Archive for Dmitri Slepovitch

“Ikh vel nit ganvenen” Performed by Sterna Gorodetskaya

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

Commentary by Dmitri ‘Zisl’ Slepovitch

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

Photograph of Sterna Gorodetskaya by Dmitri Slepovitch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A Pastekhl” Performed by Hirsh Reles

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , on April 25, 2010 by yiddishsong

Notes by Dmitri Slepovitch

A Pastekhl (A Shepherd), is known from several cantorial recordings, including that of Zinoviy Shulman, and was sung by Hirsh (Grigoriy L’vovich) Reles in his family’s version. Hirsh Reles (1913 – 2004) happened to be the last Belarusian Yiddish author of the older generation. He was born into a rabbi’s family Chashniki, Vitebsk oblast. Reles started his career as a Yiddish literature teacher at a Jewish school. After Jewish schools had been shut down by Stalin, Reles started teaching Russian literature, but he never stopped writing in Yiddish. Having had been raised in a traditional Jewish environment, Hirsh Reles remembered quite a lot of songs and life facts from the pre-war time till his very last days in Minsk.


Hirsh Reles

This recording made in 1997 was the beginning of my systemic research of Jewish music in Belarus. Several years later Dr. Nina Stepanskaya, Z”L, and I recorded two video interviews with Hirsh Reles, which I hope will be published some time soon.

The song, though being sung mainly on behalf of a narrator, also involves a dialog between the shepherd and G-d. Like in many other Yiddish and, specifically, cantorial songs, the theatric element is represented here as well. Although not a ballad, this song clearly shows a story-like plot, tending to correspond with many niggunim’s texts and therefore it might be considered as somewhat a musical midrash.

Musically, the song demonstrates one of very typical structures often seen in Yiddish songs as well as cantorial compositions. It has three verses, each beginning with a non-metrical part followed a metrically organized chorus (pizmon). Having had been inspired by this recording of Reles’s singing, I later recorded this song with Minsker Kapelye for the Tutejsi (Di Ortike/The Locals) album, adding my own rap rhymes to the folk ones.

Editor’s Note: Anyone doing research on Yiddish song, particularly discographic information on LPs,  should be aware of the Robert and Molly Freedman Jewish Sounds Archive. For instance, if you wanted to research who else had recorded this week’s song contribution, you could browse by the first line “Iz geven a mol a pastekhl” and find numerous recordings of the song.  Then you could go to the Judaic Sound Archives of Florida Atlantic University and see if they have any recordings on line of the song that you could listen to (I searched a little by title and couldn’t find it, but searching by singer after finding the names in Freedman’s website, in this case, would be easier). More Yiddish song resources on-line in future posts. – Itzik Gottesman, Editor 


Iz geven amol a pastekhl, a pastekhl,
Iz ba im forlorn gegangen a shefele, a shefele.
Geyt er, zet er: fort a fur mit shteyndelekh, mit shteyndelekh.
Hot er gemeynt a’(z) dos iz fun shefele di beyndelekh, di beyndelekh.
Zogt er: “Adeyni! Adeyni! Oy Adeyni!
Tshi nye bachyu ty, tshi nye vidzyeu ty ovtsy moi?”
Makh er, “Nyet.”
Byeda-byedu, ovtsy nishto!
A yak zhe ya damoy pridu?
A yak zhe ya damoy pridu?

Once upon a time there lived a shepherd.
It happened once that he lost a sheep.
Off he went and saw a wagon with stones.
It seemed to him they were his sheep’s bones.
He says, “My Lord, my Lord, my Lord!
Have you seen, have caught sight of my sheep?”
God says, “No!”
“Woe is me! My sheep is gone.
How shall I come back home?”

Geyt er, zet er: fort a fur mit dernelekh, mit dernelekh.
Hot er gemeynt a’ dos iz fun shefele di hernelekh, di hernelekh.
Zogt er: “Adeyni! Adeyni! Oy Adeyni!
Tshi nye bachyu ty, tshi nye vidzyeu ty ovtsy moi?”
Makh er, “Nyet.”
Byeda-byedu, ovtsy nishto!
A yak zhe ya damoy pridu?
A yak zhe ya damoy pridu?

Off he went and saw a wagon with turf.
It seemed to him these were his sheep’s horns.
He says, “My Lord, my Lord, my Lord!
Have you seen, have caught sight of my sheep?”
God says, “No!”
“Woe is me! My sheep is gone.
How shall I come back home?”

Geyt er, zet er: fort a fur mit niselekh, mit niselekh,
Hot er gemeynt a’ dos iz fun di shefele di fiselekh, di fiselekh.
Zogt er: “Adeyni! Adeyni! Oy Adeyni!
Tshi nye bachyu ty, tshi nye vidzyeu ty ovtsy moi?”
Makh er, “Nyet.”
Byeda-byedu, ovtsy nishto!
A yak zhe ya damoy pridu?

Off he went and saw a wagon with nuts.
It seemed to him these were his sheep’s hoofs.
He says, “My Lord, my Lord, my Lord!
Have you seen, have caught sight of my sheep?”
God says, “No!”
“Woe is me! My sheep is gone.
How shall I come back home?”

Yiddish text below from “Anthology  of Yiddish Folksongs”, Volume 3, Vinkovetzky, Kovner, and Leichter, Jerusalem, 1985, pages 132 – 135.

 

 

“Got hot bashafn himl mit erd” performed by Hoda Yudovin-Zavelev

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , on March 23, 2010 by yiddishsong

Notes by Dmitri Slepovitch

”Got hot bashafn himl mit erd”  (God Has Created Heaven And Earth) was recorded by Dmitri Slepovitch and the late Nina Stepanskaya from Hoda Yudovin-Zavelev (b. 1925 in Beshenkovichi, Vitebsk oblast) in Vitebsk, Belarus, December 2001.

This song is an example of a Yiddish cumulative tale. It first starts as a typical moralizing parareligious rhyme, but it finishes with describing a bride and a groom lying on a pillow. A song that begins with the same words is found in Ruth Rubin’s collection, defined as a ballad of Adam and Eve (Ruth Rubin, Voices of a People, University of Illinois Press, 2000, p.497). However, musically the song collected by Rubin is different from this one.


Got hot bashafn himl mit erd (x2)
Vos iz in der erd? –
A sheyner, fayner vortsl (x2)
Der vortsl fun der erd,
Di erd fun Got

God created heaven and earth.
What was in the earth?
A beautiful, fine root;
The root from the earth.

Got hot bashafn himl mit erd (x2)
Vos i’ fun dem vortsl?
A sheyne, fayne beymdl (x2)
Di beymdl fun dem vortsl,
Der vortsl fun der erd,
Der erd fun Got.

God created heaven and earth.
What came out of the root?
A beautiful, fine tree
The tree from the root..
The root from Heaven and earth…
The earth from God

Got hot bashafn himl mit erd (x2)
Vos iz fun dem beymdl? –
A sheyne, fayne tsveyndl (x2)
Di tsveyndl fun dem beymdl,
Di beymdl fun dem vortsl,
Der vortsl fun der erd,
Di erd fun Got.

God created heaven and earth.,…
What came from the tree?
A beautiful, fine twig.
The twig from the tree..etc.

Got hot bashafn himl mit erd (x2)
Vos i’ af dem tsveyndl? –
A sheyne fayne feygl (x2)
Di feygl af der tsveyndl,
Di tsveyndl fun dem beymdl,
Di beymdl fun dem vortsl,
Der vortsl fun der erd,
Di erd fun Got.

God created heaven and earth.,…
What came from the twig?
A beautiful, fine bird.
The bird from the twig..etc.

Got hot bashafn himl mit erd (x2)
Vos iz fun der feygl? –
A sheyne, fayne feder (x2)
Di feder fun der feygl,
Di feygl afn tsveyndl,
Di tsveyndl fun dem beymdl,
Di beymdl fun dem vortsl,
Der vortsl fun der erd,
Di erd fun Got.

God created heaven and earth.,…
What emerged from the bird?
A beautiful, fine feather.
The feather from the bird..etc.

Got hot bashafn himl mit erd (x2)
Vos iz fun der feder? –
A sheyne, fayne kishn (x2)
Di kishn fun der feder,
Di feder fun der feygl,
Di feygl afn tsveyndl,
Di tsveyndl fun dem beymdl,
Di beymdl fun dem vortsl,
Der vortsl fun der erd,
Di erd fun Got.

God created heaven and earth.,…
What came from the feather?
A beautiful, fine pillow.
The pillow from the feather..etc.

Got hot bashafn himl mit erd (x2)
Vos i’ af der kishn? –
A sheyne, fayne kale (x2)
Di kale af der kishn,
Di kishn fun der feder,
Di feder fun der feygl,
Di feygl afn tsveyndl,
Di tsveyndl fun dem beymdl,
Di beymdl fun dem vortsl,
Der vortsl fun der erd,
Di erd fun Got.

God created heaven and earth.,…
What came from the pillow?
A beautiful, fine bride.
The bride on the pillow..etc.

Got hot bashafn himl mit erd (x2)
Vos iz bay der kale? –
A sheyner, fayner khosn (x2)
Der khosn ba’ der kale,
Di kale afn kishn,
Di kishn fun der feder,
Di feder fun der feygl,
Di feygl afn tsveyndl,
Di tsveyndl fun dem beymdl,
Di beymdl fun dem vortsl,
Der vortsl fun der erd,
Di erd fun Got.
Got hot bashafn himl mit erd (x2)

God created heaven and earth.,…
What emerged from the bride?
A beautiful, fine groom.
The groom with the bride,
The bride on the pillow,
The pillow from the feather…etc.