Archive for ballad

“Mame a kholem” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2018 by yiddishsong
Mame, a kholem (Mother, A Dream)
Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman
recorded by Leybl Kahn, NY 1954

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The motif of the lover who returns as a beggar is as old as Homer’s Odyssey and is found in ballads throughout the world. In this Yiddish ballad version, the former lover is not disguised as a beggar but has indeed become one because of his “character”.

JewishBeggar by Rembrandt“Jewish Beggar” by Rembrandt

I consider this ballad to be one of Lifshe Schaechter-Widman’s [LSW] masterpieces. Not only because it is certainly among the older songs in her repertoire, but because of the deeply emotional way she performs it, concluding with the dramatic last verse in which the woman reveals to her mother who is at the door.

In typical old ballad style, the dialogue prevails: first between mother and daughter, then between daughter and beggar (former lover) and finally, again, between daughter and mother. There is a break in the narrative after the third verse when the dialogue changes and at this point Leybl Kahn, who is recording the song, feels compelled to ask LSW to continue.

This transition from third to fourth verse is noteworthy. A new plot/scene develops at this point. It leads me to believe that originally there might have been two ballads that were combined to form one.

Supporting this idea are the awkward transitions between the two scenes in all the versions. We also have examples of separate ballads. Singer/researcher Michael Alpert recorded Fanya Moshinskaya, (born 1915 in Babyi Yar, Kiev), singing a ballad of the first scene – ‘Oy a kholem’. And he has recorded Bronya Sakina (1910 – 1988) from Olvanisk (Holovanivsk/Golovanevsk, Ukraine) singing a ballad – “Derbaremt aykh”- depicting the beggar/lover scene. Alpert currently sings both of them and sometimes combines them.

In addition, there are two other versions of just the beggar/lover ballad with no first “kholem” part in the Soviet Folklor-lider volume 2 1936, page 202-204,. Song #62  – “Shoyn dray yor az ikh shpil a libe” and #63 – “Vi azoy ikh her a lirnik shpiln”.  The singer for #62 was Rive Diner from Bila Tserkva, Ukraine, 1926. The singer for #63 was Yekhil Matekhin from Sobolivke, Ukraine, recorded in 1925.

A nine-verse Odessa variant without music of the LSW combined ballad – “Oj, a xolem hot zix mir gexolemt” – can be found in Folklor-lider volume 2 1936, page 201-202 song# 61. This was republished by Moyshe Beregovski with music in his Jewish Folk Songs (1962) #34 pp. 75-77, reprinted in Mark Slobin’s Beregovski compendium Old Jewish Folk Music 1982, p. 353 – 355. The singer was Dine Leshner from Odessa, 1930.

In Leshner’s ballad, the transition verse between the two scenes, verse four, is presented in first person from the beggar’s viewpoint, not in dialogue. It would be quite confusing for the listener to figure out who is speaking, and I imagine the singer would almost be required to stop singing and indicate who is speaking (as LSW does at this transition point!).

Another variant of the combined version was collected by Sofia Magid in 1934 in a Belarus kolkhoz “Sitnya”, from the singer Bronya Vinokur (PON 103, full text on page 580, “Unser Rebbe, unser Stalin” edited by Elvira Grozinger and Susi Hudak-Lazic, 2008. The audio recording can be heard on the accompanying DVD). The initial dialogue is between a man and his mother. He then travels to the rebbe, and comes to her as a beggar. She curses him in the last verse.

Oyb du host a froy mit a kleyn kind,
Zolstu zikh muttsen [mutshn] ale dayne yor.
Oyb du host mir frier nit genumen,
Konstu sheyn nit zayn mayn por.

If you have a wife and child,
May you suffer all your years.
If you did not take me before,
Then you can no longer be my match.

Hardly the romantic ending we find in the LSW version.

I would like to take the liberty of suggesting some word changes in LSW’s version for any singers out there thinking of performing the song. These suggestions are based on the other versions and on the way LSW’s daughter, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman [BSG] sang the song.

1) Clearly the last line in the first verse of LSW’s ballad, which doesn’t rhyme with “gedakht”, is a mistake. BSG sang instead the rhymed line –

“Az mayn gelibter shteyt baym bet bay nakht” [“That my lover is standing at my bed at night”]

But in Magid’s version and in the Alpert/ Moshinskaya’s version this line reads  – “un fun mir hot er zikh oysgelakht” (and he laughed at me”) And in the Folklor-lider version the line reads “un fun mir hot er khoyzek gemakht” (“and he mocked me”)  So the mocking of the girl is the “character” flaw that results in his becoming a beggar.

2) Instead of “futerland” Bronya Sakina sang “geboyrn-land” which strikes me as folkier and more appropriate, though in one of the Folklor-lider versions, the daughter does use “foterland” as well.

3) Instead of LSW’s “derkh mayn kharakter”, – “because of my character”, – others sing “durkh a libe” and “durkh a gelibter– “because of a love”, “because of beloved”. This also strikes me as the older concept and more in line with the whole song.

4)  Instead of  LSW’s “untershtitsung” – “nedove” is more traditional.  Both mean “alms”, “donation”.

5) LSW sings “iftsishteln di hant” – “to raise up the hand”. Usually that would be “oystsushtrekn di hant” – “to reach out your hand”.

6) For the last line she sings “vayl dos iz der velkher iz mayn gelibter geveyn.” (“because this is the one who was my lover”) but shorter and to the point is “vayl dos iz mayn gelibter geveyn” (because he was my lover”). BSG sang it this way.

TRANSLITERATION
1)  Mame, a khulem hot zikh mir gekhulemt,
Oy, mame, a khulem hot zikh mir gedakht.
Oy, a khulem hot zikh mir gekhulemt,
az man gelibter shteyt leybn mayn bet.

2)  Oy a khulem tokhter tur men nit gleybn
Vayl a khulem makht dem mentshn tsim nar.
Morgn veln mir tsi dem rebe furn.
A pidyen veln mir im geybn derfar.

3)  Vus ken mir den der rebe helfn?
Tsi ken er mir geybn deym vus eykh hob lib?
In mayn hartsn vet er mame blaybn
Biz in mayn fintsern grib.
In mayn hartsn vet er mame blaybn.
Biz in mayn fintsern grib.

Spoken:  Leylb Kahn says  “Dos gantse lid”

LSW: “Es geyt nokh vater.”
Leybl: “Lomir hern vayter.”
Spoken: LSW – “Es dakht zikh ir, az der khusn
kimt aran..”

4) Hots rakhmunes af mir libe mentshn
hots rakhmunes af mir in a noyt.
mit alem gitn zol nor Gotenyu bentshn.
Hots rakhmones un shenkts a shtikl broyt.

5) “Far vus zhe geysti azoy upgerisn?
Shemst zikh nisht iftsishteln di hant?
Fin vanen di bist bin ikh naygerik tsi visn.
Rif mir un dayn futerland.

6) Geboyrn bin eykh in a groys hoz.
Dertsoygn bin eykh eydl un raykh,
derkh mayn kharakter bin eykh urem gevorn
in intershtitsing beyt eykh du fin aykh.

7) Tsi vilt ir mir epes shenkn?
Git zhet mir in lozts mekh du nisht shteyn.
Tits mikh nit azoy fil krenken,
Vayl dus hob eykh mir mitgenemen aleyn.

8) Oy, mamenyu gib im shoyn a neduve.
Gib im shoyn un loz im do nisht shteyn.
Gib im avek a halb fin indzer farmeygn,
vayl dos iz der velkher iz mayn gelibter geveyn.
Gib im shoyn a halb fin indzer farmeygn,
vayl dos iz der velkher iz mayn gelibter geveyn.

TRANSLATION
1)  Mama, I dreamed a dream,
oh mame, a dream i had imagined.
Oh a dream i had dreamed,
That my love was near my bed.
[..stands near me at night]

2)  O daughter, a dream should not be believed.
Because a dream can lead you astray.
Tomorrow we will travel to the Rebbe
and give him payment for this.

3)  O, how can the Rebbe help me.
Can he give me the one I love?
In my heart he will always remain.
Till my dark grave.

SPOKEN:
Leylb Kahn: The whole song
LSW: There is more.
Leybl: Let’s hear more.
LSW: She thinks that her groom has entered…

4) “Take pity on me dear people.
Take people on me in my need.
May God bless you with all good things.
Take pity and give a piece of bread.”

5)  “Why are you going around in rags?
Are you not ashamed to hold out your hand?
Where are you from? I would like to know.
Tell me your fatherland.”

6)  “I was born in a big house,
Raised noble and wealthy.
Because of my character, I became poor,
and for a donation from you I now beg.”

7)  “Do you want to give me some alms?
Then give me and don‘t leave me standing here.
Don‘t torture me so,
For I have already suffered enough.”

8)  “O mother give alms right now,
Give him now, and don‘t let him stand there.
Give him away a half of our fortune,
For he was once my beloved.”

screen-shot-2018-02-08-at-4-15-21-pm.pngkholem itzik2

Folklor-lider Volume 2 1936, pp. 202-204,. Song #62  – “Shoyn dray yor az ikh shpil a libe”:
12

and #63 – “Vi azoy ikh her a lirnik shpiln”:

34

Jewish Folk Songs (1962) #34, ed. Moyshe Beregovski,  pp. 75-77, reprinted in Mark Slobin’s Beregovski compendium Old Jewish Folk Music 1982, p. 353 – 355:

Beregovski Mame A

“Unser Rebbe, unser Stalin” edited by Elvira Grozinger and Susi Hudak-Lazic, 2008:
MagidMameAkholem

Post edited for web by Samantha Shokin.

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Shmad Ballads Performed by Zelda Roif and Libe Manuel

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2014 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

When ballads have been presented on the Yiddish Song of the Week we have sometimes emphasized the parallels with other international ballads. This week we present a ballad type that is not to be found internationally, certainly not in the Anglo-British-American tradition – a ballad that describes the conversion of a child to the Christian faith; a shmad-ballad. The verb shmadn in Yiddish means to convert to Christianity.

This week’s entry has two versions of the same shmad-ballad. There are a number of others and judging by the geographic spread of the singers, we could conclude that it is at least as old as the 19th century.

1) The first version Zitst di mome (As Mother is Sitting) comes to us courtesy of the AHEYM (Archives of Historical and Ethnographic Yiddish Memoirs) project at the University of Indiana in Bloomington. This project has been directed by professors Dov-Ber Kerler and Jeff Weidlinger. Special thanks to AHEYM project manager Anya Quilitzch who prepared the video clip.

The singer Zelda Roif  of Kishinev (Chișinău), Moldova, sings in her Bessarabian dialect, marked especially by her toto-mome-loshn. Tate (father) in her dialect becomes tote, mame becomes mome and geshmadt becomes geshmodt (converted). Her version has a distinctly Romanian flavor since the daughter Sonyele falls in love with a shepherd (cioban).

In classic ballad form, the first few verses set the action then turn into a dialogue between mother and daughter, in which the mother tries to convince her daughter not to convert. The mother fails and the last two lines spoken by the daughter – “I can’t stand the Jewish faith” is quite a powerful (unhappy) ending.

2) The second ballad Bentsik der shoykhet (Bentsik the Ritual Slaughterer) is sung by Lillian Manuel of Suchowola in northeast Poland, and the recording and comments were provided by her grandson, the Yiddish linguist Dovid Braun.

By comparing the two ballads we see the similar dialogue structure though in different settings. The ending of Bentsik der shoykhet is also quite shocking.

The Yiddish shmad-ballad song type deserves a longer analysis than is possible here. Among other versions collected is one in Sofia Magid’s work printed in “Unser Rebbe, unser Stalin” edited by Elvira Grozinger and Susi Hudak-Lazic (Harrasowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden, 2008) – “Rokhele” (pages 288-289) recorded in Volyn, 1928. The Magid version is a variant of the two presented today and recounts how Rokhele ran away with the priest’s son. In the longer text provided (page 555) a similar dialogue between parent and daughter can be found. A recording of the song is included in the DVD that comes with the volume.

Please find Yiddish texts at the end of this posting.

ZITST DI MAME (Performed by Zelda Roif, Kishinev, Moldova)


Zitst di mame un
arbet a zok.
Kimt men ir zogn,
az ir tokhter Sonyele hot zikh geshmodt.


Mother is sitting and
mending a sock,
when they come to tell her
that her Sonyele has converted.

Loyft zi zi zikhn,
tsvishn ole shkheynim.
In ir tokhter Sonyele
iz nishtu bay keynem.

So she runs to search her
among all the neighbors.
And her daughter Sonyele
is not found by anyone.

Loyft zi zi zikhn
tsi tshubanes tir.
In ir tokhter Sonyele
shteynt akeygn ir.

So she runs to look for her
at the door of the shepherd.
And her daughter Sonyele
is standing across from her.

Sonyele, Sonyele
kim tsu mir aheym.
Ikh vel dir gibn
vus di vi’st aleyn.

Sonyele, Sonyele
Come home to me.
I will give you
whatever you want.

Ikh vel dir gibn
kleyder un dan..
in a yidish yingele
far ayn man.

I will give you
clothes and then..
and a Jewish boy
for a husband.

Bay mir bisti ‘gan
mit shikh un kaloshn.
Vest khasene hobm far tshuban (In Romanian= cioban)
vesti oysgeyn far a groshn.

At my place you wore
shoes and boots.
If you marry the shepherd
you will die for a penny.

Bay mir bisti ‘gan
mit a vas, zadn kleyd.
Vest khasene hobn far Tshuban
vesti vashn yidish greyt.

With me, you wore
a white, silk dress.
If you marry the shepherd
you will wash Jewish laundry.

[Spoken]
Hot zi geentfert der miter:
She answered her mother:

Trabt avek man miter
ikh ken zi nisht ladn.
Di yidishe nemune
Ikh ken zi nisht farladn.

Drive away my mother,
I can’t stand her.
The Jewish faith
I can’t stand it.

BENTSIK DER SHOYKHET (sung by Lillian Manuel, known in her shtetl Suchowola, NE Poland, as “Libe Yankl dem shvartsns”, to her grandson David / Dovid Braun, in the Workmen’s Circle Home for the Aged, Bronx, NY, ca. 1988)  *see comments by David/Dovid Braun at the end of this translation.

Bentsik der shoykhet mitn zaydenem khalat;
Feygele zayn tokhter hot zikh opgeshmadt.

Bentsik the [kosher] slaughterer with his silken robe;
Feygele his daughter has converted to Christianity.

Bentsik der shoykhet shpant ayn ferd-un-vogn
kedey er zol kenen zayn Feygelen deryogn.

Bentsik the slaughterer hitched up his horse and wagon,
So that he could catch up to his Feygele.

Bentsik der shoykhet geyt arayn in a kvartir.
Gefunen hot er Feygelen bam kloyster fun tir [in kloyster bam tir].

Bentsik the slaughterer goes into an inn.
What he’s found is Feygele in church by the door.

“Kum aher mayn tokhter, kum tsu mir aheym.
Ikh vel dir gebn vos du vilst aleyn.”

“Come here my daughter, come home to me.
I will give you whatever you want.

Ikh vel dir gebn gelt un nadan
un tsu dertsu a sheynem yungn-man.”

I will give you money and dowry
and on top of that a handsome young man.”

Bentsik der shoykhet, er falt tsu di fis
un im af tselokhes dem sheygets a kish.

Bentsik the slaughterer, he falls to their feet
and to spite him, [she gives] the gentile boy a kiss.

Bentsik der shoykhet, er falt tsu di tishn [griber]
un im af tselokhes tseylemt zi zikh iber.

Bentsik the slaughterer falls to the tables [graves, pits],
and to spite him she crosses herself.

Feygele iz gegangen in zaydene zokn.
Az zi vet peygern vet klingen di glokn.

Feygele was wearing silken socks/stockings.
When she croaks, the [church] bells will ring.

Af morgn bay tog:   a yomer, a klog!
Bentsik der shoykhet iz geshtorbn in mitn tog.

The next afternoon:   alas and alack!
Bentsik the slaughterer died in the middle of the day.

Notes by David Braun:

In the Yiddish original, I have placed in square brackets [ ] a few words Mrs. Manuel sang on an occasion a few years earlier when in better health and with a yet crisper memory. It is clear how those words make better sense and/or form a more satisfactory rhyme. Also, the final two stanzas were reversed in that earlier rendition, which makes more sense: walking neither with shoes nor barefoot but in socks or stockings is a sign of mourning. So first her father Bentsik has died, then she has donned traditional Jewish mourning garb, and finally we are warned that when the end comes for her, the apostate, mourning will be signaled by church bells.

After first becoming acquainted with this song in her repertoire, I compared her version to others in the folkloristic literature and discovered that in some, the gentile youth who is the object of Feygele’s romantic interest is named. With that information, I jogged her memory and ended up eliciting this additional stanza that she doesn’t sing on the recording – it clearly belongs after the stanza following Bentsik’s promise of dowry and all other good things. Feygele insists:

Kh’vil nit kayne kleyder, kh’vil nit kayn nadan.
Aleksandern hob ikh lib un er vet zayn mayn man.

‘I don’t want any clothes, I don’t want any dowry.
Alexander is who I love and he will be my husband.’

With this stanza, we’re enlightened as to what’s behind Feygele’s conversion from yiddishkayt, and religious philosophy doesn’t seem to be the motivating factor.
zitstdimome

zitztdimome2

 

bentzishokhet

“A lid vegn Bentsi der geshtokhener” Performed by Leyke Post

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2014 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Thanks to Henry Carrey for this fascinating recording of his mother Leah “Leyke” Post Carrey (1908 – 2005), a well known Yiddish singer and actress, singing a 15 verse murder/underworld ballad from Zhitomir entitled “A lid vegn Bentsi der geshtokhener” (“A Song about Bentsi who was Stabbed”). Leah’s mother Frahdl had learned this song right after the actual event, and Leah says in her Yiddish comments spoken after performing the song that her mother attended the trial and saw the bloody knife.

What follows is 1) information on the singer Leah Carrey, followed by 2) notes on Leah’s mother Frahdl, from whom Leah learned this song, and finally 3) a few comments on the song itself.

1) Obituary sent by Henry Carrey:

Leah Carrey (Leyke Post), 97, Yiddish Radio Star

Leah Carrey, singer, actress and star of Yiddish radio in Boston passed away last week in New York. Known to her fans by her maiden name of Leyke Post, Leah was born in Zhitomir, Ukraine into a family that loved to entertain. She and her mother Frahdl joined her father Shloyme in the West End of Boston when she was 5 years old.

Her stage debut was as a boy singing “Heyse Bapkelekh” in a touring Goldfaden operetta starring Michal Michalesko. On that occasion, she suffered her first and only bout of stage fright. She performed in shows at the Grand Old Opera House on Dover Street, at the Shawmut Theater and the Franklin Park Theater, working with some of the greatest stars of the Yiddish stage. Later, she toured all over New England and in the Catskills, performing Yiddish folk, art and theater songs.
Leyke Post

Photograph of Leah Post Carrey courtesy of Henry Carrey

She sang on Boston radio for over 25 years on stations WCOP, the Mutual and Yankee networks. She was a regular on “The Kibitzer” with Ben Gailing and “Der Freylekher Kaptsn“. She also concertized for many Jewish organizations – most frequently at the Workmen’s Circle camp in Framingham and Center.

In 1933, she married Al Carrey and had two sons: David, who eventually worked in the New York Yiddish theater and Henry. She joined her son in New York in 1978 singing on WEVD, at Circle Lodge and off-Broadway in “The Roumanian Wedding”. After her son David’s untimely death, she was cheered up by the chance to play Grandma in Woody Allen’s film “Radio Days”. In the early ‘90’s, she impressed her audiences at “Klezkamp”.

She is survived by her son Henry of Manhattan and her sister Rose Andelman of Nyack, New York .

2) About his grandmother, Frahdl Post, aka Fannie Post, Henry Carrey writes:

My bobie was born in Zhitomir, Ukraine in 1881 and died at the Workmen’s Circle Home for the Aged in the Bronx, New York in 1976. She grew up in a lower-middle class home, one of four sisters and two brothers. Her father Dovid-Hersh Herman had a shop where grain was sold. His wife, Rivke Kolofsky worked in the shop.

As young girl, she always liked to sing and dance (her father was said to be a part-time lay khazn [cantor] with a pleasant voice.) She and her brother, Pinye, teamed up to sing and dance at local simkhes (family celebrations). As she was never taught to read and write, she used to learn everything by heart. She once said that she learned her vast repertoire of many-versed songs by going to a store with friends every day, where newly written songs would be purchased and then shared by the girls (at least one of whom had to be able to read music). She also used stand in the street outside the local jail and learn revolutionary songs from the prisoners who could be heard through the windows. Although she remembered attending revolutionary meetings in the woods, she was not an activist. She also took part in occasional amateur theatricals near her home.

One day she went to a fortune-teller, who told her that her future husband was waiting at home for her. When she got home, she saw my grandfather Shloyme, who had been boarding with her aunt. Even though she was supposed to be the prettiest of the girls, she was relatively late in getting married for a girl at that time. In 1907, they married and within a year, her husband Shloyme was off to America to seek his fortune. He may not have known that his wife was pregnant when he left. I don’t know if he left for any other reasons, but I do know that there were pogroms in Zhitomir in 1905 and 1907.

In April 1913, (from Halifax) they left for Boston, where my grandfather had settled. Frahdl had two more children Rose and Hymie. My grandfather worked as a welder and a blacksmith and eventually owned two small apartment building where he was the landlord and super. At one point, they left their Jewish neighborhood of the West End of Boston to move to Arlington so that my grandfather could open a tire store with a friend for Model T’s.

Being one of four Jewish families in Arlington, my mother and siblings were influenced by the gentile kids around them. My aunt and uncle once brought a “Chanukah Bush” home and put up stockings on the mantel. My grandmother threw the tree out and filled the stockings with coal and onions from “Sente Closet“. My mother, who even at a young age, was a singer, had been secretly singing with the Methodist choir. One day, the minister came to the door to ask my grandmother’s permission to allow my mother to sing on Christmas Eve. That was the last straw for my grandmother and they moved back to the West End.

I was always amazed that my grandmother managed to bring up three children in Boston without ever learning to read or write. She could recognize numbers and sign her name, but never went to night school as her sisters had done. She always regretted that.

My grandmother always sang around the house both the old Yiddish and Ukrainian folksongs she had learned in Zhitomir and the new Yiddish theater songs she heard from other people or later on the radio and on recordings.

She never stopped singing and dancing even in the old age home. I remember even in the 1960’s she would delight people with her Yinglish version of “How much is that doggy in the window?” or her renditions of “Enjoy Yourself (It’s later than you think)” in Yiddish and English and “Der Galitzianer Cabalyerl“ in Yiddish.

3) Comments on song “Bentsi der geshtokhener” by Itzik Gottesman:

This song is among the more brutal and bloodier Yiddish ballads even when compared to the songs in Shmuel Lehman’s classic collection, “Ganovim lider” (“Thieves’ Songs”), published in Warsaw in 1928.

Interesting how even in such a prime example of the Jewish underworld, elements of the traditional Jewish world work themselves into the story – his pal Dovid Perltsvayg and his old father say Kaddish (the memorial prayer); Bentsi wants to say vide, his final confession.

Elements of traditional Yiddish ballads also are to found, such as verses that begin with “Azoy….” – “Azoy vi di muter hot dos derhet” for example is usually part of the widespread “12 a zeyger ballad” (see the recording by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman on the cassette “Az di furst avek”).

I will not comment on the grammatical and lexical issues, which are many, and can be addressed by the listeners of the Yiddish Song of the Week blog. Please point out any mistakes, of course, or disagreements with my translation.

A naye lid hob ikh aroysgegebn,
vos ikh aleyn vel aykh zingen.
Di lid iz fun Bentsi dem(!) geshtokhener;
Di gantse velt tut mit im klingen.

A new song did I produce
that I will sing for you myself.
This song about Bentsi the stabbed one,
The whole world is talking about him.

A shayke gite-briderlekh zenen zikh in zhitomir geven,
un zey hobn zikh shtendik farhaltn gut,
un far aza mints narishkeyt,
geyt men a gutn-bruder fargisn blut.

A gang of “buddies” (slang for thugs) were in Zhitomir
and they always got along fine.
And for some trifle coins,
they spilled the blood of their buddy.

Azoy vi Bentsi iz nor aheymgekumen,
hot er nit gevust vos mit im ken zayn.
Er hot zikh nor avekgeleygt shlofn –
azoy hot men im gegibn dem meser in der zayt arayn.

As soon as Bentsi came home,
he didn‘t know what would happen to him.
He lay down to sleep
and they stabbed him with the knife in his side.

Azoy vi Bentsi hot nor dem meser derfilt,
hot er zikh oyfgekhapt mit a groys geshrey.
Er hot ongehoybn shrayen “Brengt mir a dokter.
Oy, zol men mir mayn blut faromeven”.

As soon as Bentsi felt the knife,
he woke up with a great yell.
He began to scream “bring me a doctor
Let them wipe up my blood.”


Keyn sakh arbet hobn zey bay im nisht gehat,
vayl zey zene geven in firn.
Zayne koyles zenen gegangen bizn zibetn himl,
zey hobn im nisht gevolt tsuhern.

They didn’t have much work to do
because there were four.
His screams reached the seventh heaven,
but they ignored him.

Dem ershtn meser hot im zayn guter-brider arayngerikt,
un er hot im bay im oysgedreyt.
“Ikh zog dir a blat loshn, Bentsi, ikh hob dir shoyn gefetst.
Itst veln mir shoyn beyde zayn tsesheydt.”

The first knife was plunged into him by his buddy,
and he turned it around in him.
I will tell you in underworld lingo – I knocked you off,
Now we will go our separate ways.

File mentshn hobn in Bentsis toyt a negeye gehat.
Zey hobn bay im dos lebn genumen.
Mir zeen dokh aroys, s’iz shoyn a farfalene zakh,
un me tor nit fregn far vos s’iz him gekumen.

Many people had a part(?) in Bentsyes death.
They took away his life.
We therefore see, that it’s all over,
but no one can ask why he deserved it.

Azoy vi er hot im dem meser arayngerikt,
zayne tsores hot Bentsi nit gekent farnemen.
“Ikh zog dir Bentsi, ikh shnayd fun dir shtiker fleysh,
Mir veln zikh bodn in dayn blut vi vayt mir veln kenen.”

As soon as he stabbed him with the knife,
Bentsi could not stand his pains.
“I tell you Bentsi, I am cutting pieces of flesh from you.
We will bathe in your blood, as much as we can.‟

“Hert nor oys mayne gute-briderlekh,
Ot hert vos ikh vel aykh zogn.
Oy, shikt mir rufn mayn tayere mame,
oy, lomir khotshk (b)vide zogn.”

Listen my good buddies,
listen to what I will tell you.
O, send for my dear mother,
O, let me say my final confession of sins.

Azoy vi di muter hot dos nor derhert,
iz zi arayngefaln mit a groys geveyn.
“Oy, nite veyn mayn tayere mame,
Got veyst tsi du vest mir morgn zen.”

As soon as his mother heard this,
she ran in with a great moan.
“Don‘t you cry my dear mother,
God only knows if you’ll see me tomorrow‟.

Nokh zayn shtekh hot er nokh zibn teg gelebt;
zayne tsores hot er nit gekent aribertrogn.
Far zayn toyt hot er a gutn-brider Dovid Perltsvayg ongezogt,
Az kadish zol er nokh im zogn.

After the stabbing he lived another seven days.
His pains he could not endure.
Before he died, he told his buddy Dovid Perltsvayg,
he should say Kaddish for him.

Dovid hot bay him der hant genumen,
er zol zikh zayn krivde onnemen.
“Ikh zog dir Bentsi, vi vayt ikh vel kenen,
vet ikh zen far dir dayn blut opnemen.”

Dovid took him by the hand,
and asked to take up his cause.
“I tell you Bentsi, that as much as I am able
I will avenge your blood.‟

Oy, ver s’iz nit bay dem nisoyen nisht geven,
oy, darf men veynen un klogn.
Aza ayzernem Bentsi leygt men in dr’erd arayn.
un der alter foter darf kadish zogn.

Whoever was at this temptation (?),
should weep and mourn.
Such an iron-man like Bentsi is put in the ground
and his old father must say Kaddish.

Dem ershtn gitn-brider hot men bald gekhapt,
un me hot im in mokem arestirt;
keyn vapros bay him gornit opgenumen,
me hot im bald in kitsh aropgefirt.

The first buddy was caught soon after
and they arrested him in the neighborhood (?)
The didn‘t take any questions from him,
and they put him straight away in the “can” (jail)

Di iberike dray hot men ongehoybn sliedeven,
un me hot bald gevust vu zey zaynen.
Tsum Barditshever brik iz men bay nakht geforn,
un fun di dlizones hot men zey aropgenumen.

About the other three they started to ask questions
and they soon found out where they were.
To the Berdichever bridge they went at night
And from the carriages they took them off.

At conclusion of song, this is spoken by the singer: “My mother remembers how dangerous it was when they led the murderer in chains and how one of them yelled to Dovid Perltsvayg – ‘unless I don’t come back if I do come back we will get back at you’. My mother told me that she remembered how the knife was laying on the table with blood. Bentsi, as I understood it, was a handsome youth, and girls worked for him. The girls were crazy for him. The other three, it seems, were jealous of him. I know, that’s what my mother told me.

Bentsi1
Bentsi2
Bentsi3
Bentsi4

“Dos daytshl” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2013 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The Yiddish Song of the Week is glad to be back after a brief hiatus caused by a hurricane-related telecommunications breakdown.

“Dos Daytshl”  (“The German Guy”) as sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman [LSW] (see previous posts for her biography) is linguistically the most complicated song yet posted.

The comic ballad is international and found in many languages and is known in the Child canon as “Our Goodman” (#274). The texts have remained remarkably similar through time and languages. My folklore professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Kenneth Goldstein, played us a field recording he had made of African-American kids in West Philadelphia singing a rap version of this ballad and the words were almost the exact ones as the Yiddish lyrics LSW sings.

In The Folks Songs of Ashkenaz (pp. 139 – 142) edited by Philip V. Bohlman and Otto Holzapfel (2001), the editors make an interesting comparison of a Yiddish version found in the Ginsburg-Marek collection to a German version collected in German colonies in southern Russia. Unfortunately, they only compare the texts, though several Yiddish versions with melodies have been printed (for example, one melody of a Yiddish version exists in Yidisher folklor, YIVO 1938). Their brief history of the ballad indicates that the German versions of the song came from a Scottish variant in late 19th century, and after it was published in a German almanac in 1790 it circulated much more widely.

There are many printed Yiddish versions of the song, most recently in Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive  (p. 30-31)  edited by Chana Mlotek and Mark Slobin. Their introduction refers to other printed Yiddish versions. On the Yiddish ballad in comparison to other international versions read Chana Mlotek’s “International Motifs in the Yiddish Ballad” in For Max Weinriech on his Seventieth Birthday. The Yiddish ballad was still popular into the 1930s in Eastern Europe.

Since LSW comes from the Bukovina, where Jews were fluent in Yiddish and German, the German element in the song has to be analyzed not just as Germanisms in a Yiddish text, but as to what these German words evoke when sung by a Yiddish folksinger who is performing a comic song making fun of a German. Does the singing of  “Eyns, tsvey, drey” and not “dray” which would be the correct form in both Yiddish and German, indicate a funny hypercorrection of a German based word in Yiddish?

Of course, it’s not just any German being made fun of here, but a German peasant or farmer. The Germanisms also imply that such a song about a cuckold would “never” be sung about a Jewish husband and wife. Since LSW usually sings slow mournful songs it’s refreshing to hear her sing a comic song with such gusto and drama.

Click here to listen to Lifshe Schaechter-Widman performing “Dos daytshl”

Dos daytshl
The German Guy

Kum ikh zikh arayn in kukhl
Gefin ikh zikh – okh un vey!
In kukhl hengen zeybls –
eyns un tsvey un drey.

I enter my kitchen
What do I find – woe is me!
In the kitchen are hanging swords,
One and two and twee.

Dan rukh ikh zikh mayn vaybkhin
“Kindkhin vos iz dos?
Vos far a zeybls hengen dort?
Akh vi ruft men dos?”

So I call in my wife
Dear child, what is this?
What are those swords hanging there,
What do you call them?

Hey, di lumpiker man,
vos zeystu zeybls dort?
Bratfanen zenen dort,
vos mayn muter shikt tsu mir.

Hey, you silly man,
what swords do you see there?
Frying pans are there
that my mother sent to me

Kum ikh zikh arayn in shtale,
gefin ikh zikh – okh un vey!
In shtale shteyen ferde –
eyns un tsvey un drey.

I enter the stalls,
and what do I find – woe is me!
In the stalls are standing horses,
One and two and twee.

Dan rukh ikh zikh mayn vaybkhin –
kindkhin vos iz dos?
Vos far a ferde shteyen dort,
akh vi ruft men dos?

So I call in my wife,
Dear child what is this?
What are those horses standing there,
what do you call it?

Hey, di lumpiker man,
dos zint kayn [?] ferdchen dort
milikh ki, zenen dort,
vos mayn miter shikt tsu mir.

Hey, you silly man,
Those are not horses there.
Milk cows are there,
that my mother sent to me.

Kum ikh zikh arayn in shloftsimer,
Gefin ikh zikh okh un vey!
In shloftsimer shlofn mener –
eyns un tsvey un drey.

I enter into the bedroom,
What do I find – Woe is me!
In the bedroom men are sleeping,
One and two and three.

Dan ruf ikh zikh mayn vaybkhin
kindkhen vos iz dos?
Vos far a mener shlofn dort –
akh vi ruft men dos?

So I call in my wife,
Wife, what is this?
What men are sleeping there,
How do you call this?

Hey, di lumpiker man,
vos rifsti mener dort.
Dinstmegde zenen dort,
vos mayn muter shikt tsu mir.

Hey, you silly man,
what are calling men over there,
Servant girls are there,
that my mother sent to me.

Dinstmegde (n) mit bakn berd?
Okh un vey un vind
Vos far a man bin ikh bay dir,
az fremde mener komen tsu dir.

Servant girls with bearded cheeks?
Woe is me.
What kind of husband am I to you,
If strange men are visiting.

Daytshl 1
Daytshl2
Daytshl3
daytshl4

“Tayere Toni” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 16, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

I have found only one other version of Tayere Toni – in the Pipe collection “Yiddish Folksongs from Galicia” edited by Meir and Dov Noy, Jerusalem, 1971 page 118-119. There the names of the lovers are Bronye and Bernard. From the Pipe version it is clear that the song is a ballad – Bernard does indeed die in the third verse, and in the fourth verse Bronye shoots herself and they are buried together in one grave. A motif much more common in non-Yiddish ballads, rare in Yiddish ones.

From Lifshe Schaechter-Widman’s shorter version, recorded in 1954 in the Bronx by song collector Leybl Kahn, a ballad-story is implied but is left hanging, and I have to wonder did Lifshe not sing the other verses because she did not know them or because they did not appeal to her? Didn’t ring true or Jewish? The fact that she doesn’t repeat any of the lines also implies that we are dealing with a ballad, a story in song; Lifshe was more inclined to repeat lines in lyric love songs than in ballads.

Though the use of German names in Tayere Toni would lead one to believe that the song is relatively new, the beautiful melody sounds very old to me. Her singing, as always, is haunting and so complex given the relative simple melody. By the way, the great folklorist I. L. Cahan (not to be confused with Leybl Kahn) “disqualified” a song that Shmuel Zanvil Pipe had collected because the character’s name in the song was Moritz. “Moritz”, wrote Cahan, could not be part of any folksong.

But today we have to respectfully disagree with Cahan (and I think Pipe wasn’t too happy about his judgement in this case either). Jews in the Galician and Bukovinan territories of the Austro-Hungarian Empire had German names, and were no less “folky” because of it.

Pete Rushefsky adds:

Musically, Tayere Toni reinforces the conversation between Bernard and his beloved Toni with a subtle harmonic interplay in the key of Bb minor.

The first two lines of each stanzas are rendered in Bb minor and harmonized by Bb minor, F major and Bb minor: a simple I Minor – V Major – I Minor progression that effects a light waltz-like melody as Bernard attempts to woo Toni. Harmonically each of Bernard’s two lines stand on their own – there is a simplicity and purity to his love.

Toni’s answers in the stanza’s third and first half of the fourth lines contradict Bernard, and are voiced to resolve (incompletely) on the C of a dominant F major chord. Toni’s response requires the full duration of her two lines to resolve harmonically, and for a moment, a listener tuned to Jewish modal tendencies wonders if she might distance herself further from his sentiments with a full modulation to F-freygish (also known in cantorial literature as “Ahava Raba”, or “altered Phrygian” – F, Gb, A, Bb, C, Db, Eb).

But despite a rapidly ascending then descending movement in the last line that is frequently seen in freygish melodies, Toni does not reach down to the tell-tale subtonic Eb which would confirm F-freygish. Rather, at the end of the stanza, Toni’s cadence resolves back to the tonic Bb. Though there is complexity in her responses and desires, in the end, these two are fated to live and die together.

“Tayere Toni, kim aher tsi mir
Nem dir a beynkl, zets zikh anider lebn mir.”
“Tayerer Bernard, ikh ken nisht zitsn leybn dir.
Di mame vet araynkimen, un vet shrayen af mir”

“Dear Toni come over here to me,
Take a chair, and sit next to me.”
“Dear Bernard, I can’t sit next to you.
My mother will enter and will yell at you.”

“Tayere Toni, ikh ken dikh nisht fardarbn.
Zeyst dekh az ikh halt shoyn baym shtarbn.”
Tayerer Bernard, vest nokh vern gezint.
Tayerer Bernard, di bist mayn tayer kind.”

“Dear Toni, I can’t ruin you.
Can’t you see, that i am dying.”
“Dear Bernard, you will become well,
Dear Bernard, you are my dear child”.

Spoken Dialogue after the song:

LEYBL KAHN: Dos lid hot ir gehert fun vanen?
Where did you hear this song?
LSW: Dos hob ikh gehert in Zvinyetchke.
I heard this in Zvinyetchke.
LK: In der Bukovina.
In Bukovina?
LSW: Yo, di Bukovina.
Yes, Bukovina.
LK: To vi kumen azoyne nemen vi Toni un Bernard?
So where do the name Toni and Bernard come from?
LSW: Bay undz hot men dokh daytshmerish gezingen.
We sang, after all, Germanized Yiddish.
LK: Menshn fleygn hob azoyne nemen.
People used to have such names?
LSW: Ye, avade.
Yes, of course


“Yo, yo du vilst” Performed by Josh Waletzky

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

“Yo, yo du vilst” (Yes, yes, you want) is a version of the international ballad, often called “Impossible Tasks”, #2 “Elfin Knight” in the Child ballad canon (Scarborough Fair is another example of this ballad type). Many Yiddish versions have been collected over a wide area of Eastern Europe. Hardly any of them, however, included the music when published. A more popular version was recently printed with music in Yiddish Folksongs From the Ruth Rubin Archive, Wayne St. University Press, 2007, page 61 – 62. Adrienne Cooper recorded that version on her CD “Enchanted”. In The Folk Songs of Ashkenaz, edited by Philip Bohlman and Otto Holzapfel, 2007, the compilers compare two Yiddish variants to four German variants on pages 82 – 89, music included.

The version sung by Josh Waletzky (which I recorded from him in 2007) parallels several found in Noyekh Prilutski’s Yidishe folkslider volume 2 (1913), pages 96 – 104, seven versions in all, and another one in the supplement at the end, pages 164 – 165. Most of the variants are from the Warsaw area. Waletzky sings only two verses (which he learned from Leyele Klempner, who sings on screen in Waletzky’s documentary film “Image Before My Eyes”) but one can easily reconstruct a fuller Warsaw version of this song. I did so for the Advanced Yiddish Song Workshop this month at Yiddish Summer Weimar in Germany, but more work needs to be done. Ethel Raim played the class this recording; a beautiful melody quite different from the other melodies for this song.

“This is Josh Waletzky singing a song that I learned from Layele (Warsaw Yiddish pronunciation of Leyele) Klempner, from her repertoire. It’s a fragment and I sing it in my standard Yiddish; she sang it in her Polish Yiddish. She was from Warsaw. ”

Yo, yo du vilst, yo, yo, du vilst
az ikh zol mit dir tnoyim shraybn.
Zolstu mir zibn kinder hobn,
un a meydl farblaybn.

Yes, yes you want, yes, yes you want.
that I should sign the engagement contract with you.
Let’s see you have seven children,
and a maiden remain.

Yo, yo du vilst, yo, yo du vilst
Az ikh zol zibn kinder hobn un a meydl farblaybn
Zolstu mir ale shtern tseyln
vifl in himl zenen.

Yes, yes you want, yes, yes, you want.
that I should have seven children and a maiden remain;
Let’s see you count the stars
as many as are in the sky.

“Khavele iz fun der arbet gegangen” performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2010 by yiddishsong

Notes by Itzik Gottesman

Khavele iz fun der arbet gegangen is a folklorized version of the labor/worker‘s song Brider, mir hobn geshlosn by Khaim Alexandrov (1869 – 1909). Molly and Bob Freedman‘s on-line catalogue lists two recorded versions of this song; one can be found on the LP Yiddish Songs of Work and Struggle produced by the Jewish Students Bund (1970s) and on the two cassette field recording of the singer Sarah Benjamin that Dr. Sheldon Benjamin produced in 1984 (cassette two). This week I offer a third version, a field recording by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded by Leybl Kahn in New York in 1954.

Information on this song can be found in Joseph and Chana Mlotek‘s book Perl fun der yidisher poezye pp. 515-517. The original title, as it was published in the newspaper Arbeter [published in Vilna?] Oct. 8th, 1904, was Khaverim in kamf and consists of versions of the three verses that LSW sings. Sarah Benjamin prefaces her performance by saying that it was a Zionist song.

Clearly LSW‘s recollection that she heard this when she was 5 or 6 years old (she was born in 1893) does not jibe with the information we have on the song. However her memory that it had to do with a strike in Galicia does match up with the folklorist Shmuel-Zanvil Pipe‘s comment which we find in Pipe‘s letter (from Vilna) to his folklorist/mentor I. L. Cahan in NY, Dec. 1936. The version Pipe collected begins with „Khanele iz fun der arbet gegangen‟ and has 5 verses.

Pipe writes – „This song was created in Drohobych (Yiddish- Drubitsh, then Galicia, today Western Ukraine) during the bloody elections for the Austrian parliament, March 30th, 1911. Fayershtein, a leading figure in Drohobitsh, was campaigning for Levenshteyn to be elected. The authorities intentionally provided only a narrow voting space, and only 60 people received permission to vote. The place became packed and tense and an order was given to fire a salvo – 26 died and 55 were wounded. „ Pipe further writes that he is doubtful that the song is a folksong, and thinks it probably „has a father‟. Cahan, Shtudyes vegn yidisher folksshafung, YIVO, 1953 pp. 345-346.

So I surmise from this that a Galician/Bukovina variant developed from Alexandrov‘s earlier version, beginning with the line „Khanele/Khavele iz fun der arbet…‟  Sarah Benjamin‘s Litvish version is predictably closer related to the older version.

In lectures, I sometimes play LSW‘s performance of this song and contrast it with the LP version sung by the Youth Bund chorus. The chorus sings it with a marching rhythm, and I am sure that‘s it how it is sung, perhaps even today, at Jewish socialist gatherings. When LSW sings the same song, only a hint of the march remains, and she interprets the song more in the style of an old ballad, with an emotional build-up leading up to the last two lines.


Introduction spoken by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW);
interviewer Leyb Kahn (LK).

LSW: S’iz geven in Galitsye vi s’iz du naft
This happened in Galitsye, where there was oil.

LK: In voser shtot iz dos geven?
In what town did this happen?

LSW: Mistame Yaruslav, lebn Pshemesh.
Iz gegangen a meydl, imshildik, un zi iz geteyt gevorn. S’iz du a lid fin ir.
Probably Yaruslav, near Pshemesh, and she was killed. There’s a song about her.

LK: Ven hot ir dus gehert?
When did you hear this?

LSW: Ikh bin geveyn a kind, efsher 5 yor, si’z geven mit 50, 55 yur fleg me dus zingen.
I was a child, maybe 5 years old; this was 50, 55 years ago when it was sung.

Khavele iz fin der arbayt gegangen.
Zi hot dokh fun gurnisht gevisht.
Iz aroys a falsh komande
Un m’hot af Khavelen geshist.

Khavele went to work.
She was totally unaware.
A false command was given,
And they shot at Khavele.

Khavele iz geleygn a toyte,
di eygelekh tsigemakht.
M’hot zi tsigedekt mit der fun, der royter,
A korbn funem strayk hot zi gebrakht.

Khavele is lying dead,
her eyes closed.
She was covered with the red flag:
She became a victim of the strike.

Az se treft dikh a koyl mayn getraye,
Fin dem soyne, dem hint,
Dan trug ikh dikh af mayne hent fun dem fayer.
Un ikh heyl dir mit kish dayne vind.

If you are hit by a bullet, my dear one,
by the enemy, that dog.
Then I will carry you on my arms away from the fire,
and heal with my kisses your wounds.

חווהלע איז פֿון דער אַרבעט געגאַנגען,
זי האָט פֿון גאָרנישט געוווּסט.
איז אַרויס אַ פֿאַלש קאָמאַנדע,
און מ’האָט אויף חווהלען געשיסט

חווהלע איז געלעגן אַ טויטע,
די אייגעלעך צוגעמאַכט.
מ’האָט זי צוגעדעקט מיט דער פֿאָן דער רויטער;
אַ קרבן פֿונעם סטרײַק האָט זי געבראַכט

אַז סע טרעפֿט דיר אַ קויל, מײַן געטרײַע,
פֿון דעם שׂונה, דעם הונט,
דאַן טראָג איך דיך אויף מײַנע הענט פֿונעם פֿײַער,
און הייל דיר מיט קיש דײַנע וווּנד