Archive for Michael Alpert

“Mentshn getraye: a matse-podriad lid” Performed by Jacob Gorelik

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2017 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This year’s Passover is now complete, so please save this song for next year’s festival!

Mentshn getraye: a matse-podriad lid is the second matse-baking song we have posted on Yiddish Song of the Week. The first was “Mir nemen veytslekh”, sung by Dora Libson.  Mentshn getraye was recorded from Jacob Gorelik by Michael Alpert and me in New York City in 1984, and Alpert later recorded his own performance of the song on the Lori Cahan-Simon Ensemble’s CD Songs My Bubbe Should Have Taught Me: Volume One: Passover.

MatseBaking

Pre-war matse baking [from the Yad-Vasham Photo Archives]

In this posting we present original field recording of that song. The tradition of Matse-podriad continues in religious Jewish circles today and one can see samples of it on the internet. The spirit has remained jovial, often musical, over the years. Here is a current example with the Mishkoltz Rebbe:

Jacob Gorelik introduces the song with these words:  “…the second song I heard in my town. My mother and other mothers sang it. It was called the “Matse-podriad-lid”.  In town there was a custom, that once a year when Passover came, money was collected especially for poor people who could not buy matse, could not buy wine. Help! No way to celebrate Passover. It [custom] was called moes-khitin. That was one thing.

The second thing was – the matse was the primary thing. So the whole town got together and there was complete unity – the orthodox, the “modern” ones, the Zionists,  Bundists, socialists. They used to rent a house with an oven, and buy wood, buy flour and hire people to bake the matse. And this was called a community “matea bakery” by the entire Jewish community.

And as someone once asked – when you sing, or you do something good – do you do it for youself or for the other person? It was a combination. One had it mind that you were doing it for the poor. You were baking matse for them. But at the same time, at that time it was a joy in town becasue it was  a boring life.  It was also an opportunity for girls and boys to get together. And we used to sing and this is one of those songs that were sung. Who composed the song…This song is light verse. It’s not ‘pure’ poetry; but it’s humorously colored. According to what Mendel Elkin once told me the writer was Tunkel – or “The Tunkeler” [The dark one] his pseudonym.

The melody, I learned later when I was living in America, comes from a Ukrainian song “Nutshe Khloptse”. And now the song:

Mentshn getraye, farnumene un fraye,
Bay vemen es iz nor tsayt faran.
Git aher ayer pratse, un helft bakn matse,
dem noyt-baderftikn man.

Hentelekh ir kleyne, eydele un sheyne,
bikhelekh nor trogn ir kent.
Pruvt nor visn, eyn mol in Nisan
dem tam fun mazolyes af di hent.

Ir gvirishe meydlekh, helft kneytn teyglekh
mit ayere vaysinke hent.
Teygelekh geknotn vi Got hot gebotn,
Kosher un erlekh un fayn.

Spoken: A freylekhn Peysekh! Flegt men zogn  alemen.

TRANSLATION

Dear people, those who are busy, and those who are free.
Whoever has some time to spare.
Donate your labor to help bake matse
for the man in need.

Little hands, delicate and beautiful,
who only could carry books.
Get to know at least once during the month of Nisan,
the taste of calluses on your hands.

You well-off girls, help knead the dough
with your white hands.
Flour all kneaded, as God has commanded,
Kosher, and honest and fine

Spoken: “Happy Passover!” Is what we wished everyone.

MatsaBakingYID-page-001MatsaBakingYID-page-002

CROP 3 MatsaBakingYID-page-003

Though Gorelick was from Byelorussia, the song text is also found in the writings of Galician writer Soma Morgenstern, who quotes it in his book “The Third Pillar” (1955), page 59, translated from the German [see below]. I have yet to find this poem in Der Tunkeler’s writings.

Morgenstern Cropped

“Nakhtishe lider” Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2012 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The author of the text to “Nakhtishe lider”, Herz Rivkin was born Herzl Heisiner in Capresti, Bessarabia (today Moldova) in 1908, and died in a Soviet gulag, November 14, 1951. The poem is taken from  his only printed poetry collection “In shkheynishn dorf”  [From the Neighboring Village], Bucharest, 1938. Reprinted in Bucharest, 1977.

Herz Rivkin

The composer of the melody is unknown. The performer of this week’s posting, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (my mother), learned this song in Chernovitz in the 1930s. The only recording of the song is by Arkady Gendler on his CD “My Hometown Soroke”,  2001. That version is incomplete with two verses by Rivkin, and a third by Gendler.  Gendler titles the song “Nakhtike lider” which is the original title in Rivkin’s book.

Singer Michael Alpert has initiated and directs a concert program with singer/bandura player Julian Kytasty which brings together Jewish and Ukrainian singers and musicians in a collaborative program, the title of which “Night Songs from a Neighboring Village” was inspired by this song.

I recorded my mother’s performance of “Nakhtishe lider” at home in the Bronx in the 1980s. The audio quality of the recording is unfortunately not stable (be careful when listening – the volume increases significantly at 0:27), but Schaechter-Gottesman’s singing here is a wonderful example of what I would call urban interwar Yiddish singing and contrasts powerfully with the older plaintive, communal shtetl-style of her mother Lifshe Schaechter-Widman.

Nakhtishe lider fun shkheynishn dorf
farblondzen amol tsu mayn ganik.
Zey leshn mayn troyer; zey gletn mayn umet.
Zey flisn vi zaftiker honig.

Night Songs from the neighboring village.
Lose their way to my porch.
They extinguish my sadness; they caress my melancholy.
They flow like juicy honey.

Lider khakhlatske, muntere, frishe.
Vos shmekn mit feld un mit shayer.
Zey filn di luft un mit varemkeyt liber,
vos shtromt fun a heymishn fayer.

Ukrainian Songs, upbeat and fresh
that smell with field and barn.
They fill the air with a loving warmth,
that streams from an intimiate fire.

Nakht iz in shtetl, ikh lig afn ganik.
Ver darf haynt der mames geleyger?
Iz vos, az s’iz eyns? Iz vos, az s’iz tsvey?
Iz vos az shlogt dray shoyn der zeyger?

It’s nighttime in town; I lay on my porch.
Who needs today my mother’s place to sleep?
So what if it’s one? So what if it’s two?
So what if the clock strikes three?

Her ikh un ikh veys nisht iz yontif in dorf.
Tsi es hilyen zikh glat azoy yingen.
Az vos iz der khilek? Oyb s’vet bald, mir dakht
di levone oykh onheybn tsu zingen.

I listen and I don’t know if it’s a celebration in the village,
or just some kids are singing.
But what is the difference? If soon, it seems
The moon will also start to sing.

Azoy gisn amol zikh fun skheynishn dorf
heymishe, zaftike tener.
Biz s’heybt on frimorgn tsu vargn di nakht
un ez heybn on kreyen shoyn di heyner.

In this way pours out, from the neighboring village
intimate, juicy melodies.
Until the early morning begins to choke the night
and the roosters start to crow.

Songs for Peysakh

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 13, 2012 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

As Passover comes to a close with “di tsveyte teg yontif” (the second days of the holidays), we acknowledge the website YouTube as a wonderful resource for Yiddish folksongs by posting three Yiddish Passover songs that were sent to us.  Yiddish dance teacher and researcher Steve Weintraub sent us the links to the first two and a person who wishes to remain nameless sent us the third one.
#1 is a Yiddish version of Khad gadyo which is unknown to me; any help identifying it would be helpful; it sounds like a relatively recent composition.The second song rhyming meydlekh and kneydlekh is a version of “Yontif peysekh…” or “Akh vi voyl, un akh vi gut“…and is in Michael Alpert’s repertoire. The song usually discusses all the holidays; a verse on Passover is already found in the Ginzburg/Marek collection of 1901, “Yiddish Folksongs in Russia”, St. Petersburg  Song #33.   In song #39, of the same volume, there appears Uncle Sidney’s stanza.
#2 Baba’s song is a version of “Pey Luhem” that we previously posted on the Yiddish Song of the Week. Since the Hallel prayer appears in the Haggadah and is the basis for the song, it is clear why this song is also considered a Passover song, while others sing it at Simkhes toyre to poke fun at the “other gods.”
#3 is Betty’s Yiddish Khad gadyo song – “Eyn tshigele” (Litvish Yiddish pronunciation of “tsigele” = one kid”) is a new one to me, but it’s interesting that the refrain is in Yiddish and does not repeat the Aramaic “Khad gadyo” as one usually hears.

“Mir nemen veytslekh” Performed by Dora Libson

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2012 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Mir nemen veytslekh is a matso-baking song, sung in a Litvish-Yiddish dialect by the singer Dora Libson. This version was recorded in 1977 by Lionel Libson. Dora is from the Western Ukraine. [See her earlier post in this blog for her biography].

The collective baking of matse during the weeks preceeding Passover was, (and is in Orthodox circles today) a joyous event, and the songs that accompany the event, are playful work songs. For another example listen to Michael Alpert sing Dos lid fun matse bakn on the Lori Cahan-Simon Ensemble‘s CD Songs My Bubbe Should Have Taught Me, Volume One: Passover.

The singer sings “moyre” instead of “meyre,” a dialectical hypercorrection. Meyre is the dough of the matse.

I was unsure of the words in a couple of places and any corrections or suggestions would be welcome.

Mir nemen veytslekh

“We Take Wheat”

Mir nemen veytslekh, a fule koyshn,
Afile ot azelkhe.
Un mir moln, un mir moln,
moln veytslekh bilkhe.

We take wheat, baskets full
Even ones like these.
And we grind and we grind
Grinding the preferred wheat.

Itstert kinder nemt a zipke
un tsezipt di mel.
Zipt zhe, zayt zhe, zipt zhe, zayt zhe,
varft aroys di klayen.

Now children take a sifter
and sift the flour.
Sift and strain, sift and strain.
Throw out the bran.

Itstert kinder farkatsht di arbl,
Khane ober [oder] dvoyre.
Shit on mel, gist on vaser,
un farknet a moyre [meyre].

Now children roll up your sleeves,
Khane or Dvoyre.
Pour out flour, pour out water,
and knead the meyre.

Un fun der moyre shnaydt on teyglekh,
shnaydt on teyglekh kleyne.
Velgert, velgert, velgert, velgert,
velgert matses sheyne.

And from the meyre cut up clumps of dough.
Cut up the clumps small.
Roll and roll, roll and roll [with the rolling pin.]
Roll the beautiful matzos.

Itstert kinder nemt a redl,
a redl mit sharfe tseyner.
Redlt, redlt, redlt, redlt,
feln zol nisht keyner.

Now children take the hole puncher,
a puncher with sharp teeth.
Puncture, puncture, puncture, puncture,
And no one should be missing.

Itstert kinder zetst di matses;
der eyvn [oyvn] iz a heyser.
Vasht zikh opet, nemt aroyset,
Esn vi der keyser!

Now children put in the matzos,
the oven is hot.
Wash up and take them out,
Let‘s eat them like the emperor.  

“Pey luhem” Performed by Mordkhe Bauman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 28, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottemsman

Mordkhe Bauman’s performance of the song Pey luhem (“They Have Mouths”) was recorded in the Bronx by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman in the 1980s. The song is also called “Atsabeyhem kesef vezohev” (“Their Idols are Silver and Gold”) and a printed version, very similar to Bauman‘s can be found in Folks-gezangen loytn nusekh fun Chaim Kotylansky Los Angeles 1944, pages 56-57. There are several 78s of Kotylansky singing but not this song (see Richard K. Spottswood’s Ethnic Music on Records, Volume 3).

A different version on Youtube can now be viewed, performed by Dovid Vider, recorded as part of Indiana University’s Aheym Project, in Kolomey, Ukraine, May 2003.

Eventually, I will post another version I recorded with a different melody by Itzik Zucker from the region of Volhinya. He told me that the song was performed on the holiday of Simkhes-toyre, and Kotylansky comments that „The Chassidim sing it on every holiday, whenever „Hallel‟ is sung.‟ There is a tradition to sing songs that ridicule the non-Jews on Simkhes-toyre, and this is one of the more popular ones.

The song takes words from the Hallel prayer, which is in turn based on Psalm 115, and translates the lines into Yiddish to comic effect. In Bauman‘s version, Polish words are often humorously used to describe the body parts of the non-Jewish gods. For example: the Polish word for blind person to refer to blind eyes „szlepez‟; the Polish word for ears „uchos‟ to refer to their deaf ears.

Thanks to Prof. Dov-Ber Kerler who sent me a link to a great discussion list in Yiddish that discusses various amazing versions of this song (for example: „their gods have a throat like a giraffe‟). Scroll down and read the whole discussion!

One important word in Bauman‘s version remains unclear to me. Kharboyne seems to indicate Harbonah of the Megillah. Why he is referred to in this context – the idol of the non-Jews – is unclear. David Braun believes it is because Kharboyne/Harbonah is a eunuch and therefore impotent.

In the list-serve discussion, one version uses Pondrik (a nickname for Jesus) instead and of course this makes more sense to me. Any opinions on this would be helpful.

Thanks to Michael Alpert for helping with the Polish words.

Pey luhem veloy yedaberu
A piskatsh ot er un er ken nisht redn.
Okh un vey iz tsu zey!
A shtime Kharboyne hobn zey.
A piskatsh ot er, un er redt nisht
Ober eleheynu shebashomayim,
ober indzer got in himl.
Kol asher khufets usu, usu
Vus er vil tit er, tit er.
Vus er vil, tit er, veymen er vil, gibt er.
Vus er vil tit er, veymen er vil, gibt er.

„They have mouths but cannot speak‟ (Hebrew)
A foul mouth (piskacz=Polish) he has and cannot speak.
Woe is to them!
A mute Kharboyne they have.
A foul mouth he has and cannot speak.
But our God in heaven (Hebrew)
But our God in heaven
Can do whatever he wills (Hebrew)
Whatever he wants, he does,
Whomever he wants – he gives.

Eynayim luhem, veloy yiru
Shlepes hot un er ken nisht zeyn.
Okh un vey iz tsu zey,
A blinde Khorboyne hobn zey,
Shlepes ot er, un er zeyt nisht.
A piskatsh ot er, un er redt nisht.
Ober eleheynu shebashomayim,
ober indzer got in himl.
Kol asher khufets usu, usu
Vus er vil tit er, tit er.
Vus er vil, tit er, veymen er vil, gibt er.
Vus er vil tit er, veymen er vil, gibt er.

„They have eyes but cannot see‟ (Hebrew)
Blind eyes (szlepes = Polish) he has and cannot see.
Woe is to them!
A blind Kharboyne they have.
Blind eyes he has but cannot see,
A foul mouth he has but cannot speak,
But our God in heaven (Hebrew)
But our God in heaven
Can do whatever he wills (Hebrew)
Whatever he wants, he does,
Whomever he wants – he gives.

Oznayim luhem, veloy yishmau
Ukhes ot er un er ken nisht hern.
Okh un vey iz tsu zey
A toybe Kharboyne hobn zey.
Ukhes ot er un hert nisht,
shlepes ot er un er zeyt nisht
a piskatsh ot er un er redt nisht
Ober eleheynu shebashomayim,
ober indzer got in himl.
Kol asher khofets usu, usu
Vus er vil tit er, tit er.
Vus er vil, tit er, veymen er vil, gibt er.
Vus er vil tit er, veymen er vil, gibt er.

„They have ears but cannot hear‟ (Hebrew)
Ears (uchos = Polish) he has but cannot hear.
Woe is to them!
A deaf Kharboyne they have.
Ears he has and cannot hear,
Blind eyes he has and cannot see,
A foul mouth he has and cannot speak
But our God in heaven (Hebrew)
But our God in heaven
Can do whatever he wills (Hebrew)
Whatever he wants, he does,
Whomever he wants – he gives.

Af luhem veloy yerikhun
a nonye ot er un er ken nisht shmekhn
okh un vey iz tsu zey
a farshtopte Kharboyne hobn zey.
A nonye ot er, un er shmekt nisht
Ukhes ot er un hert nisht,
shlepes ot er un er zeyt nisht
a piskatsh ot er un er redt nisht
Ober eleheynu shebashomayim,
ober indzer got in himl.
Kol asher khofets usu, usu
Vus er vil tit er, tit er.
Vus er vil, tit er, veymen er vil, gibt er.
Vus er vil tit er, veymen er vil, gibt er.

„They have a nose but cannot smell‟ (Hebrew)
A funny nose/shnoz (nonye) he‘s got, but cannot smell.
Woe is to them!
A stuffed up Kharboyne they have.
A shnoz he has, but cannot smell.
Ears he has and cannot hear,
Blind eyes he has and cannot see.
A foul mouth he has and cannot speak.
But our God in heaven (Hebrew)
But our God in heaven
Can do whatever he wills (Hebrew)
Whatever he wants, he does,
Whomever he wants – he gives.

Yedeyhem veloy yemishun
Lapes ot un er ken nisht tapn
okh un vey iz tsu zey
a kalikevate Kharboyne hobn zey
Lapes ot er un er tapt nsiht,
A nonye ot er un er shmekt nisht,
Ukhes ot er un hert nisht,
shlepes ot er un er zeyt nisht
a piskatsh ot er un er redt nisht
Ober eleheynu shebashomayim,
ober indzer got in himl.
Kol asher khofets usu, usu
Vus er vil tit er, tit er.
Vus er vil, tit er, veymen er vil, gibt er.
Vus er vil tit er, veymen er vil, gibt er.

„Hands he has, but cannot touch‟ (Hebrew)
Paws he has, but cannot touch.
Woe is to them!
A crippled Kharboyne they have.
Paws he has but cannot touch
A shnoz he has, but cannot smell.
Ears he has and cannot hear,
Blind eyes he has and cannot see.
A foul mouth he has and cannot speak.
But our God in heaven (Hebrew)
But our God in heaven
Can do whatever he wills (Hebrew)
Whatever he wants, he does,
Whomever he wants – he gives.

Ragleyhem veloy yehaleykhu
lopetes ot er un er ken nisht geyn.
Okh un vey iz tsu zey,
A lume Kharboyne hobn zey.
Lopetes ot er un er geyt nisht
Lapes ot er un er tapt nisht,
A nonye ot er un er shmekt nisht,
Ukhes ot er un hert nisht,
shlepes ot er un er zeyt nisht
a piskatsh ot er un er redt nisht
Ober eleheynu shebashomayim,
[ober indzer got in himl.]
Kol asher khofets usu, usu
Vus er vil tit er, tit er.
Vus er vil, tit er, veymen er vil, gibt er.
Vus er vil tit er, veymen er vil, gibt er.

„They have feet but cannot walk‟ (Hebrew)
Funny legs (literally = shovels) he has and cannot walk.
Woe is to them!
A lame Kharboyne they have.
Shovels he has and cannot walk,,
Paws he has and cannot touch
A shnoz he has, and cannot smell.
Ears he has and cannot hear,
Blind eyes he has and cannot see.
A foul mouth he has and cannot speak.
But our God in heaven (Hebrew)
But our God in heaven
Can do whatever he wills (Hebrew)
Whatever he wants, he does,
Whomever he wants – he gives.




Four Songs, One Melody

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

In this week‘s entry the reader will get four Yiddish songs for the price of one. What connects them is the same melody. I am not the first to write on the popularity of this tune. The Israeli Yiddish song-researcher Meir Noy wrote an article זמר סובב עולם [The tune that circles the world]  in the Israeli publication אומר, April 13, 1962. I could not find the article yet, so am not sure what he includes.

The first song and perhaps the oldest is a beggar song –  Vu zenen mayne vugn un ferd? (Where are my wagon and horse?); the second song  Yosele mit Blimele (Yosele and Blimele) is a typical lyrical love song. These are sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW, 1893 – 1974), recorded in 1954 in NYC and originate from her Bukovina repertoire that she learned in the small town of Zvinyetchke in the 1890s-early 1900s. I have found no variants of the beggar song, and one of Yosele mit blimele (Oy vey mame,  in the Pipe-Noy collection, see below, page 270-71 with music). The first line as my mother remembers it sung was “Vu iz mayn vugn, vu zenen mayne ferd?” which fits better into the melody; it does indeed sound as if  LSW forgot a syllable or two when she sings it here, and forces it into the melody.

In the interviews that Professor Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett of New York University recorded with LSW in the early 1970s shortly before her death, LSW said that much of her repertoire, particularly the songs about life‘s difficulties, was learned from the older, married women in town, while the younger unmarried women taught her the hopeful love songs. Vu zenen mayne vugn un ferd would fall into the category taught by the married women (vayber) while Yosele mit blimele would be a typical song performed during the Sabbath afternoon walks that the unmarried girls took into the woods. In terms of style, the beggar song is sung slower and more mournful, while the love song is more playful.

LSW sings other versions of Yosele mit blimele including a second verse: 

Az du vest kumen, tsum dokter bay der tir, 
zolst im gebn a vink, azoy vi ikh tsu dir. 
Zolst im gebn a  tuler in der hant. 
Vet er shoyn visn vus mit dir iz genant 

When you come to the doctor’s door,
you should give him a wink, like I give to you.
you should give him a dollar in his hand;
so he will know what embarrased you.

A verse which implies an abortion! But in such a light-hearted song it seems quite incongruous.

The third song – In a kleynem shtibele (In a Small Room) – is sung by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (born 1920) and was recorded May 13th 2011 (last week) in the Bronx. She learned this song in one of her afternoon Yiddish classes in Chernovitz, (then Romania) either at the Morgnroit school (Socialist Bundist) or the Yidisher shulfareyn, a Yiddish cultural group, in the 1920s, early 1930s. Basically the same version was collected by the folklorists Shmuel-Zanvil Pipe and his brother Oyzer Pipe in their hometown of Sanok (in yiddish- Sunik), Galicia, then Poland. Dov and Meir Noy published the Pipe brothers collection in Israel (Folklore Research Studies , Vol. 2, Jerusalem 1971),  and a copy of that version is attached with the music. See the footnote to the song by Dov and Meir Noy (p. 326) for other songs with this melody, and the reference to Meir Noy‘s article mentioned above.

In a kleynem shtibele is a worker‘s song, text written by the writer and ethnographer A. Litvin  (pseudonym of Shmuel Hurvits 1863 – 1943) and the complete original text (Di neyterkes) can be found in M. Bassin‘s Antologye: Finf hundert yor yidishe poezye, volume one 258-259, NY 1917.

The fourth song with the same melody is In shtetl Nikolayev (In the Town of Nikolayev). The Freedman Jewish Sound Archive has information on three recordings: a version by David Medoff (1923); Kapelye (the album „Future and Past‟, sung by Michael Alpert); and the German group Aufwind (from the album „Awek di junge jorn‟). We have included a link to the Medoff performance. See Mark Slobin and Richard Spotwood‘s article on Medoff (David Medoff: A Case Study in Interethnic Popular Culture in American Music, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Autumn, 1985), pp. 261-276.

AUDIO RECORDINGS:

Song 1: Vu zenen mayne vugn un ferd? (Where are my wagon and horse?). Performance by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded in 1954 by Leybl Kahn.

Song 2: Yosele mit Blimele (Yosele and Blimele). Performance by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded in 1954 by Leybl Kahn.

Song 3: In a kleynem shtibele (In a Small Room). Performance by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, recorded May 12, 2011 by Itzik Gottesman.

Song 4: In shtetl Nikolayev (In the Town of Nikolayev). Performance by David Medoff, recorded 1923.

TEXTS AND TRANSLATIONS

Song 1: Vu zenen mayne vugn un ferd? (Where are my wagon and horse?). Performance by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded in 1954 by Leybl Kahn.

Vu zenen mayne vugn un ferd?
Az ikh bin aroysgefurn, hot getsitert himl un erd.
Hant bin ikh urem; shtey ikh ba der tir.
Kimen tsu geyn di sholtikes un lakhn (up?) fin mir.

Where are my wagon and horse?
When I first drove out, heaven and earth shook.
Now that I am poor, I stand at the door.
So the scoundrels come by to mock me.

Vi iz mayn tsiring vus ikh hob gebrakht fin vin?
Vus mayn vab un kinder zenen gegongen ongetin?
Hant az ikh bin urem, shtey ikh far der tir.
Kimen tsu geyn di sholtikes un lakhn up (?) fin mir.

Where is the jewelry that I had brought from Vienna?
That was worn by my wife and children.
Now that I am poor, I stand by the door.
So the scoundrels come by to mock me.


Song 2: Yosele mit Blimele (Yosele and Blimele). Performance by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded in 1954 by Leybl Kahn.

Yosele mit Blimele zey zitsn af a bank.
Oy vey Blimele, ikh bin azoy krank.
Kh‘hob aza krenk, ikh shem zikh oystsuzugn,
Der dokter hot mir geheysn khasene-hobn.

Yosele and Blimele are sitting on a bench.
Oh dear Blimele, I am so very ill.
I have an illness, I am embarrased to reveal –
The doctor ordered me to get married.

Khasene hobn – es geyt dir nor in deym.
Khasene hobn – ken men glaykh ven (?) me vil aleyn.
Khasene hobn – darf men hubn gelt.
Ken men opfirn a sheyne velt.

Getting married – is all you can think of.
Getting married is easy if you want to do by ourselves.
Getting married – you need money for that,
and then you can have a beautiful world.

Yingelekh un meydelekh hot shoyn nisht keyn moyre.
Khasene hubn – es shteyt dokh in der toyre.
As der shnader shnadt – shnadt er mit der mode
un az der rebe vil a vab, meygn mir avode.

Boys and girls, you no longer have to fear.
Getting married – It says so in the Torah.
When the tailor tailors, he cuts according to the fashion
and if the Rebbe wants a wife, then we may too of course.

Song 3: In a kleynem shtibele (In a Small Room). Performance by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, recorded May 12, 2011 by Itzik Gottesman.

In a kleynem shtibele, bay a langn tish.
Zitsn dortn meydelekh un dreyen mit di fis.
Zey dreyen di mashindelekh fun fri biz nakht
Un azoy vern tutsnvayz hemdelekh gemakht.

In a small room, at a long table,
There sit girls and turn with their feet.
They turn the machines from early to night.
And thus by the dozens, shirts are produced.
Girls, so small, tell me why are you pale?

Meydelekh ir kleninke, zogt vos zent ir blas?
Hemdelekh ir vaysinke, zogt vos zent ir nas?
Meydelekh un hemdelekh, zey reydn nisht keyn vort.
Nor di mashindelekh zey geyen imer fort. 

Shirts so white, tell me why are you wet?
Girls and shirts, they do not speak a word.
But the machines, they keep going forever.

Song 4: In shtetl Nikolayev (In the Town of Nikolayev). Performance by David Medoff, recorded 1923.

Transliterated lyrics courtesy of the German klezmer band Aufwind may be found on the Zemerl website by clicking here.

“Di fishelekh in vaser” Performed by Tsunye Rymer

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 15, 2010 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Di fishelekh in vaser (The Fish in Water) was one of Isaac (Tsunye) Rymer‘s most beloved songs to perform (for more on Rymer see the previous posting on Shpilt zhe mir dem nayem sher). The performer Michael Alpert learned it from him (Alpert was present at this recording, done at a zingeray, or singing session, at our dining room table) and then taught others the song at KlezKamp and other festivals and workshops. The Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band and Shtreiml have recorded Rymer‘s version.

The song itself is a typical Yiddish mother-daughter folksong [see Robert Rothstein “The Mother-Daughter Dialogue in the Yiddish Folk Song: Wandering Motifs in Time and Space,” New York Folklore 15 (1989), 1-2:51-65.] But the couplet “I am a girl with understanding, common sense and ideas/I sought to fall in love (or have a love affair), but cannot attain it” is unique to this song.

The closest printed version I have found is in Folklor lider, Moscow 1936 vol. 2, Z. Skuditski/M. Viner, vol. 2, page 155, recorded in Bela Tservkva (Yiddish – „Shvartse tume‟), Ukraine, 1926 (see their footnotes for similar verses in other collections).

In this recording made at our home around 1980, Rymer sings with great passion and his exclamations of „mame mayne!‟ says it all. When I first heard this recording after many years, it bothered me to hear others at the table join in with Rymer. But I realized that this was how we learned the songs ourselves – singing along, missing a word at first here and there, until we got it right.

Oy, fishelekh in vaser,  zey iz fil beser.
Bay zey iz nit keyn untersheyd, fin klener biz tsu greser.
Oy, fishelekh in vaser, zey iz fil beser.
Bay zey iz nit keyn untersheyd, fun klener biz tsu greser.

O the fish in water, they have it much better.
They don‘t make a difference
between the smaller ones and bigger ones.

„Oy vey tokhter, s‘badarf azoy nit zayn.
Der zeyger hot shoyn tsvelef geshlugn, kim in shtib arayn.‟
„Der zeyger hot shoyn tsevelf geshlugn, kh‘hob moyre far mayn tatn.‟
„Kum zhe shoyn in shtib aran, s‘vet dir gurnisht shatn. „

„O dear daughter, it shouldn‘t be this way.
The clock has already struck twelve, come inside the home.‟
„The clock has already struck twelve, I‘m afraid of father.‟
„Come on inside, nothing will happen to your‟

„Oy vey mame, fartsap mir nit mayn blit,
lomikh mit im reydn, nokh a pur minit.
Ikh bin a meydele mit farshtand, seykhl un gedanken,
a libe shpiln hot zikh mir farglist, ikh kon es nisht derlangen.‟

„O dear mother, don‘t suck my blood,
Let me talk to him, just a few more minutes.
I am a girl with understanding, common sense and ideas.
I sought to fall in love, but I cannot attain it.‟

Fil muzikantn shpiln, mame, oyfn frayen feld.
Ikh hob farshpilt mayn lebn, mame, kh‘ob farshpilt mayn velt.
Ih hob farshpilt mayn leybn, mame, tsures un a shir,
tsi bashraybn mayne layden, klekt nit keyn papir. 

Many musicians, mother mine, play in the open field.
I have lost my life, mother, I have lost my world.
I have lost my life, mother, troubles without end.
To describe my sorrows, no amount of paper would suffice.

Oy, fil brilyantn, mame mayne, hob ikh shoyn gezeyn.
Nor ven ikh kik zikh tsi tsi zey, zenen zey gemeyn.
Nor eyn brilyant, mame mayne, ligt mir nor in zinen.
Un vu ikh gey, un vu ikh shtey, ikh kon im nit gefinen. 
Nor eyn brilyant, mame mayne, ligt mir nor in zinen.
Un vu ikh gey, un vu ikh shtey, ikh kon im nit gefinen.

Many gems, mother mine, have I already seen.
But when I look at them, I find them coarse. 
But one gem, mother mine, do I have in my mind,
And wherever I go, wherever I stand, I cannot find him.