Archive for M. M. Shaffir

“A Badekns/Veiling the Bride” Performed by M.M. Shaffir

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 7, 2019 by yiddishsong

A badekns/Veiling the Bride
Sung and composed by M.M. Shaffir, recorded in the Bronx, 1974

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

In his Yiddish poetry collections, the Montreal poet M. M. Shaffir occasionally included folksongs, rhymes and jokes that he remembered from his home town in Romania, Suceava (“Shots” in Yiddish). This original badekns, words and music, was printed in his collection of Yiddish poetry Ikh kum aheym, and follows very closely the traditional badekns that the badkhn (wedding entertainer) would deliver at the veiling of the bride. The printed pages with the Yiddish words and music are attached as pdfs.

ShafirBildM.M. Shaffir, photo by Itzik Gottesman

Shaffir did not clearly indicate that the music is his composition and not a traditional tune remembered from Suceava, but since he did compose other melodies for his poetry, I am leaning toward crediting him as composer the music as original.

Shaffir’s badekns, as is typical of the genre, addresses mainly the bride, then al the women, telling her of her wonderful future and how a pious religious Jewish life will assure her a place in heaven.

Listening to Shaffir sing this song in the Bronx are Beyle and Jonas Gottesman, the Yiddish writer Vera Hacken and her husband, the composer Emanuel Hacken.

Because the song is longer than usual, we are alternating transliteration with translation.

TRANSLITERATION/TRANSLATION

Kalenyu, tsat tsi der khipe geyn –
bam khusn hosti deym zibetn kheyn.
Gefin azoy kheyn oykh ba Got un ba lat.
Az dan shem zol zikh trugn noent un vat.

Dear bride, time to go to the khupe.
The groom is enamored of you.
May God and all people see this charm,
so your reputation, will be heard near and far.

A shem-tov iz beser fun gutn eyl,
vi s’vert in di heylike sfurim dertseylt.
Far vur, er iz shener fin alerley tsir,
un er hit fin shlekhts deym erlekhns tir.

A good name is better than good oil,
as it is written in the holy books.
Indeed, it is more beautiful than all kinds of ornaments.
and protects from evil the honest one’s door

Nushim tsidkuniyes, beydns tsad –
aykh kimt hant der ershter vivat.
kalenyu, kik tsa di babes aher –
zey, vi zey shmeykhlen un lozn a trer.

Pious women on both sides –
you deserve the first praise.
Bride, look over to the grandmothers –
see how they smile and drop a tear.

Shtel zikh, kale, ba zey in rey,
un her mayne shloyshe dvurim tsvey –
az dort, vi mitsves hobn an ort,
iz shulem-bayes oykh do dort.

Bride, stand with them in row,
and hear my few words –
– there where mitsves find a place,
there is also peace at home.

Mitsves brengen di brukhe in hoyz,
in trabn fin dort deym dales aroys.
Zey bentshn mit gite doyres dus pur
in mit khayim- arikhim, gezinte yur.

Mitsves (good deeds/fulfillment of God’s commandments) bring blessings to the home,
and drive out poverty from there.
They bless the pair with good generations
and with a long and healthy life.

Fin mitsves hot men i du deym skhar,
un i s’iz af yener velt git derfar.
Vayl mitsves un maynsim toyvim nor
nemt mit der mentsh iber hindert yur.

From mitsves you receive both here a reward,
and in the word to come it will be good.
Because mitsves and good deeds
lasts for someone a hundred years.

Fin intern kisey-hakuved afir,
fin hinter a zilberner lekhtiker tir,
kimt di neshume arup of der erd,
aran inem gif, val azoy iz bashert.

From under God’s throne,
from behind a silver, illuminated door,
comes the soul down to earth,
and into the body for which he is destined.

Zi darf zikh du mitshen a lebn vist
un nisht vern farzindikt, nisht vern farrist,
un kimen tsirik far Got tsi geyn –
azoy vi geboyrn, tsikhtik un reyn.

It [the soul] must suffer here a life long
and not sin, not be torn away.
and return to God
the way it was born – pure and clean.

In gan-eydn shteyen shtiln gegreyt
in shan fin der shkhine, mit vasn geshpreyt,
batsirt un bahungen mit gildene tsikh –
in rifn di reyne neshumes tse zikh.

In paradise two chairs are prepared,
in the light of the shekhine, covered with white,
decorated and hung with a golden cover.
and call for the pure souls to come.

Un der vus hot af der zindiker erd
mitsves getin un gits geklert –
der zitst in gan-eydn oybn un
in bigdey-sheynkeyt ungetun.

And he who on this sinful earth
did mitsves and good deeds,
he sits in heaven at the head of the table,
and dressed in beautiful clothes.

In zkhis fin dan tsitkis, kalenyu kroyn,
zol zikh ekn der gulus bald un shoyn –
me zol zoykhe zan take gor in gikh
tsu hern dem shoyfer shel moshiakh.

Because of your piousness, dear bride,
may the exile soon end.
May we deserve right away
to hear the Messiah’s shofar.

Melukhim un surim zoln varfn fin shrek
tsin indzere tsures zol nemen an ek.
in Got zol mit zan rekhter hant
indz firn tsirik in heylikn land.

Let angels and seraphim shutter from fear,
our troubles should come to an end.
and God should with his right hand,
lead us back to the Holy Land.

Ikh heyb of mit a tfile dem bekher mit van
az halevay zol es nokh beyomeyni zan.
in ir, khusn-kale, in ir groys un kleyn –
zugt mir nokh af a kol un in eynem: “omeyn”

With a prayer I raise the goblet of wine,
that this should happen even in our own time.
And you, bride and groom, and you big and small,
say with me out aloud and together – “amen”
badekns music

badekns yid 1badekns yid 2

“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

“Ikh bin a tsigaynerl a kleyner” Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 29, 2018 by yiddishsong

Ikh bin a tsigaynerl a kleyner / I am a Small Gypsy (Rom) Lad
Pre-war version from Chernovitz, Romania.
Sung by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman [BSG]
Recorded by Itzik Gottesman at the Sholem Aleichem Cultural Center, Bronx 1980s.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The more popular song version of this poem by Itzik Manger (1901 – 1969) was composed by Hertz Rubin (1911 – 1958) and has been recorded by at least thirteen artists. According to Chana and Yosl Mlotek in Songs of Generations, the singer Masha Benya received that version from Manger’s widow Genia Manger after the second world war in NY.

MangerItzik Manger in his Chernovitz days, 1920s

But this earlier version has a different melody, and slightly different words without the “Ekh du fidele du mayn” refrain. BSG learned this song in Chernovitz, which was Romania between the world wars and is now in the Ukraine.

Manger’s lyrics carry a number of commonly-held negative stereotypes about Romany (Gypsy) culture. However, considering the time in which he was writing, through first-person narration, Manger creates a sympathetic window into the challenges faced by Roma including poverty, oppression, and a sense of otherness as a minority community. The ever-wandering Manger, no doubt, felt like a kindred spirit.

In the Ruth Rubin Legacy: Archive of Yiddish Folksongs at YIVO, Sore Kessler sings this Chernovitz version and explains she learned it from the Yiddish poet M. M. Shaffir in Montreal. Shaffir was also from the Bukovina region (not Bessarabia as Kessler says in her spoken introduction), and a friend of BSG. Some of Kessler’s text differs and she sings a verse that BSG does not:

Shtendik zaynen mir af vegn,
mir af vegn.
Say bay nakht,
un say in regn.

Always are we travelling,
travelling [on the roads.]
Both at night
and in the rain.

Accordionist Mishka Zignaoff (who was a Yiddish-speaking Russian Rom musician based in New York) recorded the melody as Galitzianer khosid (Galician Hasid) in a medley with the famous Reb Dovidl’s nign.

I am posting this song to mark Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman’s 5th yortsayt (1920 – 2013) which falls on the second candle of khanike.

BeyleItzikTapes2Beyle and Itzik Gottesman looking over Yiddish field recordings, 1970s.

TRANSLITERATION

BSG Spoken: [Itzik Manger] iz geveyn maner a landsman, un hot geredt Yidish vi ekh. Vel ikh zingen in durem-yidish azoy vi er hot geredt. “Ikh bin a tsiganerl a kleyner” un di lider vus ikh zing zenen a bisele, tsi mul, andersh vi ir zingt zey, val ikh ken zey nokh fun der heym.

1) Ikh bin a tsigaynerl a kleyner, gur a kleyner
ober vi ir zeyt a sheyner.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

Ikh veys nisht vi ikh bin geboyrn, bin geboyrn.
Di mame hot mikh in steppe farloyrn
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

2) Dem tatn hot men oyfgehongen, oyfgehongen
Vayl er iz ganvenen gegangen
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

Burves, hingerik un freylekh, ober freylekh
Fil ikh zikh vi a ben-meylekh.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

3) In mayn lidl kent ir hern, kent ir hern
Mayn tatns zifts, mayn mames trern.
Tra-La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

S’kost in gantsn nor a drayer, nor eyn drayer.
S’iz mayn veytik gurnisht tayer.
Trala-la-la-la-la-la-la

Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

TRANSLATION

BSG Spoken: “[Itzik Manger] was from the same city as me and spoke Yiddish as I do. So I will sing in the southern Yiddish that he spoke.  “Ikh bin a tsiganerl a kleyner” and the other songs that I will sing are a little different than the way you sing them because I learned them form home.”

I’m a small Gypsy lad, a very small Gypsy lad,
But as you see good-looking.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

I don’t know where I was born, was born.
My mother lost me somewhere in the Steppes.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

Refrain: Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

They hanged my father, hanged my father
Because he went thieving.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

Barefoot, hungry and merry, always merry.
I feel like a prince.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

Refrain: Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

In my song you can hear, can hear
My father’s sigh, my mother’s tears.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

It will only cost you three kopecks.
My suffering doesn’t cost much at all.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la
tsigaynerl 1

tsigaynerl 2

tsigaynerl3