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Badkhn Toyvye Birnbaum’s Improvisation of “Yidish redt zikh azoy sheyn”

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2021 by yiddishsong

Badkhn Toyvye Birnbaum’s  Improvisation  of  “Yidish redt zikh azoy sheyn”
Recorded in Brooklyn circa 1982 by Itzik Gottesman

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Birnbaum sings the refrain of the popular song “Yidish iz dokh azoy sheyn” and then improvises the verses in the tradition of a badkhn, the Jewish wedding entertainer. Birnbaum referred to these improvisations as “shtey gramen“, rhymes created at the moment, while standing. 

Toyvye (Tobias) Birnbaum was born in Nowy Sacz, Poland, (Yiddish = Tsanz) in 1916. I met him in 1981 in Brighton Beach, NYC in the street. I was was walking with Yiddish actor Zvi Scooler, and Birnbaum recognized Scooler and came over. When he told us that he was a badkhn in Eastern Europe, I took his phone number and we became friends. 

Toyvye Birnbaum, Collection of the Museum at Eldridge Street

The song “Yiddish redt zikh azoy sheyn” was written by Isidore Lillian and the music composed by Maurice Rauch. The original text and music were printed in the Mlotek collection Songs of Generations and we are attaching those scans. But it seems that just about no one sings the words as originally written. This is also reflected in this performance during which the guests sing along with different words.

Among those who have recorded this song are Ben-Zion Witler, Henri Gerro, Johnny Grey, and more recently Myriam Fuks, the Klezical Tradition, Clarita Paskin, Harold Goldfarb and Mirele Rozen. The texts of their versions vary, especially in the verses. Witler’s and Gerro’s versions were particularly popular and Birnbaum’s way of singing owes quite a bit to them. His punctuation of  the word “Yiddish” in the refrain is a nice touch.

Here is a link to Gerro’s version:

This song was recorded at a “fraytik-tsu-nakhts” (friday night, sabbath eve) at my apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn, approximately 1982.  Among the people at this event that I recall or can be hear are Michael Alpert, Joshua Waletzky, Zwi Kanar. One of Birnbaum’s rhymes refers to two Germans in attendance that evening who had come to study Yiddish (at YIVO/Columbia). I do not remember who that was. 

The Yiddish scholar Vera Szabo interviewed Birnbaum, and her papers and recordings are at YIVO. Klezmer musican and researchers Joshua Horowitz and Michael Alpert have also worked or interviewed with Birnbaum.

Thanks this week to Joshua Horowitz and Vera Szabo.

Yidish redt zikh azoy sheyn

Ikh gedenk di kinder-yurn,
sheyninke kinder-yurn.
In hartsn ayngekritst zenen zey bay mir.
Di yinge zikhroynes, di sheyne khaloymes
leygn in hartsn bay mir.

I remember my childhood
wonderful childhood. 
They are inscribed in my heart.
The memories of youth, the sweet dreams
lay deep in my heart.

Freyg ikh aykh tsi besers iz den farhan?
Ven di khaveyrim fun Itziklen kimen zikh tsuzam?
Men est, me trinkt, keyad hameylekh,
der oylem fraylekh.
Vil ikh aykh, zayt zeh azoy git,
Lernt aykh os dus lidele un zingt zhe mit mir mit.  Vus?

So I ask you, is there anything better?
When friends come together to Itzik’s place?
We eat, we drink, as if we were kings.
The people are happy.
So I ask you please,
learn this song
and sing along with me. What?

REFRAIN
Yidish redt zikh azoy gring.
Yidish leygt zikh oyf der tsing
Yidish redn ales
Zaydes, tates mames
Oy, adarebe, zug oyf goyish
“Git shabes”.
Yidish iz dekh azoy sheyn
Yidish hot a toyznt kheyn.
Vus toygn mir leshoynes, fun fremde zikhroynes.
Az yidish redt zikh azoy sheyn.

Speaking Yiddish is so easy.
Yiddish is easy to pronounce.
Yiddish is spoken  by everyone
Grandfathers, fathers, mothers.
Just try to say in any foreign tongue – 
 “gut shabes” [good sabbath]
Yiddish is so beautiful
Yiddish has a thousand charms.
What do I need languages from other memories
When Yiddish sounds so sweet. 

Tsi iz den epes besers farhan,
ikh miz aykh zugn nokh a mol ven me kimt zikh tsizam, 
Durkh deym vil ikh aykh nisht dertserenen
un ikh vel aykh a lidele oyslernen
zayt zhet ale azoy git, lern akykh oys dus lidele
zingt zhe mit mir mit.

Is there anything better,
may I repeat, when we all get together?
With this I don’t want to make you angry
and I will teach you a song.
So please learn the song and sing along.

Yidish iz dokh azoy sheyn.
Yidish hot a toyznt kheyn.
Yidish redn ales”
Zaydes, tates, mames
Oy, adarebe zug af goyish:
“Git shabes”
Yidish iz dokh azoy gring.
Yidish leygt zikh oyf der tsing.
Vus toygn mir leshoynes fun andere mikoymes.
Az Yidish redt zikh azoy sheyn.

Yiddish sounds so sweet.
Yiddish has a thousand charms.
Yiddish spoken by all,
grandfathers, fathers and mothers.
Just try to say “Gut shabes” in another language. 
It’s so easy to speak Yiddish.
It’s so easy to pronounce Yiddish.
What do I need languages 

from far other places. 
Yiddish sounds so sweet. 

Yidish redt zikh azoy sheyn
yidish hot a toyznt kheyn.
yidish redn ales
zaydes, tates, mames
Oy, adarebe zugt af goyish:
“Git shabes”
Yidish iz dokh azoy gring.
Yidish leygt zikh oyf der tsing.
vus toygn mir leshoynes fun andere mikoymes.
Az yidish redt zikh azoy gring.

Yiddish sounds so sweet.
Yiddish has a thousand charms.
Yiddish is spoken by all,
grandfathers, fathers and mothers.
Just try to say “Gut shabes” in a foreign tongue.
It’s so easy to speak Yiddish.
It’s so easy to pronounce Yiddish.
What do I need languages 

from far other places.
When Yiddish sounds so sweet.

Oy az yidn redn yidish,
vus iz den du der khidesh?
yidish vet azoy sheyn klingen,
say bam redn, un shener bam zingen.
Duz iz klur vi der tug.
Duz beyt’ ekh der batkhn 
un hert zhe vus ikh zug.

Oy, that Jews speak Yiddish,
what’s the big deal?
Yiddish will sound wonderful
both when you speak it, and evern more so when you sing it.
This is clear as day.
So the badkhn asks you
and hear what I say.

Yidish redt zikh azoy sheyn.
Yidish hot a toyznt kheyn.
Yidish redn ales,
Zaydes, tates, mames
Oy, adarebe zugt af goyish:
“Git shabes”.
Yidish iz dokh azoy gring.
Yidish leygt zikh oyf der tsing.
Vus toygn mir leshoynes
fin andere mikoymes?
Az yidish redt zikh azoy gring.

Yiddish sounds so sweet.
Yiddish has a thousand charms.
Yiddish is spoken by all,
grandfathers, fathers and mothers.
Just try to say “Gut shabes” in a foreign tongue.
It’s so easy to speak Yiddish.
It’s so easy to pronounce Yiddish.
What do I need languages 

from far other places, when Yiddish sounds so sweet.

Di gantse velt zugt az yidish hot azoy fil kheyn.
Ven yidish i’ nisht geveyn git, volt yidish nisht gekimen tsu Itziklen tsi geyn. 
Un nokh deym vil ikh aykh nisht dertserenen.
Ir mizt dokh hobn a fink fin yidish, vus ir vilt zikh yidish oyslernen. 
S’iz nisht keyn kharpe, s’iz nisht keyn shand.
Tsvay mentshn zenen gekimen zikh lernen yidish
azsh fin Daytshland. 
Nokh deym vintsh ikh aykh ale du, hatslukhe un a shir.
Dus letste zug ikh  zingt zhe mit mit mir.

The whole world says that Yiddish has so much charm.
If Yiddish weren’t good, then Yiddish would not come to Itzik.
And after all I don’t want to enrage you.
You must have a spark of Yiddish to want to learn it.
There’s no shame, no disgrace.
Two people came to study Yiddish
all the way from Germany.
So after all, I wish you all success without end.
For the last time, sing along with me. 

Yidish iz dokh azoy sheyn.
Yidish hot a toyznt kheyn. 
Yidish redn ales
Zaydes, tates, mames
Oy, adarebe zugt af goyish:
“Git shabes”
Yidish iz dokh azoy gring.
Yidish leygt zikh oyf der tsing.
Vus toygn mir leshoynes
fin andere mikoymes?
Az yidish redt zikh azoy gring.

Yiddish sounds so sweet.
Yiddish has a thousand charms.
Yiddish is spoken by all,
grandfathers, fathers and mothers.
Just try to say “Gut shabes” in a foreign tongue.
It’s so easy to speak Yiddish.
It’s so easy to pronounce Yiddish.
What do I need languages 

from far other places, when Yiddish sounds so sweet.

Az ikh hob aykh du gezugt gramen
s’hot aykh afile farshaft a bisele tamen. 
Her zhe Itzikl tsi zikh tsi mayn shmis
der mentsh iz shoyn geveyn in der gantser velt
un oykhet in Pariz.
Lomir nor zan gezint in shtark. 
Men iz gekimen hern a yidishe drushele 
keyn Prospekt Park. 
Mit deym vil ale zugn aykhץ
Un zayt aykh matriekh
un dus lidele lernt zikh oys vus gikh.
Dus hob ikh ale simunim 
ven ir zingt yidish keyn-hore laytish
shaynt af ayer punim. 
Atsindert vil ikh aykh tsvingen
Dus letste mul, beyt ikh aykh, 
nokh a mol mit mir mittsuzingen.

And so I have said some rhymes here.
It even gave you some pleasure.
So listen Itzik to my converstion.
He has gone all over the world, and also Paris.
Let us all be healthy and strong.
People came to hear my talk to Prospect Park. 
And with this I say to you.
Please try to learn this song quickly.
For this I have all the signs:
when you sing Yiddish right, no evil eye,
your face shines. 
So now I demand of you all
to sing for the last time, I ask you,
to sing along with me. 

דער בדחן טובֿיה בירנבוים זינגט 
„ייִדיש רעדט זיך אַזוי שיין”
רעקאָרדירט פֿון איציק גאָטעסמאַן
 אין ברוקלין, אַן ערך 1982

.איך געדענק די קינדעריאָרן, שיינינקע קינדעריאָרן
.אין האַרצן אײַנגעקריצט זענען זיי בײַ מיר
די יונגע זכרונות, די שיינע חלומות
.לייגן [ליגן] אין האַרצן בײַ מיר
?פֿרעג איך אײַך, צי בעסערס איז דען פֿאַרהאַן
?ווען די חבֿרים פֿון איציקלען קומען זיך צוזאַם
,מען עסט, מע טרינקט, כּיד־המלך
.דער עולם פֿריילעך
,וויל איך אײַך, זײַט אַזוי גוט
לערנט אײַך אויס דאָס לידעלע און זינגט זשע 
?מיט מיר מיט.  וואָס

:צוזינג
.ייִדיש רעדט זיך אַזוי גרינג
.ייִדיש לייגט זיך אויף דער צונג
ייִדיש רעדן אַלעס
,זיידעס, טאַטעס, מאַמעס
.אַדרבא, זאָגט אויף גוייִש  „גוט שבת”
.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי שיין
.ייִדיש האָט אַ טויזנט חן
וואָס טויגן מיר לשונות, פֿון פֿרעמדע זכרונות
.אַז ייִדיש רעדט זיך אַזוי שיין

.צי איז דען עפּעס בעסערס פֿאַרהאַן
.איך מוז אײַך זאָגן נאָך אַ מאָל, ווען מע קומט זיך צוזאַם
דורך דעם וויל איך אײַך נישט דערצערענען
.און וועל אײַך אַ לידעלע אויסלערנען.
,זײַט זשעט אַלע אַזוי גוט, לערנט אײַך אויס דאָס לידעלע
.זינגט זשע מיט מיר מיט

.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי שיין
.ייִדיש האָט אַ טויזנט חן
ייִדן רעדן אַלעס
זיידעס, טאַטעס מאַמעס
אוי, אַדרבא זאָגט אויף גוייִש 
.”גוט־שבת”
.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי גרינג
.ייִדיש לייגט זיך אויף דער צונג
וואָס טויגן מיר לשונות
,פֿון אַדער מקומות
.אַז ייִדיש רעדט זיך אַזוי שיין

,אוי, אַז ייִדן רעדן ייִדיש
?וואָס איז דען דאָ דער חידוש
,ייִדיש וועט אַזוי שיין קלינגען 
.סײַ בײַם רעדן, און שענער בײַן זינגען
.דאָס איז קלאָר ווי דער טאָג
דאָס בעט אײַך דער בטחן
.און הערט זשע וואָס איך זאָג

.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי שיין
.ייִדיש האָט אַ טויזנט חן
ייִדן רעדן אַלעס
זיידעס, טאַטעס מאַמעס
אוי, אַדרבא זאָגט אויף גוייִש 
.”גוט־שבת”
.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי גרינג
.ייִדיש לייגט זיך אויף דער צונג
וואָס טויגן מיר לשונות
,פֿון אַנדערע מקומות,
.אַז ייִדיש רעדט זיך אַזוי שיין

.די גאַנצע וועלט זאָגט, אַז ייִדיש האָט אַזוי פֿיל חן
ווען ייִדיש וואָלט נישט געווען גוט, וואָלט ייִדיש נישט געקומען צו 
.איציקלען צו גיין
.און נאָך דעם וויל איך אײַך נישט דערצערענען
איר מוזט דאָך האָבן אַ פֿונק פֿון ייִדיש, אויב איר ווילט זיך
.ייִדיש אויסלערנערן

.ס’איז נישט קיין חרפּה, ס’איז נישט קיין שאַנד
צוויי מענטשן זענען געקומען זיך לערנען ייִדיש
.אַזש פֿון דײַטשלאַד
.נאָך דעם ווינטש איך אײַך אַלע דו, הצלחה אָן אַ שיעור
.דאָס לעצטע זאָג איך זינגט זשע מיט מיט מיר

.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי שיין
.ייִדיש האָט אַ טויזנט חן
ייִדן רעדן אַלעס
זיידעס, טאַטעס מאַמעס
אוי, אַדרבא זאָגט אויף גוייִש 
.”גוט־שבת”
.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי גרינג
.ייִדיש לייגט זיך אויף דער צונג
וואָס טויגן מיר לשונות
,פֿון אַדער מקומות
.אַז ייִדיש רעדט זיך אַזוי שיין

,אַז איך האָב אײַך געזאָגט גראַמען
.ס’האָט אײַך אַפֿילו פֿאַרשאַפֿט אַ ביסעלע טעמען
.הער זשע איציקל צו זיך צו צו מײַן שמועס
דער מענטש איז שוין געווען אין דער גאַנצער וועלט
.און אויכעט פּאַריז
.לאָמיר נאָר זײַן געזונט און שטאַרק
.מען איז געקומען הערן אַ ייִדיש דרשהלע קיין פּראָספּעקט־פּאַרק
מיט דעם וויל איך זאָגן אײַך
טאָ זײַט איר מטריח
.און דאָס לידעלע לערן אויס וואָס גיך
.דאָס האָב איך אַלע סמנים
,ווען איר ייִדיש, קיין עין־הרע, לײַטיש
.שײַנט אויף אײַער פּנים
,אַצינדערט וויל איך אײַך צווינגען
דאָס לעצטע מאָל, בעט איך אײַך
.נאָך אַ מאָל מיט מיר מיטזינגען

.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי שיין
.ייִדיש האָט אַ טויזנט חן
ייִדן רעדן אַלעס
זיידעס, טאַטעס מאַמעס
אוי, אַדרבא זאָגט אויף גוייִש 
.”גוט־שבת”
.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי גרינג
.ייִדיש לייגט זיך אויף דער צונג
,פֿון אַדער מקומות
וואָס טויגן מיר לשונות
.אַז ייִדיש רעדט זיך אַזוי שיין

From Eleanor and Joseph Mlotek’s, Songs of Generations: New Pearls of Yiddish Song (NY, Workmen’s Circle, 1995):

Harry Boens & Nathan Hollandar’s Song “Di Shpanishe kholere” Performed by Cantor Sam Weiss

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2020 by yiddishsong

Di Shpanishe Kholere / The Spanish Contagion
Lyrics by Harry Boens (Bennett), Music by Nathan Hollandar.
Performance by Cantor Sam Weiss.

Commentary by Cantor Sam Weiss

Around 15 years ago my friend Michael Bennett discovered his grandfather’s name (see Michael Bennett’s post about his grandfather, Harry Boens / Bennett) listed as lyricist on a piece of Yiddish sheet music about the 1918 Spanish flu. As there were no extant recordings or performances of the song, in 2010 he emailed me to see if I could arrange to get it recorded. I glanced at the lyrics and was quickly captivated by their colloquial directness and interesting vocabulary. In short order I printed out the file, placed the sheets on my electronic keyboard, ran through the song, and emailed the mp3 to Michael.

Image courtesy of Michael Bennett; all rights reserved.

The song remained our private little adventure until COVID-19 reared its head and Michael reached out to me again: “…Maybe it’s an appropriate time to release to the public your rendition of my grandfather’s lament.” I hesitated, not really thinking of that quick take as a “performance, “and his idea remained dormant. Right before the High Holidays, however, it occurred to me that the Yiddish Song of the Week website would be an appropriate vehicle for sharing this gem, and Itzik Gottesman agreed to host it along with Michael’s back story on his grandfather.

Cantor Sam Weiss by Robert Kalfus

As the song is equal parts humor and pathos, I adopted a theatrical singing style along with the “stage Yiddish” dialect suggested by the printed notation. The initial sound in the Yiddish word for “Spanish” is clearly intended to be pronounced “S” rather than “Sh,” being spelled here with a samekh in place of the standard shin, and that is how I sang it.

In the case of the word for “heart” I vacillated between the standard pronunciation harts and the printed word hertz. In these two cases the transcription reflects standard Yiddish spellings rather than the pronunciations heard on the recording; the remaining words are transcribed as sung. Although the notation indicates a repeat of the final phrase in the verses, these repeats were skipped in verses 3-6.

I was struck by an interesting word that occurs three times, neveyre, which I have translated as “plague.” Strictly speaking neveyre is simply the colloquial version of aveyre, meaning “sin” (the “n” resulting from conflating the two words an aveyre), but in this context neveyre implies a divine punishment that may have come about as a result of our sins. Although I have yet to find this particular meaning in any Yiddish dictionary or thesaurus, the usage is amply supported by Jewish lore from the Ten Plagues onwards. The song itself, moreover, expresses a plea for God’s compassion (to reverse the punishment, as it were) as well as the darkly comical idea of the Spanish flu as Woodrow Wilson’s vengeance for Germany’s role in World War I.

The title word kholere is especially noteworthy. Unlike the English word “cholera,” it has a much broader connotation than any specific type of illness. Indeed, the technical name of the disease appears only on the Yiddish lyrics back cover page as the title—but nowhere in the song—as Di Shpanishe influentsiye. In verse 5 kholere appears unmodified by Shpanishe; I therefore translate it as “contagion.” Kholere is found in a great number of Yiddish curses where the speaker is not particularly concerned with which krenk befalls the victim, as long as it is grueling and punishing. Indeed “punishing” is the word’s operative intention, as in the case of neveyre. Note the antiquated spelling of the word on the title page with a khes instead of the standard khof. This older Yiddish orthography hints at a presumed Hebrew origin, as if kholere were a retributive disease related to kadokhes (biblical kodokhas), which is always spelled with a khes. The back cover lyrics are below.

TRANSCRIPTION AND TRANSLATION by Cantor Sam Weiss

1. Ikh gey mir arim in strit fartrakht
Say bay tug in say bay nakht.
In mayn hartzn kokht dus blit,
Ze’endik vi mentshn faln in strit.

REFRAIN:

Vayl di gantse velt iz yetst in trobl,
In yeder eyner zikht dem knobl.

I walk the streets deep in thought,
Be it day, be it night.
The blood is seething in my heart
As I watch people collapsing in the street.

REFRAIN:

Because the whole world is now in trouble,
And everyone is searching for garlic.

2. Mentshn zitsn in hoyz mit der neveyre,
Zey hobn moyre far der Shpanisher kholere.
Nemt mayn edvays in seyft zikh fin dem trobl,
Trinkt a glezl vayn in est dem knobl.

REFRAIN: Vayl di gantse velt…

Everyone is stuck at home with this plague,
They’re all afraid of the Spanish flu.
Take my advice and save yourself from trouble,
Drink a glass of wine and eat some garlic.

REFRAIN: Because the whole world…

3. Der Daytsh iz oykh a groyser diplomat!
Er hot gevolt farnikhtn di velt vi a rats;
Wilson hot ober genimen zikh di ere
In geshikt dem Daytsh di Shpanishe kholere.

REFRAIN: Vayl di gantse velt…

The Germans are some diplomats…
Seeking to destroy the world as if it were a rat;
But Wilson stepped right up
And sent the Germans the Spanish flu!

REFRAIN: Because the whole world…

4. Sobveys, kars, gepakt oykh fil mit mentshn;
Ikh bet bay dir, oy Got, di zolst indz bentshn!
Nem fin indz oykh di neveyre
In hit indz up fin der Shpanisher kholere.

REFRAIN: Vayl di gantse velt…

Subways, cars, all packed with people;
I beg you, God, please bless us!
Remove the plague from us too,
And shield us from the Spanish flu.

REFRAIN: Because the whole world…

5. Barbers loyfn arim azoy vi di nyankes;
Fin hoyz tsi hoyz shteln zey ayedn bankes.
Zey aleyn trugn arim di neveyre;
Zey danken Got es halt on di kholere!

REFRAIN: Vayl di gantse velt…

Barbers scurry about as if they were nurses,
From house to house, with cupping glass treatments;
They themselves are carriers of the plague,
Thanking God that the contagion perseveres!

REFRAIN: Because the whole world…

6. Mikh tsi hern zingen is nisht kayn vinder;
Mentshn, past nor oyf of ayere kinder.
Di froyen in Eyrope zenen geblibn vi ofn yakor,
In di mener in Amerike brenen vi a flaker

REFRAIN: Vayl di gantse velt…

Don’t act surprised to hear me singing;
Folks, just watch over your children.
The wives are all marooned in Europe
While their husbands are ablaze in America

REFRAIN: Because the whole world…

Below images courtesy of Michael Bennett; all rights reserved.

“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):

Screenshot 2020-07-17 at 1.28.58 PMScreenshot 2020-07-17 at 1.05.55 PMScreenshot 2020-07-17 at 1.06.21 PMScreenshot 2020-07-17 at 1.06.52 PMScreenshot 2020-07-17 at 1.10.20 PMScreenshot 2020-07-17 at 1.11.41 PMScreenshot 2020-07-17 at 1.11.59 PMScreenshot 2020-07-17 at 1.16.00 PMScreenshot 2020-07-17 at 1.16.08 PMScreenshot 2020-07-17 at 1.22.50 PMScreenshot 2020-07-17 at 1.23.04 PMScreenshot 2020-07-17 at 1.23.42 PMScreenshot 2020-07-17 at 1.24.02 PM

“Khidesht zikh nisht” Performed by M.M. Shaffir

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2020 by yiddishsong

Khidesht zikh nisht / Don’t be surprised
A song composed and sung by M. M. Shaffir, recorded in the Bronx by Itzik Gottesman, 1974.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

This post marks the tenth year anniversary of the blog “Yiddish Song of the Week”!  We have been more than a little pleased with the effect it has had on singers, researchers and lovers of Yiddish song. We welcome all field or home recordings of Yiddish songs, particularly if they are lesser known or rarely sung nowadays. The quality of the recording or talent of the singer are not significant issues in this blog. Here is to ten more years!

Khidesht zikh nisht is the fourth and last song on this blog written and sung by the Montreal poet M. M. (Moyshe-Mordkhe) Shaffir (1909 – 1988); all recorded in the Bronx around the Gottesman’s dining room table in 1974. He dedicated this song to another Yiddish poet in Montreal, Ida Maze (1893 – 1962, pronounced “Ayde”, also known as Ida Massey) whose home became the Yiddish literary salon of that city. Something she said inspired Shaffir to write it but unfortunately I could not understand the whole story from the recording. 

1936Montreal Yiddish writers 1936: back row left M. M. Shafir, next to him Shabsai Perl. Front row: Ida Maze left, Kadya Molodowsy center, Yudika, right. From the collection of the Jewish Public Library in Montreal.

Shaffir sings three verses which were printed with the music in his collection A stezhke (1940). Those pages which include the Yiddish text are attached. In a later collection he added three more verses.

TRANSLITERATION

Khidesht zikh nisht, vus ikh bin
azoy sheyn gevorn.
Di mame zugt, a khusn kimt,
Oyb nisht haynt iz morgn. 

Don’t be surprised that
I became so pretty.
Mom says a prospective groom is coming,
if not today then tomorrow. 

Di mame zugt az fin Candren.
Vus art es mikh fin vanen?
Ale mayne khavertes
zenen mikh mekane.

Mom says that he’s from Candren [town in Bukovina]
What do I care where from?
All my girlfriends
will envy me.

Di zin iz hant an ondere
un ondere di veygn…
Kh’volt gefreygt di mameshe –
sheym ikh mikh tsi freygn.

The sun today is different
and different are the roads…
I would put a question to my mom
but am ashamed to ask.

Kh’ob ungetin a likhtik kleyd
un a shnirl royte kreln –
epes zugt in mir dus harts
az kh’el im gefeln.

I put on a bright dress
and a necklace of red beads –
something tells me in my heart
that he will like me.

From M.M. Shaffir’s collection A stezhke (1940), p. 158:
Shaffir1

Three Yiddish Songs to the tune of the Italian pop classic “Return to Sorrento”

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2019 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

In this posting, we examine three Yiddish Songs set to the tune of the Italian pop classic Return to Sorrento:

1) Fil gelitn hob ikh miter sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded in 1954 by
Leybl Kahn
2) Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets sung by Reyzl Stalnicovitz, and recorded by Itzik Gottesman in Mexico City, 1988.
3) Sore-Yente a song found in Meyer Noy’s collection at the National Library in Jerusalem, and performed by Sharon Bernstein, piano and vocal, and Willy Schwarz on accordion, Florence, Italy 2001.

sorrento

This week we highlight three Yiddish songs that use the melody of an Italian pop classic Torna a Surriento (Return to Sorrento) music by Ernesto De Curtis (1875 – 1937), copyright 1905. The original lyrics were by his cousin Giambattista De Curtis. Here is a Dean Martin recording of the Italian song which we chose because it has a translation of the Italian lyrics (click here to listen).

There are even more Yiddish songs that use this melody, among them: in 1933 after the murder of Haim Arlosoroff in Tel-Aviv, a song was composed to this melody and a song sheet was published (A tragisher mord in Tel-Aviv/A Tragic Death in Tel Aviv). A song about the Polish Jewish strongman Zishe Breitbard (1883 – 1925) also uses a version of the melody (see Mlotek, Songs of the Generations, page 147-148 ).

Thanks this week to Aida Stalnicovitz Vda Fridman and Sharon Bernstein.

1) Fil gelitn hob ikh miter (I Have Suffered Much Mother) 
Performance by Lifshe Schaechter Widman, recorded in 1954 by Leybl Kahn in NYC.

Lifshe introduces the song by saying “S’iz a lidl vus me hot gezingen in der ershter milkhume (It’s a song that was sung in the First World War).” The four verses are entirely in the mother’s voice, apparently addressed to her mother, as indicated in the first line.

TRANSLITERATION
Fil gelitn hob ikh miter
bay der as[ent]irung fun mayn kind.
Gearbet hob ikh shver in biter
Far vus lad ikh nokh atsind.?

Iz mayn zin nokh mayn nekhome
Vi iz er fin mir avek?
Afarshundn iz er in der milkhume.
Un a seykhl in un a tsvek.

Ziser Got ikh beyt ba dir
loz mikh nokh a nes gesheyn.
Eyder eykh vel shtarbn
Vil eykh mayn kind nokh eyn mol zeyn.

Dentsmult vel ikh riyik shtarbn.
Got tsi dir keyn tanes hubn.
Loz mayn kind khotsh eyn mul mir
nokh, “mamenyu” zugn.

TRANSLATION
Much have I suffered mother,
from the drafting of my child.
I worked hard and bitter.
Why do I still suffer?

My son is still my comfort
Where did he go and leave me?
Disappeared into the war,
for no logic, for no reason,

Dear God I pray to you
May another miracle take place.
Before I die,
I want to see my son once more.

Then I would calmly die
God, have no complaints to you..
Let my child say to me –
just once more “my mother dear”.

Fil Gelitn

2) Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets (Beautiful is Reyzele, the Shokhet’s Daughter)
Performance by Reyzl Stalnicovitz, recorded by Itzik Gottesman, Mexico City, 1988.

StalnicovitzPhotoReyzl Stalnicovitz, photo by Itzik Gottesman

Reyzl Stalnicovitz was born in 1935 in Xalapa, district of Vera Cruz, Mexico. She was a teacher at the I. L. Peretz shul (“Di naye yidishe shul”) in Mexico City, and passed away in  1996.

Of the three songs presented in this post, this song was by far the most popular and has been printed in several collections and can be found in the field recordings of Ben Stonehill, Sarah Benjamin and at the National Library in Israel. As for commercial recordings: Lea Szlanger sings it on her CD Lea Szlanger In Song.

The text was originally a thirteen verse poem by Zusman Segalovitch (1884 – 1949) that first appeared in the periodical Der shtrahl, Volume one, #2 Warsaw, 1910 (see below). There it was titled Dem shoykhets tokhter: balade (The shoykhet’s daughter: ballad) followed by the inscription – Dos hobn kinder in shtetl dertseylt (This Was Told by Children in Town).

The plot – Reyzl wants to marry Motl but the father, a shoykhet (kosher slaughterer) boils with anger as she combs her hair because she refuses the match he made. He then cuts her golden locks. Then it gets “weird”: she swims into the Vistula (Yiddish = Vaysl) river and builds a little shelter for herself along the bank until her hair locks grow again.
Stalnicovch sings four verses. This ballad was almost always shortened when sung. For example in the Arbeter Ring’s extremely popular songbook Lomir zingen (1939, NY), only five verses are printed (that scanned version, words and music, are attached below).

TRANSCRIPTION
Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets.
Zi hot a yunge harts on zorgn.
Zi tants un freyt zikh mit ir lebn.
Vi a shvalb mitn frimorgn.

Es bakheynen ir di oygn
Es bakreynen ir di lokn.
Un a shtoltse iz zi shtendik.
Zi vet far keynem zikh nit beygn.

Un ir tate iz a frumer
un dertsu a groyser kaysn.
Ven di tokhter kemt di lokn
Heybt er on di lipn baysn .

Un der tate veyst nokh gornisht
Vos in shtetl veysn ale:
Az Reyzl hot shoyn a khosn.
Un me ruft ir Motls kale.

TRANSLATION
Beautiful is the shoykhet’s daughter Reyzl
She has a young heart with no worries.
She dances and is joyful with her life
as a swallow is with the morning.

Her eyes make her pretty
Her locks are a crown on her;
And she is always proud.
She will bow for no one.

Her father is religious
and also quick to anger.
When he combs her locks,
he starts to bite his lips.

And her father doesn’t know anything
what everyone knows in town:
that Reyzl has a groom,
and they call her Motl’s bride.

Spoken (transliteration):
Dos iz vos ikh gedenk. Ober di mame flegt mir dertseyln az s’iz geven epes a gantse tragedye, vayl der tate hot nisht gevolt az zi zol khasene hobn. Vayl er iz geven a sotsyalist, a yingl, un er iz geven a frumer yid. Er hot gevolt zi zol khasene hobn mit a yeshiva bokher. Un zi’s antlofn mitn bokher.

Spoken (translation):
That’s what I remember. But the mother used to tell me that it was a whole tragedy because the father did not want her to get married. Because he (the groom) was a socialist boy and he (the father) wanted him to marry a Yeshiva student. And she ran away with the boy.

Sheyn iz Reyzele

3) Sore-Yente
Performance by Cantor Sharon Bernstein, Florence, 2001 (accompanied by Willy Schwarz on accordion)

The third song that uses the melody of Sorrienta is Sore-Yente – a word play on the original Italian title. This was collected by Meir Noy in Israel in 1962 from Shmuel Ben-Zorekh, who learned it from an immigrant from Minsk. A scan of Meir Noy’s original notation, words and music are attached below.

TRANSLITERATION
Mit a nign fun akdomes
shteyt baym fentster Yosl-Monish,
Far der sheyner Sore-Yente
Zingt er dort tsu ir a lid:

Kum tsu mir mayn sheynes benken,
Eybik vel ikh dikh gedenken.
Kh’vel mayn lebn far dir shenken.
Vayl ikh bin in dir farlibt.

Azoy lang iz er geshtanen
vi der groyser pipernoter
un zi hert im vi der koter
un geyt derbay af gikh avek.

TRANSLATION
With a melody from Akdometh
stands at the window Yosl-Monish
For the beautiful Sore-Yente
there, he sings this song:

Come to me my longed for beauty
I will long for you eternally.
I will give you my life
For I am in love with you.

He stood there for so long
like a giant dragon.
She totally ignores him
And walks quickly by him.

Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets (Beautiful is Reyzele, the Shokhet’s Daughter) by Zusman Segalovitch (1884 – 1949) in the periodical Der shtrahl, Volume one, #2 Warsaw, 1910:
ReyzlWords1ReyzlWords3ReyzlWords4ReyzlWords5ReyzlWords2

Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets (Beautiful is Reyzele, the Shokhet’s Daughter) from the Arbeter Ring’s songbook Lomir zingen (1939, NY):

Arbeter Ring1
Arbeter Ring2

Sore-Yente in Meir Noy’s Notebook:
Sore Yente Vol 1, p74-page-0

“Oy vey mame ikh lib a sheyn yingl” Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 29, 2019 by yiddishsong

Oy vey mame ikh lib a sheyn yingl / Oh, Mother, I Love a Beautiful Boy
Sung by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (BSG)
Recorded at the Augusta Heritage Festival in Elkins, West Virginia, 1990.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

During the summer of 1990 Yiddish singer and teacher Ethel Raim had been asked to teach Yiddish song for “vocal week” at the Augusta Heritage Center, in West Virginia.  She asked to bring Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, who turned 70 that summer, with her to co-teach.

Gildene PaveYedaAmJan. 1950 Hey-Vov
Ethel Raim (left) and Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

At the end of the “Vocal Week” the much larger Augusta Heritage Folk Festival took place on the same grounds and BSG sang this song from the stage at that occasion.

This song was learned by BSG in the United States after her arrival in 1951. It can be heard on a record sung by Feigele Panitz. It is also sung on a field recording by the singer and actress Diana Blumenfeld in the Stonehill Jewish Song Collection, curated online by Miriam Isaacs for the Center for Traditional Music and Dance. Blumenfeld sings an additional third verse.

Thanks to Ethel Raim for this week’s post. 

TRANSLITERATION

Oy vey mame ikh lib a sheyn yingl.
Sheyn iz er vi di gantse velt.
Far zan sheynkeyt iz er ba mir eyner.
Un durkh im vert mayn harts farbrent.

Vifl tsures hob ikh zikh ungelitn.
Biz ikh hob gekent im derkenen.
Takhn trern, oy, ti ikh fargisn,
ven ikh ti zikh un im dermanen.

Kh’vel shoyn mer keyn libe nisht shpiln.
Ikh vel shoyn mer inter zayn fentster nisht shteyn.
Es zol zan harts azoy vi mans tsepiket vern,
vet er mer azoy groys bay zikh nisht zan.

TRANSLATION

Oh mother I’m in love with a handsome boy.
He’s as beautiful as the whole world.
Because of his beauty he is my one and only.
and for him my heart burns.

How many troubles had I suffered,
until I could recognize him for what he was.
Rivers of tears, oy, do I spill,
when I think of him.

I will no longer love him,
I will no longer stand under his window.
Let his heart break like mine;
then he will not be so conceited.
Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 3.42.10 PM

“Shteyt in tol an alte mil” Performed by M.M. Shaffir

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2019 by yiddishsong

Shteyt in tol an alte mil / An Old Mill Stands in the Valley
Words by M. M. Shaffir,  Music -“adapted from a Romanian folk melody”
Recorded by Itzik Gottesman, Bronx

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The poet M. M. Shaffir (1909 -1988) was born in Suchava/Suceava (in Yiddish – “Shots”), Bukovina, Austria-Hungary; today – Romania. He immigrated to Montreal in 1939 and published 18 books of poetry. He was known for his love of Jewish folklore and his expert knowledge of the Yiddish language.

Screen Shot 2019-02-21 at 1.38.12 PM

M.M. Shaffir, Screen Shot from Cindy Marshall’s Film “A Life of Song: a Portrait of Ruth Rubin”

He was a close friend of the linguist, writer and editor Mordkhe Schaechter, and visited him in the Bronx several times.  At one of these occasions in 1974, the Sholem-Aleichem Cultural Center organized an event honoring his visit and afterward he sang three songs that he had composed at the Gottesman home across the street.

In this post we look at the first of those three songs, a doina-style melody Shteyt in tul an alte mil. He included the words and music in his collection Bay der kholem multer (Montreal, 1983) which are attached.

Several lines in his performance differ from the printed poem. On top of the musical notation, Shaffir wrote “loyt a Romeynishn folksmotiv” – “adapted from a Romanian folk melody.” To compare a Romanian traditional song to Shaffir’s composition Romanian music researcher Shaun Williams suggested listening to this Romanian doina sung by Maria Tanase:

Singer and scholar Michael Alpert also suggested listening to this Romanian “epic ballad”:

In Cindy Marshall’s film “A Life of Song: A Portrait of Ruth Rubin”, Shaffir can be seen in the episode where Rubin records singers in Montreal. The photo of him in this blog is taken from that scene. The entire film can be seen at YIVO’s Ruth Rubin Legacy website.

TRANSCRIPTION

1) Shteyt in tul an alte mil.
Veyn ikh dortn in der shtil.
Shteyen dortn verbes tsvey
Veyn ikh oys mayn harts far zey.

2) Ergets vayt in kelt un shney
iz gefaln mayn Andrei.
Ergets af a vistn feld.
Hot zayn harts zikh opgeshtelt.

3)Deym boyars tsvey sheyne zin
zenen nisht avek ahin.
Nor Andrei hot men opgeshikt
hot a koyl zayn harts fartsikt.

4) Hot zayn harts zikh opgeshtelt.
Ergets oyf a vistn feld.
Ergets vayt in kelt un shney
S’iz mir vind un s’iz mir vey.

TRANSLATION

An old mill stands in the field
where I cry there quietly.
Two willows are there
and I cry my heart out for them.

Somewhere distant in cold and snow
my Andrei has fallen.
Somewhere on a barren field
his heart stopped beating.

The boyar’s two handsome sons
did not go there.
Only Andrei was sent
and a bullet devoured his heart.

His heart stopped beating
somewhere on a barren field.
Somewhere far in cold and snow,
Woe is me, how it hurts!

From Bay der kholem multer by M.M. Shaffir (Montreal, 1983) pp. 72-73:
Screen Shot 2019-02-21 at 2.15.02 PMScreen Shot 2019-02-21 at 2.15.20 PM

Merke Levine Performs “Mayn harts, mayn harts”

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2018 by yiddishsong

Mayn harts, mayn harts / My heart, my heart
Sung by Merke (Mary) Levine, recorded by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman
Bronx, July 6, 1991

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The singer Merke (Mary) Levine was from Belarus and came to NY after the first world war. She lived in the Bronx and was active in the Yiddish left, and later in life was a board member of the Sholem Aleichem Cultural Center in the Bronx. Her husband Tevye Levine was a teacher in the Arbeter ordn folkshuln.

merkeMerke (Mary) Levine

This love song Mayn harts, mayn harts is found twice in the YIVO Ruth Rubin on-line collection. There it is sung both by Golde Fried and her husband Israel (Sruli) Freed with the same melody and only minor textual differences.

In terms of  Yiddish folksong poetry, what stands out is the line “Mayne gedanken – ahin, aher”, which I translated as “My thoughts – any way you look at it”.  The expression “ahin-aher” or “hin-her” can also mean “after long discussion”, or “to get to the point”

TRANSCRIPTION

Mayn harts, mayn harts veynt in mir.
Ikh darf zikh sheydn itst mit dir.
Mayne gedanken – ahin-aher.
Mit dir tsu sheydn iz mir shver.

Vu forstu mayn zis lebn?
Vu forstu fun mir avek?
Vu vel ikh dir darfn zukhn?
Zog zhe mir in velkhn veg?

Fun yedn shtetele, fun yedn derfele,
a brivele shraybn zolstu mir.
Betn, bet ikh dir mayn zis lebn,
nit fargesn zolstu mir.

TRANSLATION

My heart, my heart cries in me.
I must now part with you.
My thoughts – anyway you look at it: [lit: this way, that way]
to leave you is hard for me.

Where are you traveling my dear love?
Where are you traveling and leaving me?
Where will I have to search for you?
Tell me in which way?

From each town, from each village
you should write me a letter.
I ask of you, my dear love,
please not to forget me.

mayn harts yiddish

“Shtey ikh mir in ayn vinkele” Performed by Itka Factorovich Sol

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2017 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

This week’s Yiddish Song of the Week is a submission from Steve Balkin – a 1958 recording he made in Detroit on a Webcor reel to reel tape recorder of his grandmother, a wonderful singer, Itka Factorovich Sol.

IMG_2089

Itka Factorovich Sol (left), pictured with her younger sister Channa-Leya “Lizzie” Factorovich in the City of Chernigov, Ukraine, ca. 1910. Courtesy of Steve Balkin.

Balkin writes the following about her:

My bubbe Itka Factorovich Sol (shortened from Zolotnitsky) was from Chernigov, Ukraine (Ukrainian – Chernihiv, Yiddish – Tshernigov) but it might have been Russia then. She spoke Russian and Yiddish, and a little English. She and my zeyde Nathan Sol (Nauach Zolotnitsky), living in Neshin, migrated to Chicago in 1912 and owned and ran a fish store. Up above the fish store lived Menasha Skolnick’s sister. Later in 1955 she moved with us to Detroit. Since my mother worked, she spent a lot of time raising me. She kept a kosher house, sang a lot of lullabies, and was a great baker and cook.  I still have the taste of her taiglach (small, knotted pastries boiled in honey) on my tongue. 

IMG_2092

Itka Factorovich Sol (center) with her sisters at a party in New York City, 1948. Courtesy of Steve Balkin.

This is yet another Yiddish song about a drunk who has a conversation with the moon and beats his wife. (See: “Ekh zits mir in shenkl” [“I sit in the tavern”] sung by Michael Alpert on the CD The Upward Flight: The Musical World of S. An-sky and the commentary there.) In fact the number of Yiddish songs about drunks is large enough to form its own section – “Shikurim-lider” – in Folklor-lider vol. 2, Moscow, 1936.

In this song the singer refers to the “monopol”. The liquor store in Russia under the Czar was referred to as the “monopol”, since the Czarist regime had full control over it.

I found two textual variants of this song, and screen shots of them are included at the end of the post. “Epes tut mir mayn harts zogn” is found in Skuditski/Viner Folklor-lider Moscow, 1933, page 141, #12. “Monopol, monopol” is in Skuditski/Viner Folklor-lider, vol. 2 , Moscow 1936, page 263-264, #5.

Thanks to David Braun for assistance with the Yiddish text.

Shtey ikh mir in ayn [=a] vinkele
eyner aleyn.
In mayne oygn iz mir fintster;
ze nit vuhin tsu geyn.

Shiker iz di gantse velt.
S’zet zikh (?) dokh aleyn
un di veg iz mir farshtelt.
Ikh ze nit vuhin ikh gey.

Ot ersht, ot ersht hot di levone geshaynt.
Zi hot azey likhtik geshaynt.
Mit a mol hot zi ir ponim farshtelt
Azey vi unter [=hinter] a vant.

Di levone vil a bisele bronfn,
A make hot zi gelt.
Hot zi zikh far mir farshemt
un hot ir ponim farshtelt.

Levone, levone, kum aher,
ikh vel dir epes zogn.
Di velt lozt zikh nokh nit oys;
Ikh ken dir an eytse gebn.

Ikh hob far dir ayn [=a] gutn plan.
Du zolst mikh nor oyshern.
Kum mit mir in monopol,
Farzetsn a por shtern.

Epes tut mir haynt mayn harts zogn
gor a naye zakh.
Ikh vil haynt mayn vayb shlogn.
Es vet zayn zeyer glaykh.

Di letste fleshl fun tsu kopnl
nemt zi bay mir aroys
un trinkt oyset biz ayn [=eyn] tropn
un lozt mir gor nit oys.

Just standing in a corner
all alone.
My eyes see darkness,
I don’t see where to go.

The whole world is drunk.
That everyone can see.
And the road is hidden.
I cannot see where to go.

Just now, just now the moon was shining,
She shone so brightly.
Suddenly she covered her face,
as if behind a wall.

The moon wants a little whiskey.
But money she has none.
So she was shamed before me,
and covered up her face.

“Moon, moon come over here
I want to tell you something.
The world is not coming to an end;
So let me give you some advice.

I have for you a good plan
Please hear me out.
Come with me to the “monopol”  [=liquor store]
We’ll pawn a few stars.”

Something told my heart today
something brand new.
I want to beat my wife;
that will be well deserved.

The last bottle that’s by my head
She takes away from me.
She drinks it down to the last drop
and leaves me none.

 

shtey1shtey2

 

 

shtey3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Epes tut mir mayn harts zogn” is found in Skuditski/Viner Folklor-lider Moscow, 1933, page 141 #12:

epes1

epes2

“Monopol, monopol” is in Skuditski/Viner Folklor-lider, vol. 2 , Moscow 1936, page 263-264, #5:

monopol1monopol2