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“Kale lebn, kale lebn” A Badkhn Parody Performed by Dora Libson

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2021 by yiddishsong

Kale lebn, kale lebn
A badkhn parody sung by Dora Libson
Recorded by Lionel Libson, 1977

Transcribed by Eliezer Niborski, English translation by Itzik Gottesman.

Kale-lebמ, kale-lebn
Kale-lebn, kale-lebn,
Meyn darfsti veynen un shrayen.
Az zolst hobn aza velt azoy zis
vi borsht fun klayen.
Un zolst darfn geyn borgn un layen.
Un zolst keyn mol nit aroys
funem rov un funem dayen.

Dear bride, dear bride,
You should cry and scream some more.
You should have a world so sweet
as borsht made with bran.
You should rely on borrowing and lending.
And may you never get out from 
the rabbi and his assistant.

Oy, a ber un a shver un a shlimazelnitse 
zenen dokh oykhet darbay.
A ber hot a langn veydl 
un a shver hot lib a sheyn meydl.
Un az a shlimezalnitse geyt in mark – 
fardripet zi dus kleydl.

Oy, a bear and a father-in-law and an unlucky woman
are also present. 
A bear has a long tail,
and a father-in-law loves a pretty girl.
And when an unlucky woman goes to market
she spatters her dress

Oy, a bukher un a meydl un a shlimezalnitse
zenen dokh oykhet darbay.
A bukher az er geyt avek heyst men zikh im nit (h)aylen.
un a meydl, az zi geyt avek heyst men zikh ir nit zamen.
Un az me shikt a shlimezalnitse nokh fleysh 
brengt zi plyamen.

Oy, a young man and girl and an unlucky woman
are present as well. 
A young men when he leaves is told not to hurry
and a girl, when she leaves is told not to wait.
And when you send an unlucky woman to buy meat
she comes back with stains. 

כּלה־לעבן, כּלה־לעבן
,מיין דאַרפֿסטו וויינען און שרײַען
אַז זאָלסט האָבן אַ וועלט אַזוי זיס
.ווי באָרשט פֿון קלײַען
,זאָלסט דאַרפֿן גיין באָרגן און לײַען
און זאָלסט קיין מאָל ניט אַרויס
.פֿונעם רבֿ און פֿונעם דיין

אוי, אַ בער און אַ שווער און אַ שלימזלניצע
.זענען דאָך אויכעט דערבײַ
אַ בער האָט אַ לאַנגן וויידל
.און אַ שווער האָט ליב אַ שיין מיידל
–און אַ שלימזלניצע גייט אין מאַרק
.פֿאַרדריפּעט זי דאָס קליידל

אוי, אַ בחור און אַ מיידל און אַ שלימזלניצע
.זענען אויכעט דערבײַ
אַ בחור, אַז ער גייט אַוועק, הייסט מען זיך אים ניט אײַלן, [אַרויסגערעדט „הײַלן”]
,און אַ מיידל, אַז זי גייט אַוועק, הייסט מען זיך איר ניט זאַמען
,און אַז מע שיקט אַ שלימזלניצע נאָך פֿלייש
… ברענגט זי פּליאַמען 
[“וואַריאַנט־מערצאָל פֿון „פּליאַמע“ = „פֿלעק]

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

In the spirit of Purim this week, we present a parody of a badkhn’s bazetsns.  Before the ceremony of veiling the bride, the wedding entertainer, the badkhn, used to address the bride, reminding her of the youth that she leaves behind and how to lead an observant Jewish life with her husband. Sometimes the rhymes would be a stretch, almost non-sensical  and that is at the heart of the parodies.

I believe the repeated lines in our parody “…are also present” are mocking the lines of the badkhn when he reminds the bride that although her parents or grandparents may have died, they are with her today at this happy occassion. 

The badkhn parodies are usually of the bazetsns, the seating, and the badekns, the veiling; two emotional moments before the marriage under the khupe/canopy. The bazetsns is strickly a women’s ceremony, except for the badkhn, and a time of much weeping. I have added below two pages from Hayyim Schauss’s work The Lifetime of a Jew (1976) in which he discusses these moments at the wedding. Schauss was a Litvak from Lithuania so much of what he describes is particularly true of his region. It is worth reading.

This is a link to a “real” badekns, not a parody, as sung by Majer Bogdanski, born 1912 in Piotrkow-Tribunalsky, Poland, from the CD Yiddish songs / Yiddishe liders:

One can also see the badkhn perform in such Yiddish films “Yidl mitn fidl” “Uncle Moses” and “The Dybbuk”. The badkhn tradition has made a comeback in today’s Hasidic world and many examples can be found on YouTube. As far as I can tell, they have become mainly comics, and do not paricipate in other wedding ceremonies.

To get a feel for the type of music that might be played at the bazetsn, here is violinist Jutta Bogen playing an example (from Pete- this one has the structue of a Romanian doina):

Many such bazetsnbadekn parodies were recorded on 78 RPMs in the 1910s- 1930s, and even later. Here is Henri Gerro’s Kolomeyer badchn. The badkhones parody begins at 1:00.  

Further reading on the badkhn:

1) Article by Joel Rosenberg “Badkhones in Life and Cinema” on the website In geveb
2) “Badkhonim” in the YIVO Encyclopedia by Jean Baumgarten.
3) Book: הבדחן (in Hebrew) by Ariela Krasney

Special thanks this week to Eliezer Niborski who transcribed the recording. 

Excerpt from Hayyim Schauss’s work The Lifetime of a Jew (1976):

“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.