Archive for Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett

“Zishe Breitbart” Performed by Yitzchak Milstein

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 7, 2020 by yiddishsong

Zishe Breitbart Sung by Yitzchak Milstein
Recorded by Toby Blum-Dobkin, 2/19/1977, Brooklyn NY. 

Commentary by Toby Blum-Dobkin. Song lyrics and transcription appear at the end of the post, including Milstein’s opening and closing spoken remarks. 

About the Singer Yitzchak Milstein

I first recorded Yitzchak Milstein singing the ballad of Zishe Breitbart in 1973, when I interviewed Mr. Milstein for the YIVO Yiddish Folksong Project, directed by Dr. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett. The project team aimed to define and document Yiddish musical specialists and to compose portraits of such individuals [Blum-Dobkin 1975]. I again recorded the song in 1977, when I wrote an article about Zishe as a folk hero. I translated the song into English, and also transliterated it to reflect features of Milstein’s Yiddish pronunciation [Blum-Dobkin 1978].  

MilsteinPhoto

Yitzchak Milstein

I conducted ten interviews with Yitzchak Milstein for the Yiddish Folksong Project, between 2/27/1973 and 9/18/1974.  Each interview lasted approximately 90 minutes. All the interviews were conducted in Yiddish, with some songs and narrative in other languages. I translated portions of the interviews and songs into English, directly from the recordings. Bella Gottesman transcribed all the interviews and songs in Yiddish, also directly from the recordings. 

Mr. Milstein was born in Shidlovtse (Szidlowiec), Poland, in 1914. His mother Rokhl had a booth of ‘galenterye’ at the shtetl market. His father Motek (Mordkhe) was a ‘holts tokazh’ – a wood turner. Yitzchak worked as a tailor in Shidlovtse and seasonally in Warsaw. His childhood home was filled with music. He remarked, “In our home, almost everyone sang. . . were there better entertainments?. . . I remember that my father had a ‘liderbikhl’ – a Yiddish song book..  [with songs about] city girls and farmers’ girls…When my father was young he also acted in the drama circle, in [Goldfaden’s] Di Kishefmakherin – The Sorceress.” Even when Yitzchak’s father became more religious, he did not forbid Yitzchak from attending performances and acting in amateur dramatics. Yitzchak remembered that his father “said it was ‘b’yerushe’ – part of my legacy.”  The family had a mandolin, and Yitzchak learned by observing others.

In 1942 Yitzchak Milstein was forced into labor at the Skarszysko Hasag camp, and was subsequently incarcerated in several other Nazi camps. He was liberated in April 1945 and housed in the Displaced Persons camp in Feldafing, Germany. He emigrated to the the US in 1950 and settled in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, resuming work in his trade of tailoring.  He also resumed his avocation, singing. Mr. Milstein’s other avocation was keeping the memory of his shtetl Shidlovtse alive. He was active in the effort to publish Shidlovtse’s ‘yizker bukh’ – memorial book – for which he created artwork and essays  [Milstein 1974]. For Yitzchak Milstein, it was a matter of pride to reproduce a performance or song ‘genoy’ – as correctly and faithfully as possible. “I am a tape recorder,” he explained to me.

The Song ‘Zishe Breitbart’ 

Yitzchak Milstein had heard the ballad of Zishe Breitbart in the 1920’s from a ‘hoyfzinger’ – a street singer in Shidlovtse. The text of the ballad along with pictures of Zishe Breitbart were sold by street singers in broadside form. I am indebted to Chana Gordon Mlotek for directing me to other versions of the Breitbart song, and for pointing out the elements that the Breitbart ballad had in common with traditional ballads [Mlotek 1974].

PhotoBreitbart

Zishe (Sigemund) Breitbart

Zishe (Siegmund) Breitbart, son of a blacksmith, was born in Lodz, Poland, in 1883. His fame was based both on his physical strength and his unique personality. He toured widely, and in 1923 performed for the Keith vaudeville theaters in New York. The New York Times reported on Breitbart’s 1923 arrival in the United States:

“Among other feats of strength he claims to be able to lift ten or twelve persons with his hands, twist bars of iron like scraps of paper, crack Brazil nuts between his fingers, and haul a wagon with ten persons along the road by his teeth.” The article notes that Breitbart “says he is so sensitive that he would walk into the roadway to avoid trading upon a worm. . . he likes music and writes poems, but doesn’t like prize fighting. He declined an offer received by telegram at the pier to go to Saratoga Springs and have a tryout with Jack Dempsey, the heavyweight champion. ‘For me it is not,’ the strong man of Poland said.” [New York Times 1923].  

Breitbart’s death at the age of forty-two apparently resulted from blood poisoning initially contracted during a performance in Radom, Poland, when he scratched or punctured his leg with a nail.  He died in Berlin in 1925.

Zishe Breitbart’s crowd-pleasing persona and sense of mission as a Jewish hero made a lasting impression [Blum-Dobkin 1978; Bart 2014; Gillerman 2010].  He appeared in the silent film [Der Eisenkoenig 1923] and is the subject of a feature film [Invincible 2001].  It has even been posited that Zishe Breitbart was an inspiration for the character of Superman [Gordon 2011]. 

Milstein Comments

From Khane & Yosl Mlotek’s Song of Generations: New Pearls of Yiddish Song (Workmens Circle, 2004):

Breitbart1Breitbart2Breitbart3

Selected Sources:

Bart, Gary.  Interviewed by Christina Whitney,  Wexler Oral History Project, National Yiddish Book Center, Amherst MA, November 21, 2014.

Blum-Dobkin, Toby.  “Case Study of a Traditional Yiddish Folksinger.” Unpublished paper, 1975.

Blum-Dobkin, Toby.  “Zishe, the Yiddish Samson.”  The Parade of Heroes: Legendary Figures in American Lore.” edited by  Tristram Potter Coffin and Hennig Cohen, Anchor Press, Garden City NY, 1978: 206-213, 557-558.

Der Eisenkönig.  Film directed by Max Neufeld, 1923. 

Gillerman, Sharon.  “The Strongest Man in the World.” YIVO Encyclopedia, 2010.

Gordon, Mel.  “Step Right Up and Meet the World’s Mightiest Human: A Jewish Strongman from Poland who Some Say Inspired the Creation of Superman.”  Reform Judaism, Summer 2011.  

Invincible.  Film directed by Werner Herzog, 2001.

Milstein, Yitzchak.  “Khronik fun khurbn in Shidlovtse.”  Shidlovtser Yizker Bukh/Yizkor Book Szydlowiec, edited by Berl Kagan  Shidlovtser Benevolent Association, NY (1974): 344-368.

Mlotek, Chana Gordon.  “Perl fun der yidisher poezye.” Forverts 1973.The New York Times August 27, 1923.

 

“Zey, mayn kind” Performed by Khave Rosenblatt

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2019 by yiddishsong

Zey, mayn kind / See, my child
Performance by Khave Rosenblatt.
Recorded by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, 1974, Jerusalem

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This curious song, I would venture to guess, comes from a musical play of the turn of the 20th century. It starts off as a critique of money (“Dos shtikele papir” – “that little scrap of paper”) but then becomes a quick review of how to keep a kosher home. It seems to address two separate aspects in the plot of a play.

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100 Karbovantsiv note from the short-lived Ukrainian National Republic, 1917. Note the Yiddish text at bottom. 

Khave Rosenblatt is a wonderful singer and her style of performance reinforces the probable theatrical connection with this song. She sings in her Ukrainian Yiddish dialect that is called “tote-mome-loshn” [father-mother-language], because the “a” sound becomes “o”. For example in the first line she sings “faronen” instead of “faranen”.  As always in this blog her dialect is reflected in the transliteration, not the Yiddish transcription.

A reader asked Chana and Yosl Mlotek about this song in their Forverts column Leyner demonen zikh (Readers Remember) on June 23, 1974 but they could find no additional information. The reader remembered only the first four lines beginning with “Her oys mayn zun” (“Listen my son”).  In the original recording, Rosenblatt says before she sings that “the song is known, but I have never heard anyone sing it”.

Rosenblatt also sang this song for Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett and that recording is found on the website of the National Library of Israel (listen for the first song at 2:16).

Special thanks for this week’s post to David Braun for help in deciphering the text.

TRANSLITERATION

Zey, man kind, s’iz faronen af der velt
a shtikele papir.
Se git a numen urem in gevir.
Se makht groys far kleyn
narunim far yakhsunim.
shoyte far klige
in khakhumim far meshige.

Derkh dir harget eyner ’em tsveytn.
In derkh dir kriminaln, arestantn in keytn.
derkh dir geyt eyner di moske farkert.
Di oygn farglentst
in di pleytses farkrimt.
In vus far a maskirn iz alts tsulib dir
kedey ustsirasn bam tsveytn
dus shtikele papir.

Oy, zey man kind, zolst dikh firn bikshire.
Zolst nit zan keyn gozlen
in keyn yires-shomaimdike tsire.
In zolst nisht klopn “ushamni”
in nit tin vu’ di vilst.
Zolst nisht farglentsn mit di eygelekh
in zolst nit ganvenen keyn gelt.

Derof  shray ikh gevold
a’ dus iz user
Eyder tsi makhn fin treyfe kusher
in fin kusher treyfes.

Tepl in lefl tsim ruv gey derval
oyf deym ribl freygt keyner keyn shales.
Fleysh veygt men oys
in me zoltst es oys.
A ey mit a blitstropn varft men aroys.
Derim darf’n oykh dem ribl  oykh git boydek tsi zayn
Se zol in deym ribl keyn fremder blitstrop aran.

TRANSLATION

See my child, how there is in this world
a little piece of paper.
It marks the poor and the wealthy.
It turns  great ones into small ones,
foolish ones into privileged ones,
idiots into brilliant ones,
the wise into crazy ones.

Because of you one kills the other,
and because of you criminals, convicts walk in chains.
Because of you one’s mask is upside-down,
the eyes are rolled up, the shoulders hunched up.
And any masquerading is all because of you –
to tear away from another
that little piece of paper.

Oh, see my child, that you should lead a proper life.
You should neither be a robber,
nor walk around with a God-fearing mug.
Don’t beat your heart “we are guilty”,
and don’t do whatever you want.
Don’t roll your eyes,
and don’t steal any money.

Therefore I shout help
that this is forbidden;
to make something kosher from unkosher,
and from kosher something unkosher.

For a spoon in a pot go ask the Rabbi,
but about the heating stove, no one ever asks any questions.
Meat should be soaked and salted.
An egg with a blood drop should be thrown out.
But the heating stove should be well inspected
So no outside blood drop should fall into it.

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“Az se kimen un di heylike sikes-teg: Performed by Khave Rosenblatt

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 23, 2018 by yiddishsong

Az se kimen un di heylike sikes-teg / When the Holy Sukkoth Days Arrive
Performance by Khave Rosenblatt, Recorded by Beyle Gottesman, Jerusalem 1975

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

I have not yet found an author/composer of this song but to my mind, it hearkens back to the Broder zingers, the Singers of Brody, the Jewish wandering performers of comic, parodic skits and songs of the nineteenth century. Khave Rosenblatt remembered that she learned the song in Chernovitz, the capital of Bukovina where the Broder Singers often performed in the wine cellars. She also recalled hearing it sung by the Yiddish writer, critic Shloyme Bikl. Rosenblatt’s stellar interpretation turns this song into a little masterpiece.

The motif of a goat eating the covering on the roof of the sukkah is most famously known through Sholem-Aleichem’s short story “Shoyn eyn mol a sukkah” [What a sukkah!], in the volume Mayses far yidishe kinder [Tales for Jewish children].

MayerJuly

Sukkot, Opatów (Apt), Poland, 1920s, as remembered by Mayer Kirshenblatt 

This is the third song of Khave Rosenblatt that we have posted from the recording session with Beyle Gottesman and a couple of more will be added later. At the same time as this recording (1975/1976) Professor Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett recorded Rosenblatt for the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife Research in preparation for the Bicentennial Festival of American Folklife in 1976 in D.C. This recording can be found on the website of the National Library of Israel (search: חוה רוזנבלט ). Israel was the featured country for the “Old Ways” in the New World section at the festival.

Special thanks to David Braun and Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett for this week’s post.

TRANSLITERATION

Az se kimen un di heylike sikes-teyg
kimt mir afn rayen.
Vi s’hot farmosert indzer sikele
Reb Shloymele der dayen.

Oy, az se kimen un di heylike sikes-teg
kimt mir afn rayen.
Vi s’hot geosert indzer sikele
Reb Shloymele der dayen.

Oy indzer dayen indzerer –
a lekhtiker gan-eydn im.
Hot eymetser farmosert
az in indzer sike indzerer gefoln tsifil zinen-shayn, nu?
Hot er zi geosert.

A sike, zugt er, an emes kusher yidishe
darf zayn a tinkele, darf zayn a fintsere
eyn shtral lekht makht nit oys.
Ober di zin zol shaynen khitspedik?! – fe!
Si’z gurnit yidish.

Az se kimen un di heylike sikes-teg
kimt mir afn rayen,
ven se heybt zikh on dos shpiln nis
in hoyf bay Yankl-Shayen

Oy, az se kimen un di heylike sikes-teg
volt geveyn a khayes,
ven me lozt indz nor tsiri
in hoyf bay Yankl-Shayes.

A yid, a beyzer, vu’ dus iz.
S’geyt im on, me shpilt in nis.
Hot er zikh lib tsi krign.
Staytsh! Me shpilt zikh far zayn tir
un krimt zikh nokh zayn shnir
vus nokh?
Men izbovet im di tsign.

“Un tsign” zugt er “tur men nisht zatshepenen
in di yontif-teg deroyf
ven di sike shteyt in mitn hoyf.
A hint, a kots topn di vont
ober a tsig!?
Aza min vilde zakh vus shtshipet un
dem gantsn skhakh
un lozt di sike un a dakh!
Fe! Hiltayes! Nit zatshepen!

TRANSLATION

When the holy Sukkoth days arrive,
this is what comes to mind –
How our sukkah was denounced
by Reb Shloymele the rabbi’s assistant.

When the Holy Sukkoth days arrive
this is what comes to mind –
How are sukkah was deemed unkosher
by Reb Shloymele the rabbi’s assistant.

Oy, our rabbi’s assistant,
may he have a bright paradise.
Someone denounced our sukkah to him because
too much sunshine fell inside, nu?
So he deemed it unkosher.

“A sukkah” says he “a true, kosher Jewish one
should be dark, should be dim.
One ray of light doesn’t matter
but if the sun should impudently shine in – Fe!
That’s not the Jewish way at all.”

When the holy Sukkoth days arrive,
this is what comes to mind –
The beginning of playing nuts
in the yard of Yankl-Shaye.

Oy, when the holy Sukkoth days arrive,
We could have had so much fun,
if they would only leave us alone
in the yard of Yank-Shaye.

A mean man (what’s the matter with him?!)
that gets upset when we play nuts,
and likes to quarrel with us.
“What’s going on!? Playing nuts on my doorstep
and mocking my daughter-in-law”
What else?
We were ruining his goats.

“And goats” he says “should not be bothered
during the holidays especially when
the sukkah is standing in the middle of the yard.
A dog, a cat will just touch the walls but a goat!
Such a wild thing that grazes
on the covering on the roof.
Fe!  You with no morals, leave them alone!”

sike1sike2sike3

“Der Galitsianer caballero” Performed by Frahdl Post

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 14, 2018 by yiddishsong

Der Galitsianer caballero / The Caballero from Galicia
Performance by Frahdl Post, music: Frank Crumit, Yiddish lyrics:  Louis Markowitz
Recorded by Wolf Younin and Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Bronx 1975.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

And now for something completely different…

In addition to knowing many old folksongs, Frahdl Post was an active performer who sang popular novelty and Yiddish theater songs. You can hear how much she enjoys singing one of those parodic, comic songs in this week’s blogpost. At one point in the recording, when she sings “mosquito” you can hear the interviewer Wolf Younin get very embarrassed by the cheeky words.

Der Galitsianer caballero aka Der Galicianer cavallero is a song first recorded by actor and singer Pesach Burstein (Paul Burstein, 1896 – 1986) on a 78 rpm record in 1929. Here is an mp3 of that recording (thanks to Lorin Sklamberg and the YIVO Sound archives):

DerGalicianer001

This song is a parody of the novelty song of 1928 written and sung by vaudevillian Frank Crumit – A Gay Caballero. “Caballero” in Spanish means “a gentleman,” while in the Southwest US it is also used to mean a “horseman.”

The Yiddish lyricist is Louis Markowitz who often wrote lyrics for Burstein and is also often credited as composer. Other Yiddish “Spanish” parodies by Markowitz for the Bursteins include Yiddish versions of “Quanta Lo Gusta” and “Mama Yo Quiero”. He also composed many Yiddish parodies for Banner records and Miriam Kressyn and Seymour Rechzeit and is certainly worthy of a more in-depth study as the king of Yiddish parody songs. According to a1951 Billboard article Der Galitsianer caballero was his first Yiddish parody. Henry Carrey who submitted the Frahdl Post recordings and is her grandson, transcribed the original Pesach Burstein version of 1929. We are attaching that transcription which should be consulted when listening to the field recording since Post sings some lines differently and some words are difficult to understand.

wilderOne of our favorite Yiddish caballeros

We have transcribed Post’s version and translated it and written it out in Yiddish as we always do. There is humorous wordplay in the Yiddish which we did not seriously attempt to duplicate in the translation.

Note: “Slek” is American/British Yiddish for the time when there is no work; from the English word “slack”.

Thanks this week to Lorin Sklamberg and the YIVO Sound Archives for the 78 recording and image, and to Henry Carrey.

1) Aleyn bikh ikh a Galitsyaner,
gevolt vern Amerikaner.
Nor, vi dortn iz “slek” – nokh Meksik avek.
in yetzt bin ikh a Meksikaner.

Myself, I am from Galicia,
wanted to be an American.
But since there was no work, I went off to Mexico
and now I am an Mexican.  

2) In Meksike iz git-o, yes-sir.
Me git dort a trink un a fres-sir.
Mit gur vaynik gelt, ken men brenen dort a velt.
Leybn vi Got in Odes-o.

In Mexico it’s good – Oh yes-sir.
One drinks and eats well.
With little money you can still live it up
and live like God in Odessa. 

3) Nor di payes getun a sherl,
gekoyft mir a “het” a sombrero
A royt zaydn hemd un di hor sheyn farkemt.
Ikh zug aykh kh’bin a “caballerl.”

I just cut-off my side locks
and bought a hat, a sombrero.
A red silk shirt and nicely combed hair.
I tell you I am a real caballero [gentleman] 

4) Ikh hob shoyn getun dortn ales.
kh’ob oysgezikht far mir a sheyne kale.
Di pekh shvartse hur, di shlanke figur.
Z’hot gebrent vi a heyse “tamale”.

I have already done everything there.
I have sought out for me a pretty bride.
With pitch black hair and a slender figure –
She burned like a hot tamale.  

5) Zi hot getantst mit ire fis un ire hento.
un geshoklt mit ir Sacrament-o.
Nokh a  por glezlekh vayn, gefilt hot zi fayn.
Bavizn ir gantsn “talent-o”.

She danced with her hands and her hands-o
and shook her Sacrament-o.
After a few glasses of wine, she felt fine.
and showed her best talent-o. 

6) Oy, di bist bay mir a “chikita.”
Mir gebisn azoy vi a “meskita.”
Z’hot geshvorn on a shir, tray blayt zi mir.
Farblaybt zi mayn seniorita.

O you are my “chiquita”
She bit me like a mosquito.
She swore with no end, that she would stay faithful to me.
And remain my seniorita. 

7) Ir libe is gevorn beshayter.
Geholdzt un gekisht un azoy vayter.
Nokh a kish gibn ir, zugt zi glakh tsu mir.
az zi hot du a man a “bullfighter”.

Her love became more wanton.
We necked and we kissed and so forth.
After I kissed her, she says to me,
that she has a husband, a bullfighter.  

8) Hert vi pasirt ot di sibe,
Ayn mol erklert zikh in libe.
Halt shoyn nuvnt mit ir, plitzling efnt zikh di tir.
Un ir man kimt arayn in der shtub-e. [shtib-e]

Listen to how this incident played out.
I declared my love for her
Was getting closer to her, when suddenly the door opens.
And her husband enters the room.

9) Ir man iz a rizת an “atlet-o”.
In hant halt er gor a “stilleto”.
Er hot mir ongekhapt, mayne beyner tseklapt.
Kh’bin geylgn tsvey vokhn in bet-o.

Her husband was a giant, an athlete-o
In his hand he holds a stillet-o.
He caught me and beat my bones.
I lay in bed for two weeks-o. 

10) Ikh shver, az ikh mayn nisht keyn vits-e
Ikh fil ven eykh shtay, ven ikh zits-e.
Tsu vern Mexikaner oder Amerikaner?
Fur ikh krik nokh Galitsye.

Tay-de-day-day-day-day…..

I swear that I am not joking.
I can feel it when I stand, when I sit.
Should I become a Mexican or American?
I am going back to Galicia.
galitzianer1

galitzianer2galitzianer3

burstein lyrics

“Bay a taykhele” Performed by Feigl Yudin

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 21, 2015 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Ethel Raim and Itzik Gottesman

From Ethel Raim:

Feigl Yudin moved to the United States at the age of 14 from Grodna (Grodno) Gubernia, now in Belarus. Her parents stayed behind in Europe, so upon arriving to New York City she was housed by landslayt (contacts from her hometown), who took care of her until she was able to support herself. A skilled seamstress, Feigl continued working in the needle trades in the US for most of her life and was an active participant in the progressive labor movement.

When the Center presented the landmark concert with legendary clarinetist Dave Tarras on November 19, 1978, at Casa Galicia (now Webster Hall) in Manhattan, Feigl Yudin was a featured artist, among others. A native Yiddish speaker, she loved singing and was one of those people who could hear a melody for the first time and commit it to memory almost instantly.  She would say, “When I hear a melody it haunts me and I must get the words.” Feigl had a large repertoire of Yiddish songs which she learned both in Europe and in the US, and, as you will hear, was a beautiful singer.

From Itzik Gottesman:

This love song is a strophic lyric quatrain which is typical of the Yiddish tradition. (See accompanying booklet to LP Folksongs in the East European Tradition from the repertoire of Mariam Nirenberg Prepared by Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett with Mark Slobin and Eleanor Gordon Mlotek, 1986, pages 5 – 6).

Yudin’s repertoire was recorded by Ruth Rubin starting in 1948. Four of her songs are included in the volume Yiddish Songs from the Ruth Rubin Archive (2007) and her song “Ba a taykhele” begins the collection.

It states there that the song was collected in 1967 and other versions can be found in I. L. Cahan’s collection Yidishe folkslider mit melodyes (1957) and the volume by Beregovski and Fefer – Yidishe folkslider (1938).

The suggested parallel in Cahan (song #175) is not convincingly a variant of this song, but the Beregovski and Fefer version is the exact same as Yudin sings it, and I am inclined to think that Yudin learned it from an Amerucan leftist Yiddish chorus/choir where the songs from the Beregovski and Fefer songbook were quite popular.

Bay a taykhele vakst a beymele.
Vaksn af dem tsvaygn.
Mit alemen redstu, mit aleman bistu frayndlekh.
Nor mir heystu shvaygn.

Bay a taykhele vakst a beymele
Vaksn oyf dem blumen.
(Haynt) freg ikh dir libster – ven vestu shoyn kumen?
Ven vestu shoyn a mol kumen?

Bay a taykhele vakst a beymele
Vaksn af dem bleter
Freg ikh dir libster ven vestu shoyn kumen?
Leygst alts op af shpeter.

By a stream a small tree grows.
On it grows branches.
You talk to everyone; you’re friendly with all.
But me – you ask to be silent.

By a stream a small tree grows.
On it grows flowers.
(Today) I ask you my beloved – when will you come already?
When will come for once?

By a stream a small tree grows.
On it grows leaves.
I ask you my beloved when will you come already?
But you keep putting it off for later.

yudintaykhele

“Bay der fintsterer nakht” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 3, 2012 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

A print version of Bay der fintsterer nakht can be found in I. L. Cahan “Shtudyes vegn yidisher folksshafung” YIVO, 1952, NY, in an article given the title for this volume “Peyrushim af 24 lider” that his student at the YIVO institute in Vilna, Shmuel-Zanvil Pipe, had prepared for publication. This article consisted of Cahan’s comments on Yiddish songs that Pipe had collected in his hometown of Sanok [in Yiddish “Sunik/Sonik”], Galicia. Pipe had collected a version of “Bay der fintserer nakht” in 1934 from a singer who said it was sung 30 years earlier. The song is in Cahan, 1952, page 185, and has three verses, rather than two verses and one refrain, as Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (1894-1974) (LSW) sings it.

According to interviews with LSW conducted by Prof. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, NYU, in 1972-73, the song was sung by the plagers/plogers (sufferers). The plagers were young Jewish men who were about to be inducted into the Austria-Hungarian army and wandered from town to town, usually in groups, so they would intentionally fail the draft because of their poor health. See my article “Plagers: a folkloristishe shtudye” [Plagers: a folkloristic study], Forverts, January 7th, 2010, page 4, which refers to the literature on plagers in Yiddish.

Lifshe Schaechter-Widman’s Hometown of Zvinyetchke, Bukovina, Ukraine
Photo by Itzik Gottesman, 2010

In this recording of LSW made by Leybl Kahn in New York City in 1954, she clearly sings the song too high in this performance, as can be heard in the last verse.

Bay der fintsterer nakht is unusual textually – it doesn’t fall into the usual categories of men’s songs – not religious, not political, not a work song, not humorous, not nationalist. It’s partly a lament on how miserable life is, and partly a love song; topics we would usually hear in women’s songs.

Bay der fintsterer nakht
lig ikh mir bayshtendik*, oy, un trakht.
zayt ikh bin fin mayn heym avek.
ikh ken shoyn nit kimen keyn kayn tsvek.
Ver se vil nit, dertsapt mir mayn blit.

In the dark night,
I lay constantly, oy, and think,
since I have left my home.
I cannot reach any goal.
Who ever wants can bleed me.

Oy, oy, oy, oy
Vi farbitert iz mir dus harts
Oy, oy, oy, oy
Ver ken den film mayn shmerts.
Derekh ayn imgliklekher libe
Imtsugeyn in di gasn aleyn,
Tsu zayn fin mayn heym fartribn.
Oy elnt bin ikh vi a shteyn.

Oy, oy, oy, oy
How bitter is my heart.
Oy, oy, oy, oy
Who can feel my pain?
Because of an unfortunate love,
I wander the streets alone.
To be driven from my home – 
Oy, lonely am I as a stone.

Mayn mame hot mikh gelozt shtudirn.
Zi hot gevolt az fun mir zol zayn a lat
Fun deym alemen hot zikh gur oysgelozt.
Ikh ti mir blind arimshpatsirn.
Elnt bin ekh, in na venad.

My mother allowed me to study,
She wanted something to become of me 
[lit – she wanted me to become a respectable person]
From all of this, nothing turned out.
Blindly I wander around,
lonely am I and homeless.

Oy, oy, oy, oy
Vi farbitert iz mir mayn harts
Oy, oy, oy, oy
Ver ken den film mayn shmerts?
un derekh a finsterer libe
arimtsugeyn in di gasn aleyn,
Tsu zayn fin mayn heym fartribn.
Oy, elnt bin ikh vi a shteyn.

Oy, oy, oy, oy,
How bitter is my heart
Oy, oy, oy, oy,
Who can feel my pain?
Because of a dark love
to wander in the streets alone.
To be driven from my home – 
Oy lonely am I like a stone.

*bayshtendik – though I am unfamiliar with this word, my mother, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (LSW’s daughter), and I assume it means the same as „shtendik‟.

 

Four Songs, One Melody

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Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

In this week‘s entry the reader will get four Yiddish songs for the price of one. What connects them is the same melody. I am not the first to write on the popularity of this tune. The Israeli Yiddish song-researcher Meir Noy wrote an article זמר סובב עולם [The tune that circles the world]  in the Israeli publication אומר, April 13, 1962. I could not find the article yet, so am not sure what he includes.

The first song and perhaps the oldest is a beggar song –  Vu zenen mayne vugn un ferd? (Where are my wagon and horse?); the second song  Yosele mit Blimele (Yosele and Blimele) is a typical lyrical love song. These are sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW, 1893 – 1974), recorded in 1954 in NYC and originate from her Bukovina repertoire that she learned in the small town of Zvinyetchke in the 1890s-early 1900s. I have found no variants of the beggar song, and one of Yosele mit blimele (Oy vey mame,  in the Pipe-Noy collection, see below, page 270-71 with music). The first line as my mother remembers it sung was “Vu iz mayn vugn, vu zenen mayne ferd?” which fits better into the melody; it does indeed sound as if  LSW forgot a syllable or two when she sings it here, and forces it into the melody.

In the interviews that Professor Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett of New York University recorded with LSW in the early 1970s shortly before her death, LSW said that much of her repertoire, particularly the songs about life‘s difficulties, was learned from the older, married women in town, while the younger unmarried women taught her the hopeful love songs. Vu zenen mayne vugn un ferd would fall into the category taught by the married women (vayber) while Yosele mit blimele would be a typical song performed during the Sabbath afternoon walks that the unmarried girls took into the woods. In terms of style, the beggar song is sung slower and more mournful, while the love song is more playful.

LSW sings other versions of Yosele mit blimele including a second verse: 

Az du vest kumen, tsum dokter bay der tir, 
zolst im gebn a vink, azoy vi ikh tsu dir. 
Zolst im gebn a  tuler in der hant. 
Vet er shoyn visn vus mit dir iz genant 

When you come to the doctor’s door,
you should give him a wink, like I give to you.
you should give him a dollar in his hand;
so he will know what embarrased you.

A verse which implies an abortion! But in such a light-hearted song it seems quite incongruous.

The third song – In a kleynem shtibele (In a Small Room) – is sung by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (born 1920) and was recorded May 13th 2011 (last week) in the Bronx. She learned this song in one of her afternoon Yiddish classes in Chernovitz, (then Romania) either at the Morgnroit school (Socialist Bundist) or the Yidisher shulfareyn, a Yiddish cultural group, in the 1920s, early 1930s. Basically the same version was collected by the folklorists Shmuel-Zanvil Pipe and his brother Oyzer Pipe in their hometown of Sanok (in yiddish- Sunik), Galicia, then Poland. Dov and Meir Noy published the Pipe brothers collection in Israel (Folklore Research Studies , Vol. 2, Jerusalem 1971),  and a copy of that version is attached with the music. See the footnote to the song by Dov and Meir Noy (p. 326) for other songs with this melody, and the reference to Meir Noy‘s article mentioned above.

In a kleynem shtibele is a worker‘s song, text written by the writer and ethnographer A. Litvin  (pseudonym of Shmuel Hurvits 1863 – 1943) and the complete original text (Di neyterkes) can be found in M. Bassin‘s Antologye: Finf hundert yor yidishe poezye, volume one 258-259, NY 1917.

The fourth song with the same melody is In shtetl Nikolayev (In the Town of Nikolayev). The Freedman Jewish Sound Archive has information on three recordings: a version by David Medoff (1923); Kapelye (the album „Future and Past‟, sung by Michael Alpert); and the German group Aufwind (from the album „Awek di junge jorn‟). We have included a link to the Medoff performance. See Mark Slobin and Richard Spotwood‘s article on Medoff (David Medoff: A Case Study in Interethnic Popular Culture in American Music, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Autumn, 1985), pp. 261-276.

AUDIO RECORDINGS:

Song 1: Vu zenen mayne vugn un ferd? (Where are my wagon and horse?). Performance by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded in 1954 by Leybl Kahn.

Song 2: Yosele mit Blimele (Yosele and Blimele). Performance by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded in 1954 by Leybl Kahn.

Song 3: In a kleynem shtibele (In a Small Room). Performance by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, recorded May 12, 2011 by Itzik Gottesman.

Song 4: In shtetl Nikolayev (In the Town of Nikolayev). Performance by David Medoff, recorded 1923.

TEXTS AND TRANSLATIONS

Song 1: Vu zenen mayne vugn un ferd? (Where are my wagon and horse?). Performance by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded in 1954 by Leybl Kahn.

Vu zenen mayne vugn un ferd?
Az ikh bin aroysgefurn, hot getsitert himl un erd.
Hant bin ikh urem; shtey ikh ba der tir.
Kimen tsu geyn di sholtikes un lakhn (up?) fin mir.

Where are my wagon and horse?
When I first drove out, heaven and earth shook.
Now that I am poor, I stand at the door.
So the scoundrels come by to mock me.

Vi iz mayn tsiring vus ikh hob gebrakht fin vin?
Vus mayn vab un kinder zenen gegongen ongetin?
Hant az ikh bin urem, shtey ikh far der tir.
Kimen tsu geyn di sholtikes un lakhn up (?) fin mir.

Where is the jewelry that I had brought from Vienna?
That was worn by my wife and children.
Now that I am poor, I stand by the door.
So the scoundrels come by to mock me.


Song 2: Yosele mit Blimele (Yosele and Blimele). Performance by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded in 1954 by Leybl Kahn.

Yosele mit Blimele zey zitsn af a bank.
Oy vey Blimele, ikh bin azoy krank.
Kh‘hob aza krenk, ikh shem zikh oystsuzugn,
Der dokter hot mir geheysn khasene-hobn.

Yosele and Blimele are sitting on a bench.
Oh dear Blimele, I am so very ill.
I have an illness, I am embarrased to reveal –
The doctor ordered me to get married.

Khasene hobn – es geyt dir nor in deym.
Khasene hobn – ken men glaykh ven (?) me vil aleyn.
Khasene hobn – darf men hubn gelt.
Ken men opfirn a sheyne velt.

Getting married – is all you can think of.
Getting married is easy if you want to do by ourselves.
Getting married – you need money for that,
and then you can have a beautiful world.

Yingelekh un meydelekh hot shoyn nisht keyn moyre.
Khasene hubn – es shteyt dokh in der toyre.
As der shnader shnadt – shnadt er mit der mode
un az der rebe vil a vab, meygn mir avode.

Boys and girls, you no longer have to fear.
Getting married – It says so in the Torah.
When the tailor tailors, he cuts according to the fashion
and if the Rebbe wants a wife, then we may too of course.

Song 3: In a kleynem shtibele (In a Small Room). Performance by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, recorded May 12, 2011 by Itzik Gottesman.

In a kleynem shtibele, bay a langn tish.
Zitsn dortn meydelekh un dreyen mit di fis.
Zey dreyen di mashindelekh fun fri biz nakht
Un azoy vern tutsnvayz hemdelekh gemakht.

In a small room, at a long table,
There sit girls and turn with their feet.
They turn the machines from early to night.
And thus by the dozens, shirts are produced.
Girls, so small, tell me why are you pale?

Meydelekh ir kleninke, zogt vos zent ir blas?
Hemdelekh ir vaysinke, zogt vos zent ir nas?
Meydelekh un hemdelekh, zey reydn nisht keyn vort.
Nor di mashindelekh zey geyen imer fort. 

Shirts so white, tell me why are you wet?
Girls and shirts, they do not speak a word.
But the machines, they keep going forever.

Song 4: In shtetl Nikolayev (In the Town of Nikolayev). Performance by David Medoff, recorded 1923.

Transliterated lyrics courtesy of the German klezmer band Aufwind may be found on the Zemerl website by clicking here.