Archive for Folkways

“Ziser Got, vi dank ikh dir?” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman and “Reboyne-shel-oylem vi dank ik dir?” Performed by Freda Lobell

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Ziser Got, vi dank ikh dir? / Sweet God, How Can I Thank You?
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW), recorded by Leybl Kahn 1954, with another version, Reboyne-shel-oylem vi dank ik dir? / Master of the Universe How Can I Thank You? sung by Freda Lobell, and recorded by Ruth Rubin 1948

Freda Lobell’s rendition can be heard at the YIVO Ruth Rubin Archive website.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This song, in which a mother gives thanks for the marriage of her mezinke (youngest daughter), is not the first time and not the last time that these two singers will be paired together. And it is not surprising: Freda Lobell came from Chernovitz, Bukovina (today Ukraine) and LSW came from a small town in the same Bukovina region and later lived in Chernovitz. In the song “Vus a mul brent dos fayer greser” previously posted on this blog, one can also hear their two versions of the same song.

A Wedding in Cuba

In addition to Lobell’s recordings in the Ruth Rubin Archive at YIVO, she can also be heard on Rubin’s Folkways record “The Old Country”. The printed collection “Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive” includes three of her songs, words and music, but not this one.

The melody of this song is used by the Breslover/Broslover/Bratslover Hasidim with the words “Mitsve gedola lehiyot besimkhe tomid” (מיצווה גדולה להיות בשׂימחה תּמיד).

Here is a version with a Middle Eastern beat:

In LSW’s joyous version I believe that part of the fun is trying to intentionally squeeze in too many words into one line. The line beginning with “Shnirelekh….” As you hear she does not succeed but laughs at the attempt.

The klezmer fiddler Ilana Cravitz found the nigun in Moshe Beregovski’s writings, No. 187 (Skotshne) in Jewish Folk Music Vol. 4 Tish-Nigunim. It is to be found in Part II – the section with dances (see attached). She adds, “Definitely pre-WWI. The background note in Beregovski about the source is: No. 187. Sound recording No. 268/1 from Sh. Kulish in the town of Lyudmir [Ukraine] on July 17, 1913. Alternative version:  auditory record K-888 from A.-I. Berdichevsky in the town of Bogopol [Ukraine] in 1913. The performer reported that he had borrowed this tune from the clarinetist, who performed it like a skotshne.”

Thanks this week to Ilana Cravitz, Jordan Hirsch, Hankus Netsky, Yelena Shmulenson and the YIVO Sound Archive. 

TRANSLITERATION – LSW’s “Ziser Got”

Ziser Got vi dank ikh dir
vus di host geholfn mir;
aza gedile tse derleybn. 
Di host mekh tse shtand gebrakht
haynt hob ekh khasene gemakht. 
Kh’ob shoyn mayn mezinke oysgegeybn.
Ikh o’ dekh mir ayngehandlt skhoyre:
Shnirelekh, blit in milekh, eydem fil mit toyre.
Mayn harts iz fil mit freyd
Di eyniklekh shlepn mikh baym kleyd.
in eykh tsishn zey in der mit.
Ekh bin dekh vi der keyser rakh.
Mir iz haynt keyner glakh.
Lomir tantsn ale drit. 

TRANSLATION – “Ziser Got”

Sweet God how do I thank you
for helping me;
to live to see such a big event.
You brought this about:
today to marry off
my youngest daughter.
I have obtained my wares:
Youthful daughters-in-law and sons-in-law full of Torah.
My heart is full of joy.
My grandchildren pull at my dress,
and I in the middle of them. 
I am as rich as the emperor.
Today no one equals me.
Let’s dance us three. 

זיסער גאָט ווי דאַנק איך דור
וואָס דו האָסט געהאָלפֿן מיר
.אַזא גדולה צו דערלעבן
,דו האָסט מיך צו שטאַנד געבראַכט
הײַנט האָב איך חתונה געמאַכט
.כ’האָב שוין מײַן מיזינקע אויסגעגעבן
.איך האָב דאָך מיר אײַנגעהאַנדלט סחורה
.שנירעלעך, בלוט און מילעך, איידעם פֿול מיט תּורה
,מײַן האַרץ איז פֿול מיט פֿרייד
.די אייניקלעך שלעפּן מיך בײַם קלייד
.און איך צישן [צווישן] זיי אין דער מיט
איך בין דאָך ווי דער קייסער רײַך
,מיר איז הײַנט קיינער גלײַך
.לאָמיר טאַנצן אַלע דריט

TRANSLITERATION – Freda Lobell’s Reboyne-shel-oylem

Reboyne shel-oylem vi dank ekh dir
vu’ di ‘ost geholfn mir
aza gdile tse derleybn. 
Az ikh ‘ob dus tsi shtand gebrakht
der [di] mezinke khasene gemakht.
nagidemlekh mit zey’r farmeyg.
ikh lakh shoyn fin der gantser velt.
ikh ‘ob mane kinderlekh tsufridn geshtelt;
negidimlekh mit zeyer farmeygn. 
Bin ikh mir a shviger
‘ob ikh mir an eydem.
tants ikh mir in intershtibl [hintershtibl]
shoklt zikh der boydem.

TRANSLATION – Freda Lobell’s Reboyne-shel-oylem

Master of the universe how I thank you
for helping me
to live to see such a big event.
I made this happen:
married off my youngest daughter
with Jews of wealthy means.
I can laugh at the whole world.
I have made my children happy.
Rich men with their possessions.
And so I am a mother-in-law
and have a son-in-law.
So when I dance in the backroom
the attic shakes.

רבונו-של-עולם ווי דאַנק איך דיר
וואָס דו האָסט געהאָלפֿן מיר
.אַזאַ גדולה צו דערלעבן
אַז איך האָב דאָס צו שטאַנד געבראַכט
,די מיזינקע חתונה געמאַכט
.ייִדעלעך מיט זייער פֿאַרמעג
.איך לאַך שוין פֿון דער גאַנצער וועלט
איך האָב מײַנע קינדערלעך צופֿרידן געשטעלט
נגידעלעך מיט זייער פֿאַרמעגן
,בין איך מיר אַ שוויגער
,האָב איך מיר אַן איידעם
טאַנץ איך מיר אין הינטערשטיב
.שאָקלט זיך דער בוידעם

No. 187 (Skotshne) in Jewish Folk Music Vol. 4 Tish-Nigunim, by Moshe Beregovski:

Eliakum Zunser’s “Der aristokrat” Performed by Nathan Singer

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 17, 2020 by yiddishsong

Eliakum Zunser’s “Der aristokrat”, Sung by Nathan Singer
Recorded in 1948.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

Screenshot 2020-07-17 at 11.48.59 AM

Eliakum Zunser by Jacob Epstein, 1902

“Der aristokrat” was one of the most popular songs by the Vilna badkhn and composer Eliakum Zunser (1836-1913). It is the fifth Zunser song that we have posted on the blog.

The song is taken from a recording of the Singer and Nitzberg families which was done on a wire recorder in 1948 probably in Baltimore. Gertrude Singer Nitzberg transferred the recordings to tape in the 1970s and donated them to the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

Nathan Singer sings Zunser’s song in a “Litvish” dialect (“leyb” instead of “loyb”, “siml” instead of “shiml” for example). His version is remarkably close to Zunser’s printed orginal. The full text is 224 lines and was first printed in Eliakum Zunser’s collection  Tsen yidishe folkslider, Vilna, 1888. Singer sings only one verse – 16 lines.

Screenshot 2020-07-17 at 12.13.16 PM

Zunser’s 1888 collection Tsen yidishe folkslider

There are two recordings of this song and both are by professional singers, so this home performance with a simplified melody contrasts with theirs, and most likely reflects how it was sung among the folk. One recording is on a Folkways album Selected Songs of Eliakum Zunser featuring the singer Nathaniel A. Entin. The other recording is found on a 78 rpm record by Marcus Eisenberg called “Der aristokrat”, 1919.

The complete poem “Der aristokrat” tells of the trials and tribulations of a wealthy man who leaves the Jewish world to live among Christians but he is not wanted there. He ends up a happy man working the land in Petah-Tikvah, Palestine.

We are attaching the complete Yiddish text from volume one of The Works of Elyokum Zunser: A Critical Edition by Mordkhe Schaechter, YIVO, 1964 and the music from volume two of the same work.

TRANSCRIPTION and TRANSLATION OF NATHAN SINGER’S VERSION OF “DER ARISTOKRAT”

Fil dank ikh un leyb Gotes nomen,
er hot mir di eygn eyfgemakht.
Hot geshikt eyf mayn shtetl pogromen
Dos hot mir fun kholem ervakht…

Many thanks and praises of God’s name,
for he had opened my eyes.
He sent pogroms to attack my town
which woke me up from my dream. 

Ikh hob opgelebt a lebn in tuml,
fardorbn mayn kerper mayn zel.
Af mayn hartsn iz ongevaksn siml [shiml]
un mayn yidishkayt iz avek in der velt.

I have a life of unrest.
Ruined my body and soul.
Mold was growing on my heart
and my Jewishness got lost. 

Geveynt haynt mit fremde natsyonen,
mayne brider ferhast un ferakht;
Am ende hot men mir nit gevolt konen,
in di eygn var ikh oysgelakht!

I live today among foreign nations,
my brothers hated and despised.
Finally, no one wanted to know me,
I was mocked to my eyes. 

Fardorbn mayn vayb mayne kinder,
kayn ruikn lebn gehat,
kegn Got, kegn laytn a zinder –
kh’ob gevelt zayn an “aristokrat”. 

Ruined my wife and children,
no peaceful life have I had.
Against God, against man I have sinned.
I wanted to be an aristocrat.

“Der Aristokrat” in The Works of Elyokum Zunser: A Critical Edition by Mordkhe Schaechter, YIVO, 1964 (music from Volume 2, text from Volume 1):

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