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“Blumke mayn zhiduvke” Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 14, 2017 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

In the late 1970s, Beyle Schaechter-Gotetsman (BSG) made this recording of Mordkhe Gebirtig’s (1877 – 1942) song Blumke mayn zhiduvke, which is based on a Russian folk motif/theme. She sang it into her cassette recorder in preparation for an afternoon program of Gebirtig songs at the Sholem Aleichem Cultural Center in the Bronx. The song, written as a duet, is one of the lesser known of Gebirtig’s songs and, it seems, has only been recorded twice, both relatively recently – by Manfred Lamm in 2006 on the album Mayn traum/Mayn cholem, and by the singers Mariejan van Oort and Jacques Verheijen in 2003 on the album Mayn Fayfele (click here to hear van Oort and Verheijen’s version).

220px-GebirtigMordkhe Gebirtig

“Blumke” was the first name of Gebirtig’s wife (Blume Lindenbaum). The words and music were reprinted in most of the editions of Gebirtig’s songs, but only in the table of contents of the original edition of his volume Mayne lider  (Krakow 1936) does it add the information: “Rusishe folksmotiv; baarbet fun M. Gebirtig” – “Russian folk motif /theme adapted by M. Gebirtig.” (Thanks to Jeff Warschauer and Deborah Strauss for access to that volume).

BSG learned this song in Chernovitz, Romania, in the 1930s and only a few words in her performance are different from Gebirtig’s original text, so we are attaching the original Yiddish text and melody from the NY 1942 edition of Mayne lider. The Yiddish, the transliteration and the translation will be based on BSG’s slightly different lyrics.

The song has some Polish words: zhiduvka – Jewess/Jewish girl, kruvka – little cow, bozhe – O, God.  The song is briefly discussed in the article “The Relations between Jews and Christians as Reflected in the Yiddish Songs by Mordehaj Gebirtig” by Elvira Grozinger, Scripta Judaica Cracoviensia, vol. 8, 2010.

Blumke, mayn zhiduvke
Okh, zay fun Got gezegnt.
Hostu efsher mayne tsigelekh
ergets vu bagegnt?

Kh’hob zey liber Stakhu,
in ergets nit getrofn.
Akh, vet dikh dayn beyzer tatke
haynt derfar bashtrofn.

Oy, vet dikh dayn beyzer tatke
dikh derfar bashtrofn.

Gekholemt fun dir, sertse,
gezen in feld dikh lign.
Plutslung kuk ikh, akh, vu zenen
mayne vayse tsign?

Efsher, liber Stakhu
S’iz andersh nit tsu klern.
Zenen zey in vald farkrokhn –
oy, dort voynen bern!

Bozhe! Okh, mayn Blumke,
vos zol ikh itst baginen.
Nisht gehitn mayne tsigelekh;
dikh gehat in zinen.

Zay keyn nar, mayn Stakhu,
nit far dir iz Blumke.
Liber nem aroys dayn fayfl,
shpil mir oyf a dumke.

Kh’vel mayn tatns kruvke
un alts vos kh’hob farkoyfn.
Lomir beyde, sheyne Blumke,
Ergets vayt antloyfn.

Zay keyn nar, mayn Stakhu,
Nit farkoyf dayn kruvke!
Zukh dir oys in dorf a goyke –
ikh bin a zhiduvke!

Roytlekh shoyn der himl.
Di zun fargeyt, pavolye.
Akh, vu zent ir, mayne tsigelekh,
kumt baveynt mayn dolye.

Blumke, my Jewish girl/Jewess
O, may God  bless you.
Have you, perhaps,
seen somewhere, my little goat?

I have not, dear Stakhu,
seen them anywhere.
Oh, your mean father
will punish you today for this.

I dreamed of you, my dear,
lying in a field.
Suddenly I look – oh,
where are my white goats?

Maybe, my dear Stakhu –
There can be no other way –
they wandered off into the woods
oh no! Bears live there.

My God! dear Blumke,
Where do I begin.
I did not guard my goats,
I was thinking of you.

Don’t be a fool, dear Stakhu.
You are not destined for Blumke.
Take out your flute
and play for me a dumka.*

I will sell my father’s little cow
and sell all that I have.
Let us, pretty Blumke,
Run away somewhere.

Don’t be a fool, my Stakhu.
Don’t sell your little cow.
Find yourself a non-Jewish girl in the village
I am a Jewish girl.

The sky is reddish,
the sun sets slowly.
O, where are you my little goat,
Come lament my fate.

*diminutive of “dumy” – epic ballads sung by Ukrainian kobzars. In the late 19th and early 20th century Slavic classical composers such as Dvorak were inspired to create classical dumka, “a type of instrumental music involving sudden changes from melancholy to exuberance” (Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music, 1978).

BlumkeScan2

BlumkeScan1

“Arele kumt in vald” Performed by Larisa Pechersky

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2015 by yiddishsong

This week’s blog post – song and commentary – was submitted by Larisa Pechersky, who also performs on the recording.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to make my grandmother’s name known and maybe remembered by people who often ask me how I know so many Yiddish songs. I always tell them that it’s because of my grandmother. Now, I hope her story, name, and image will be shared with them for the first time. As always, I dedicate all my work in the field of Jewish folklore and education to her blessed memory. Milya on 20th birthday Horki

Milya Shagalova (nee Mikhlya Fle’er / Fleyer), grandmother of Larisa Pechersky in Horki on her 20th birthday

I learned this song from my maternal grandmother when I was a toddler in the late 70s . She lived with my mother and me, and took care of me while my mom worked. All day long, as she worked around the house, she sang hundreds of Yiddish songs and encouraged me to sing along.

She would stop many times during a song to comment and make connections to her life in a Belorussian shtetl, to the experiences of her family and friends, and whatever lessons she wanted me to take away from each song. She often acted out the songs with me and showed me how to express a variety of feelings through a nign without words (just like in this song, Arele, she emphasized how the same nign after each verse can express fear, despair, or relief).

She made each song a window into Jewish life for me, a child growing up in a big city of Leningrad, the cultural capital of the Soviet Union, where forced assimilation was the norm for its more than 150,000 Jews. Assimilation was out of the question for my family, where my grandmother wanted me to know Yiddish and grow up proudly Jewish. Milya and Larisa

Larisa Pechersky (age 3) and her grandmother, Milya Shagalova, at home in Leningrad

My grandmother, Milya Shagalova (nee Mikhlya Fle’er / Fleyer), was born in 1914 in Propoysk, a shtetl in Mogilievske Guberniye, Belorussia. In the post-revolution years, her father, Zalmen, received a warning that he was to be arrested, stripped of his possessions, and exiled for owning four cows and employing one housekeeper. To avoid this fate, the family fled to Horki, a larger shtetl in the region, his birthplace.

As the third daughter in a family with no sons at the time, little Mikhlya was sent to a traditional all-boys kheyder to study. She told me compassionate stories of the cruel pranks the boys did to the poor old rebbe that she, as the only girl, felt so bad about. Later, she graduated from a seven-year school, where all of the subjects were taught in Yiddish. She wanted to continue on to the Jewish (Yiddish) teachers’ college, but it was no longer possible.

In 1934, as a newlywed, she moved to Leningrad with her husband Naum (Nokhom-Abram), where they lived  their whole life afterwards. Despite knowing Russian as well as if it were their native tongue, they always spoke Yiddish at home and with many friends, never missed a Jewish concert or event, and subscribed to Jewish periodicals when it was still possible.

During World War II, my grandma miraculously survived the horrific siege of Leningrad with my three-month old mom, but lost her five-year old son, who was with his grandparents in Horki for the summer, during which the Nazis invaded it and killed 7,500 Jews, including the boy, his four grandparents, and 38 more of our relatives.

My grandpa Naum, who came back from the front without a leg, learned of his son’s initial rescue, swift betrayal, and killing from his former neighbors. My grandma’s lament and guilt that she “sent her own child to death with her own hands” by letting him travel to Belorussia before the war “nobody expected to happen” was one of the stories that she would tell me often. Milya with Larisa

Larisa and Milya on summer vacation in Ukraine

When the Perestroika had just begun, the very first signs of the Jewish renewal were two concerts of Jewish music at the end of 1988 in Leningrad. My grandma did not miss them despite her poor health and the two of us went together. She felt that they “added seven more years of life” to her. This is how highly she regarded Jewish songs.

To my greatest regret, she passed away in January 1989 before I went to synagogue for the first time and matriculated at the newly created Jewish University that same year. I never recorded any of her songs, but kept hundreds of them in my memory. I still remember some ballads, just partially, and feel terrible that I can’t recall all the words or find them published anywhere.

When my friends and I started a Jewish school in Leningrad, I dedicated my work to giving my students the same as what my grandmother gave me – teaching them every and any thing Jewish through our amazing multi-layered Yiddish songs. Researching Yiddish musical folklore became my profession, passion, and a tribute to my grandma’s bravery and real heroism in passing our musical tradition to new generations amid the tribulations she lived through.

Arele kumt in vald (Arele Comes to the Woods)

This is how I remember learning the words as a child. I understand they sound not totally grammatically correct, but this is how I sang it as a kid.

Most of the time, we sang the second and third verses in the reverse order. The line in question meant Arele wasn’t taken aback; didn’t fear (I don’t remember the Yiddish word). When it was sung as the second verse, it made his attempt to escape appear to be futile given the next stanza (he thought he could run away, but now he can clearly see the dire situation – the mouth, the paws, etc). This way the time between his climbing up the tree, crying in despair, and eventual rescue was much longer and more terrifying in his eyes.

This was the order of the verses my grandma usually used. Switching the verses makes his actions appear more brave (he didn’t lose his head despite realizing all the details of the dangerous situation beforehand). Also, we sang it a bit slower, in a more storytelling manner, than I did in this recording.The English transliteration reflects the Yiddish dialect more than the Yiddish transcription.

Arele kumt in vald,
Dreyt zikh ‘hin un ‘her.
Ven er dremlt bald
kumt a greyser ber!

Der ber mit lapes greyse!
G’valt, dos iz nit gut!
Fun eygn trern heyse,
Ot iz sheyn kaput!

Arele is nit flit [foyl?]
Eyfn beym er kletert.
Un der ber mit ofn mul,
G’valt, nito keyn reter!

A reter iz ba sholem,
A greyser nes getrofn!
Geven iz dos a kholem,
Ven Arel iz geshlofn!

Arele comes to the woods,
wanders here and there.
When he slumbers, right away comes
a great big bear.

The bear with giant paws!
Help, this is not good.
From his eyes hot tears stream.
Now all is kaput.

Arele is not lazy
and on the tree he climbs.
And the bear with an open mouth
Help, there is no rescue!

A rescue did come in peace;
a great miracle happened.
This was all a dream
while Arele was sleeping.

arele1 arele2

“Vus tisti du sheyn meydele?” Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 31, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The ballad “Vus tisti du sheyn meydele?” (“What are You Doing Here Pretty Girl?”) performed in this field recording of Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (my mother) is another Yiddish variant of the international ballad known generically as “Impossible Tasks.” See the previous Yiddish Song of the Week posting for another Impossible Tasks ballad sung by Josh Waletzky.

Schaechter-Gottesman learned this version in Chernovitz before the second World War from her friend Moyshe (Moshe) Barasch (1920 – 2004), who came from a Bessarabian family. Moshe Barasch later became an internationally known art critic and historian in Israel.

The melody is similar to the song “Hey, di, di / Rik zikh tsi, rik zikh tsi mir /Az du vilst a libe shpiln,/ shpil zhe es mit mir” (still looking for a printed version…).

I recorded my mother singing “Vu tisti du sheyn meydele?” at home in the Bronx in March 2011.

Vus tisti du sheyn meydele?
Vus tisti du baym brinem?
Gey, shoyn gey, un gey shoyn gey,
Fun vanen bist gekimen.

“What are you doing pretty girl?
What are you doing at the well?”
“Go, already, go,
Wherever you came from.”

“Fun vanen kh’bin gekimen,
zolsti mir nisht traybn.
Khap zhe mir a ber fun vald
un lern im oys shraybn.”

“Where I came from,
do not drive me there.
Better catch a bear from the woods
and teach him how to write.”

“A ber fun vald vel ikh dir khapn,
un im oyslernen shraybn.
Makh zhe mir zibn kinder,
a meydl zolsti blaybn.”

“I will catch a bear from the woods,
and teach him how to write.
“Then you should have seven children,
yet a maiden remain.”

“Zibn kinder vel ikh dir makhn
a meydl vel ikh blaybn.
Makh zhe mir zibn vign,
un tsvekes in un laystn.”

“I will have seven children,
and I will remain a maiden”
You should then make me seven cradles,
without nails,  with no wood strips.”

“Zibn vign vel ikh dir makhn,
un tsvekes in un laystn.
Makh zhe mir zibn hemder
un nodl in un zadn.”

“Seven cradles, I will make for you
with no nails, no wood strips.
Make for me seven shirts
without needle, without silk.”

“Zibn hemder vel ikh dir makhn
un nodl in un zadn.
Makh zhe mir aza min leyter
er zol kenen in himl shtaygn.”

“Seven shirts I will make for you
without needle, without silk.
Make for me a ladder
that can reach into the sky.”

“Aza min leyter vel ikh dir makhn
er zol kenen in himl shtaygn.
Ikh a nar in di a tsveyter,
lomir beser shvaygn.”

“Such a ladder I will make for you
that will reach up into the sky.
I, a fool, and you – another one,
So let us both be silent.”