytn zogn?

 Kak ty bez sovyestnaya Sonya!
Nyeuzheli ty baishsya za laytn?
Vykhadi ty Sonyetshka,
 My budyem fin der vaytn.

Na ulitse idyot a regn, a regn.
A regn’t nas bagisn.
Vykhadi ty Sonyetshka,
Mir’n a por verter shmisn.

Ya po yevreyski nye gavaryu,
Tol’ko loshn koydesh
Idi, idi, moy milyenki
Tol’ko na adin khoydesh.

Sonye on the balcony, stood, stood
And wipes [or paints] the small house/room.
All of a sudden, my beloved enters.
He invites me to take a walk.

I’ll not go walking, because mother will yell.
And father will beat me.
And if I go walking
What will people say?

How shameless you are Sonye.
Are you afraid of people?
Come out Sonyetchke
We will see each other from a distance.

On the street it rains and rains
A rain makes everything wet.
Come out Sonyetchke;
We’ll exchange a few words.

I don’t speak Jewish
Only loshn-koydesh.*
Go, go my beloved
But only for one month.

“Di apikorsim” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 11, 2012 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Di apikorsim (“The Heretics”) was the first song that Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) sang for collector Leybl Kahn in NYC in 1954. He recorded approximately 100 songs sung by LSW over the next few weeks or months. LSW is my grandmother and the child one hears in the background is my then 4-year old sister Taube. At one point during her singing, she gets up and runs after her. The spoken dialogue between LSW and Kahn is transcribed in the Yiddish text.

In Shloyme Prizament’s book Di broder zinger (Buenos-Aires, 1960), he has a version of this song with the music on pages 110-112. He writes that he wrote the words and music, and states that Pepi Litman recorded it. There is indeed a recording of Pepi Litman performing the song. This book can now be read and downloaded at the Yiddish Book Center website.

Shloyme Prizament was born in 1889 in Hibinev, Galicia and died in Buenos-Aires in 1973; his biography appears in the third volume of the “Leksikon fun yidishn teater”, pages 1873- 1876. Prizament was an amazingly prolific composer, songwriter, but I am not convinced that he wrote the song that LSW performs. The more likely scenario, in my opinion, is that he based his song on the popular current version that LSW sings.

The song itself, a maskilic song mocking the Hasidim but sung in the voice of true believers, was a common genre. However, in Apikorsim the humor is quite vulgar. In songs such as “Kum aher du filosof” the irony is much more subtle. Ruth Rubin’s book Voices of a People has a nice section on maskilic songs (chapter 10). Rubin also prints Velvl Zbarzher’s song “Moshiakh’s tsaytn” (pp. 255 – 257) which is on the same theme as di apikorsim.

A couple of comments on the words and rhymes of Apikorsim: “Daytshn” literally means “Germans”, but in the Yiddish of the 19th century, early 20th century, it referred to the Maskilim, the Jews who were assimilating and dressing like Germans – that is, as modern Europeans.

You will also hear that in the refrain which begins “Folgts daytshn…” there is no rhyme for gikh. LSW sings sheyn. The implied rhyme should be rikh – the devil, and my mother remembers LSW singing it vet ir oyszen vi a layt or oyszen vi a rikh so i put those options in brackets. The listener would have understood the implied rhyme gikh and rikh.

Di apikorsim, di voyle-yingen
es vet in zey ale trasken lingen
zey veln ale tsepiket vern
ven zey veln shoyfer-shel-moshiakh derhern.

The heretics, those loose fellows, 
Their lungs will all rattle.
They will burst apart,
when they hear the shofar of the messiah.

Far kol-rom vet vern gehert
der rebe vet lernen toyre.
Di apikorsim veln faln tsu dr’erd
far shrek un far moyre.

Loudly for all, it will be heard
the rebbe will teach Torah.
the heretics will fall to the ground,
out of fear and alarm.

Folgts datshn mekh,
un verts khasidemlekh gikh.
Tits un a yeyder yidishe kleyder
vet ir oyszen sheyn [vi a layt] [vi a rikh]/

Listen to me Germans [assimilated Jews]
and become Hasidim quickly.
Each of you dress in Jewish clothes,
so you will appear – beautiful [vi a layt – presentable] [vi a rikh – like a demon]

Hop, hop, yadadada, yadadalakh
hop, hop, yah……hop, hop, yadalala

Hop, hop, yadadada, yadadalakh
hop, hop, yah……hop, hop, yadalala

Eyner vet esn tsimes-kigl,
eyner a shtikl beylik,
eyner dem kigl, un eyner dem fligl,
un di rebetsin – dos interkheylik.

One will eat a tsimes-kugl
another a piece of white chicken meat.
For one a kugl, for another a wing,
and for the rebetsin – the bottom part.

Mir veln pikn fun dem rikn,
mir veln nisht ofhern,
Di sonim veln shteyn fun der vaytns [un kikn,]
un tsepiket vern.

We will gnaw on the backside,
and we will not stop.
Our enemies will stand from a distance [and watch].
And burst from envy.

Folgst daytshn…..
hop, hop….

Listen to me Germans…
Hop, hop….

Eyner vet esn a tsimes-kigl,
eyner a shtikl beylik
eyner a fligkl, dem andern dem kigl,
un di rebetsin – dos interkheylik.

One will eat a tsimes-kugel
one a piece of white meat.
One a wing, another the kugel,
and the rebetsin – the bottom part.

Vayn vet rinen fun di stelyes
af der rebetsin aleyn veln vaksn drelyes,
Mir, heylike kushere khsidim
veln hobn vos tsu lekn.

Wine will flow from the ceilings,
grapevines will even grow on the rebbetzin.
We holy and kosher hasidim
will have what to lick.

Af deym bal, in deytm groysn zal,
talmidim, khsidim,
rabonim, dayonim
veln mit undz tantsn geyn.

At the ball,
in the great hall,
yeshiva-students, Jewish judges,
will all dance with us.

Hop, hop…

Hop, hop.

“Ikh vel nit ganvenen” Performed by Sterna Gorodetskaya

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 14, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Dmitri ‘Zisl’ Slepovitch

I recorded Ikh vel nit ganvenen (I Will Not Steal) in Mogilev, Belarus, from Sterna Gorodetskaya, born in 1946 into the only Jewish family that got reunited after the war in the village of Komintern, a Mogilev suburb. 

Photograph of Sterna Gorodetskaya by Dmitri Slepovitch

Sterna is also the aunt of Yuri Gorodetsky, a noticeable young opera singer who was for while involved performing Yiddish songs and cantorial pieces in Minsk, taking part in Jewish cultural revivalist movement there.

It was amazing to hear this song from a person of Sterna’s generation. She sang the song to me in memory of her mother, and that was the first time she performed it since she was a child.

To realize why it is so unique in that context, it is important to mention that unlike Moldova or Ukraine where the Jewish tradition was preserved to a considerable extent throughout the Soviet times, Belarus saw a much more powerful wave of assimilation, including the loss of the Yiddish language, in the post-war time. Most of the songs sung to us in the course of our fieldwork had been hidden in people’s memory for decades.

The song per se adds to a number of other “thief’s songs.” Chaim Kotylanski included two similar songs in his book, “Folks-Gezangen as Interpreted by Chaim Kotylanski,” Los Angeles, 1944. The lyrics of one, Nisht ganvenen nor nemen, resemble Sterna Gorodetskaya’s version in the chorus (compare: “Kholile nisht ganvenen, nor nemen, nor nemen”), though it employs a dance-like or march-like melody set in a major key. The other song, Kh’vel shoyn mer nisht ganvenen, is closer melodically to Sterna’s, as both are set in the natural minor.  In “Pearls of Yiddish Song” published by Chana and Yosl Mlotek there is yet another variant of ‘Kh’vel shoyn mer nit ganvenen.

My trip to Mogilev in January 2008 was the first one to follow the untimely death of Nina Stepanskaya (1954—2007), my professor and colleague with whom I collaborated over a decade on the Litvak music culture research in Belarus. Like Sterna Gorodetskaya who sang this song in memory of her mother, I would like this posting to be a tribute to and a small sign of appreciation of Nina’s invaluable input into Jewish music studies.

Ikh vel gegayen in krom keyfn irisn
Un az ikh hob dikh lib, iz ver darf dos visn?
Oy ikh val nit ganvenen, ikh vel aleyn nemen,
Oy ikh val nit ganvenen, nemen aleyn.

I will go to the store to buy some candies,
And whilst I love you, who should know about that?
I will not steal, I will only take.
Oh I will not steal, I’ll only take.

Ikh vel gegayen in mark keyfn bar(u)n,
Un az ikh hob dikh lib, iz vemen darf dos arn?
Oy ikh val nit ganvenen, ikh vel aleyn nemen,
Oy ikh val nit ganvenen, nemen aleyn.

I will go to the market to buy some pears,
And while I love you, whom should it bother?
I will not steal, I will only take.
Oh I will not steal, I’ll only take.

Ikh af a shif un du af a lodke,
Un ikh mit a tsveytn un du in chakhotke.
Oy ikh val nit ganvenen, ikh vel aleyn nemen,
Oy ikh val nit ganvenen, nemen aleyn.

I’m on a ship and you’re on a boat,
I’m with a buddy and you have consumption.
I will not steal, I will only take.
Oh I will not steal, I’ll only take.

Ganvenen, ganvenen, zol dos nit zayn iker,
Un nemen a bisele mashke un take nit zayn shiker.
Oy ikh val nit ganvenen, ikh vel aleyn nemen,
Oy ikh val nit ganvenen, nemen aleyn.

Stealing oh stealing should not be the principle,
As it should be to have brandy and not to get drunk.
I will not steal, I will only take.
Oh I will not steal, I’ll only take.