Archive for engagement

“Khanele mayn lebn” Performed by Norman Salsitz

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 28, 2016 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This  week’s song was contributed by Bret Werb, Music Collection Curator at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Wurb interviewed and recorded Norman Salsitz singing in New Jersey in 2002 Khanele mayn lebn. The recording is provided courtesy of the USHMM Archives and used with permission.

As Mr. Salsitz explains in the introduction in English, the well-know songwriter Nokhem Shternheim, who was from the Polish Galician town of  Rzeszow ( Rayshe in Yiddish) often visited and stayed with them in Kolbuszowa (Kolbushov in Yiddish). Mr. Salsitz believed that Sternheim composed this song for Salsitz’s sister, but it turns out to be a Mordkhe Gebirtig song “Khanele un Nokheml” that has been recorded by Chava Alberstein and Mike Burstein. Thanks to singer/collector Leo Summergrad who follows this blog for pointing out the correct composer.

220px-Gebirtig
Mordkhe Gebertig

For more information on Shternheim – 1879    – 1942 – and a collection of his songs see “Hobn Mir a Nigundl: We have a little tune: The Songs of the Yiddish Troubadour Nokhem Shternheim” edited by Gila Flam and Dov Noy, Jerusalem 2000. In any case it is interesting that Sternheim, apparently, sang songs by Gebirtig.  There are added lines in Salsitz’s version that refer to her mother and father that do not appear in the printed Gebirtig version. Did Sternheim compose those?

SternheimNokhem Shternheim

The part B of the melody is the same as the part B of the song “Moyd fun Gas” (Girl of the Streets)    written by Shloyme Prizament and can be found in his collection Broder zinger, Buenos-Aires, 1960.    Arkady Gendler and “The gonifs” (singer Jeanette Lewicky) both recorded a version of “Moyd fun gas”.

The English transcription and translation of the song follows the singer’s version and dialect. We are attaching Gebirtig’s words in Yiddish and music as they appear in the book “Mordkhe Gebirtig zingt”, IKUF, 1963

Khanele mayn lebn

Sung by Norman Salsitz, recorded in New Jersey, 2002, by Bret Werb.

Khanele mayn leybn, Khanele di man,
Ikh vil di zolst mir geybn
Dus reytsl tsu farshteyn (faryshtayn)

Ven di kimst af mayne zinen,
Meygn royshn di mashinen,
Un dus biglayzn vern kalt.

Hob ikh azoy lib in gern,
Shuen lang fin dir tsu klern.
Un tsu zen far mir dayn tayer lib geshtalt.

Numkheml mayn leybn,
Nukheml di mayn.
Ikh vil dir bald geybn dus reytsl tsu farshteyn.

Dos bavayst di host mikh gern.
Dokh _____[?} tsu klern.
Es vet kayn toyve zayn far mir.

Vayter nemen kh’vel dayne zinin.
Vest koym af broyt fardinen.
Un ikh vel hingern bay dir.

Khanele mayn leybn, khanele du mayn.
Vos iz dos far an entfer?
Ikh ken dikh nisht farshteyn.

Ikh red fun libe. In mitn drinen
kimste veygn broyt fardinen
Hot a libe shaykhes den mit broyt?

Ikh vays ven me libt a khusn
miz men af a mol zan entshlosn
tsi di greste oremkayt un noyt.

Nukheml, mayn leybn, Nukheml di mayn.
Aza hayse libe
ken ikh nisht farshteyn.

Ikh hob gehert fin mayn mamen ,
Mit di greste libeflamen
Hot der tate zi amol gelibt.

Dokh ven zay hobn noyt gelitn.
hobn zey zikh arimgeshlitn,
Tsi iz den aza libe nisht batribt?

Khanele mayn leybn, Khanele di mayn.
Vuz iz dus far an entfer?
Ikh ken dikh nisht farshteyn.

Tsi hosti libe shlekht farshtanen.
Dus hot kayn shaykhes mit dayn mamen.
Nor di host moyre far dem noyt.

Vil ikh koyfn tsvey mashinen,
Di vest helfn af broyt fardinen
Un farzikhert vet zan indzer broyt.

Nukheml mayn leybn, nukheml di mayn
Di host dikh yetst bakimen,
Ikh ken dikh shoyn farshteyn.

Di vest dort nisht bay mir oysfirn,
Ikh vel zikh nisht bay dir unrirn.
Shoyn genig geplugt zikh in genay.

Ikh vil fastriges mer nisht tsien,
Yungerhayt zikh nisht farblien,
Ikh vil lebn uin genisn fray.

Khanele mayn lebn, khanele di mayn.
Di host nokh azelkhe taynes,
Vus vet nokh shpeyter zayn?

Gelt, nukh gelt ,vesti bagern.
Mir dus leybn tsi fartsern
ven fardin ikh vel nisht azoy fil.

Du a het [?], un du af klayder,
In bin ikh dokh nor a shnayder.
Ikh zey s’vet zan a troyerike shpil.

Nukheml mayn leybn, Nukheml di mayn.
Di bist geveyn mayn khusn,
mayn man vesti nisht zan.

Khanele my dear, my Khanele
I want you to
explain this riddle for me.

When you come into my head
the machines may whirl,
and the pressing iron can get cold.

I so love and am so glad
to think about you for hours
and to see before me your dear, lovely self.

Nokheml my dear, my Nokheml,
I will soon
explain this riddle to you.

This shows how you are fond of me,
yet ___ to think of me.
It will not be doing me any favors.

If I further take your purpose –
you will barely earn enough for bread
and I will go hungry with you.

Khanele my dear, my Khanele,
what kind of answer is that?
I cannot understand you.

I speak of love and out of nowhere
you speak of earning enough for bread.
What does love have to do with bread?

I know that when you love a fiance
You must once and for all commit yourself in spite of
the greatest poverty and hardship.

Nokheml my dear, my Nokheml
such passionate love
I cannot understand.

I heard tell from my mom:
with the greatest flames of love
did my father once love her.

Yet when they suffered hardship
they went from place to place [literally: sledded around]
Is not such a love a troubled one?

Khanele my dear, my Khanele
What kind of answer is this?
I don’t understand you.

Perhaps you have misunderstood love?
This has no connection to your mother.
But you are fearful of such poverty.

So I want to buy two [sewing] machines
so you will help earn our bread,
and thus ensured will be our income.

Nokheml my dear, my Nokheml.
You have made yourself clear.
I now understand you.

You won’t get me to do what you want,
and I won’t be touched by you
I’ve suffered enough by sewing.

I won’t sew any more basting stitches
and wilt away in my youth.
I want to live and enjoy freely.

Khanele my love, my Khanele.
You have such complaints,
what will be later?

Money, and more money is what you crave,
and you’ll devour me
when I don’t earn so much.

Here for a hat [?] and here for clothes,
but I am only just a tailor.
I see this will be a sad game.

Nokheml my dear, my Nokheml
I was indeed engaged to you
but you will not be my husband.

KhaneleYID2

KhaneleYID1

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“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.

“Ikh tu dir a brivele shraybn” performed by Harry Ary

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Benjy Fox-Rosen

A powerful song lamenting the horrors of war. A soldier lies wounded in the hospital and writes to his mother and fiancé.

This recording is from Ruth Rubin’s field recordings courtesy of Lorin Sklamberg and the YIVO Sound Archive. It was recorded in 1955 in Montreal. The singer is named Harry Ary, he is the same singer who sings “In Droysen iz Finster” from Ruth Rubin’s “Jewish Life: The Old Country” LP of field recordings. I love his delivery and especially the very slight differences between each verse. He may be my favorite male singer on that record.

Note the difference in the opening phrase on the first, and later verses; at the beginning of the second and third verses, he sings a sharp fourth instead of the natural fourth.

On the second and third verses, when he repeats the last two lines, I especially like the different way that he treats, “mayn harts” and “mayn kale.” The variations have very much the same shape, but are sung varied slightly each time. Also his final cadences at the end of each verse are of particular interest to me, for he sings almost a quarter tone sharper than a flat second (in the mode), and this is of course intentional. This difference in tuning is often overlooked in transcriptions and re-interpretations of folk sources, however these controlled variations in pitch are what make this singer particularly interesting.


I will write you a letter Mamenyu,
And Mamenyu, I write of my health,
Oy, my hand was amputated,
And in both eyes, Mamenyu, I am blind.

I lie in the hospital, wounded,
And the doctors stand around me,
My heart is gushing with blood,
My dear Mamenyu is not near me.

I write a letter to my bride,
And I write of her alone,
That she should rip up the engagement,
And go with someone else to the khupe.
(translation by Benjy Fox-Rosen)

Itzik Gottesman writes: Below is the version of the song from “Yidishe folks-lider” edited by Moyshe Beregovski and Itzik Feffer, Kiev 1939, page 119. The melody is essentially the same, and the words vary only slightly. However one textual change should be noted: in the Beregovski-Feffer version the singers says in the second line of the third verse “I write to you only about myself” which is the opposite of Harry Ary’s version.”