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“Bin ikh mir geshtanen” Performed by Nochem Yood

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 21, 2018 by yiddishsong

Bin ikh mir geshtanen / I was standing there
A 19th century “khaper” song from Czarist Army
Sung by Nochem Yood

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This 19th century song describes the khapers, the “catchers”  – the despised Jews who caught boys to fulfill the Jewish quota for the Czarist army. Apparently the “khapers” only existed from 1852 – 1855, but in folk memory they were active the entire time of Czar Nicholas l’s conscription program.

soldiers passoverJewish Soldiers at Passover Seder, 1902 (Zionist Archive)

The singer is the Yiddish poet Nochem Yood (Nokhem Yerusalimtshik (1888-1966). He was born in Bobr, Belarus and came to the United States in 1916. The recording was made in the 1950s or early 1960s but he had sung this same song for the folklorist I. L Cahan in the 1920s and Cahan published it in the volume Pinkes 1927-1928 (New York) with no music. There the song was called Dos lid fun di khapers (The song of the khapers). It was reprinted, still just the lyrics, in I. L. Cahan’s Yidishe folkslider, YIVO 1957, page 373-374 (scans are attached below). For that version Nochem Yood sang eighteen verses; here he sings eleven verses.

Nochem YoodNochem Yood 

The other voice on the recording, clearly a landsman from Bober who tries to remember more verses, is for the time being unidentified.

There is a version with music in the periodical Yidisher folklor # 1, NY, 1954, from the A. Litvin Collection at YIVO. Chana Mlotek wrote the commentary there and included information on other versions; some of them quite long.  A scan of that page is also attached.

It is interesting that Cahan did not include the “Ay-ay-ay” chorus in his version. The “Ay-ay-ay” chorus as heard in this Nochem Yood recording gives the song the feeling of a communal performance or a work song. Other versions do include a similar chorus.

Thanks with help for this post to Yelena Shmulenson, Deborah Strauss and Jeff Warschauer.

TRANSLITERATION

[Bin ikh mir geshtanen] baym foter afn hoyf
her ikh a geshrey “Yungerman antloyf!”
Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay
Ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay

Bin ikh mir gelofn in a gertndl bald.
Biz ikh bin gekumen in a tifn vald.
Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay
Ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay

Dray teg un dray nekht nit gegesn, nit getrunken
nor mit di eygelekeh tsu Got gevunken.
Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay
Ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay

Gib ikh zikh a ker in der zayt
Ersht ikh derze a shtibele nit vayt.
Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay
Ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay

Balebostitshke, balebostitshke efnt mir of di tir,
hot rakhmones un git a kuk af mir.
Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay
Ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay

Eyder ikh hob nit tsayt optsubentshn
dan zaynen gekumen di khapermentshn.
Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay
Ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay

Yidelekh vos zayt ir gekumen tsu forn?
Mir zaynen nit gekumen nokh veyts un af korn.
Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay
Ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay

Ir zayt nit gekumen nokh veyts un af korn.
Ir zayt dokh gekumen af mayne yunge yorn.
[Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay
Ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay]

Shtelt men mikh avek untern mos
un me git a geshrey “Molodyets, kharosh!”
[Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay
Ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay]

Beser tsu lernen khumesh mit Rashe.
Eyder tsu esn di soldatske kashe.
[Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay
Ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay]

Beser tsu lebn in tsores un neyt
eyder tsu esn dem keysers breyt.
[Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay
Ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay]

TRANSLATION

I was standing in my father’s yard
when I heard a yell “young man, run away!”
Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay
Ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay

So I ran into a nearby garden,
till I came upon a deep forest.
Ay….

Three days I didn’t eat, didn’t drink,
only winking with my eyes to God.
Ay…..

I  made a turn to the side
and before me stood a nearby house.
Ay….

Lady of the house open up the door,
have pity and take a look at me.
Ay….

Before I had time to finish saying the blessings,
the khapers had arrived.
Ay…

Dear Jews why have you come?
We have not come for wheat nor for rye.
Ay…

You have not come for wheat nor rye.
You have come for my young years.
Ay…

They stand me up for measurement
and exclaim “Attaboy!, Well done!”
Ay…

Better to learn Bible and Rashi
than to eat the soldier’s kasha.
Ay….

Better to live with troubles and want
than to eat the bread of the Czar
Ay…
binikh1binikh2binikh3

From I. L. Cahan’s Yidishe folkslider, YIVO 1957, page 373-374:

Cahan1
Cahan2

Yidisher folklor # 1, NY, 1954, from the A. Litvin Collection at YIVO:

mlotek 1

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“Arele kumt in vald” Performed by Larisa Pechersky

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2015 by yiddishsong

This week’s blog post – song and commentary – was submitted by Larisa Pechersky, who also performs on the recording.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to make my grandmother’s name known and maybe remembered by people who often ask me how I know so many Yiddish songs. I always tell them that it’s because of my grandmother. Now, I hope her story, name, and image will be shared with them for the first time. As always, I dedicate all my work in the field of Jewish folklore and education to her blessed memory. Milya on 20th birthday Horki

Milya Shagalova (nee Mikhlya Fle’er / Fleyer), grandmother of Larisa Pechersky in Horki on her 20th birthday

I learned this song from my maternal grandmother when I was a toddler in the late 70s . She lived with my mother and me, and took care of me while my mom worked. All day long, as she worked around the house, she sang hundreds of Yiddish songs and encouraged me to sing along.

She would stop many times during a song to comment and make connections to her life in a Belorussian shtetl, to the experiences of her family and friends, and whatever lessons she wanted me to take away from each song. She often acted out the songs with me and showed me how to express a variety of feelings through a nign without words (just like in this song, Arele, she emphasized how the same nign after each verse can express fear, despair, or relief).

She made each song a window into Jewish life for me, a child growing up in a big city of Leningrad, the cultural capital of the Soviet Union, where forced assimilation was the norm for its more than 150,000 Jews. Assimilation was out of the question for my family, where my grandmother wanted me to know Yiddish and grow up proudly Jewish. Milya and Larisa

Larisa Pechersky (age 3) and her grandmother, Milya Shagalova, at home in Leningrad

My grandmother, Milya Shagalova (nee Mikhlya Fle’er / Fleyer), was born in 1914 in Propoysk, a shtetl in Mogilievske Guberniye, Belorussia. In the post-revolution years, her father, Zalmen, received a warning that he was to be arrested, stripped of his possessions, and exiled for owning four cows and employing one housekeeper. To avoid this fate, the family fled to Horki, a larger shtetl in the region, his birthplace.

As the third daughter in a family with no sons at the time, little Mikhlya was sent to a traditional all-boys kheyder to study. She told me compassionate stories of the cruel pranks the boys did to the poor old rebbe that she, as the only girl, felt so bad about. Later, she graduated from a seven-year school, where all of the subjects were taught in Yiddish. She wanted to continue on to the Jewish (Yiddish) teachers’ college, but it was no longer possible.

In 1934, as a newlywed, she moved to Leningrad with her husband Naum (Nokhom-Abram), where they lived  their whole life afterwards. Despite knowing Russian as well as if it were their native tongue, they always spoke Yiddish at home and with many friends, never missed a Jewish concert or event, and subscribed to Jewish periodicals when it was still possible.

During World War II, my grandma miraculously survived the horrific siege of Leningrad with my three-month old mom, but lost her five-year old son, who was with his grandparents in Horki for the summer, during which the Nazis invaded it and killed 7,500 Jews, including the boy, his four grandparents, and 38 more of our relatives.

My grandpa Naum, who came back from the front without a leg, learned of his son’s initial rescue, swift betrayal, and killing from his former neighbors. My grandma’s lament and guilt that she “sent her own child to death with her own hands” by letting him travel to Belorussia before the war “nobody expected to happen” was one of the stories that she would tell me often. Milya with Larisa

Larisa and Milya on summer vacation in Ukraine

When the Perestroika had just begun, the very first signs of the Jewish renewal were two concerts of Jewish music at the end of 1988 in Leningrad. My grandma did not miss them despite her poor health and the two of us went together. She felt that they “added seven more years of life” to her. This is how highly she regarded Jewish songs.

To my greatest regret, she passed away in January 1989 before I went to synagogue for the first time and matriculated at the newly created Jewish University that same year. I never recorded any of her songs, but kept hundreds of them in my memory. I still remember some ballads, just partially, and feel terrible that I can’t recall all the words or find them published anywhere.

When my friends and I started a Jewish school in Leningrad, I dedicated my work to giving my students the same as what my grandmother gave me – teaching them every and any thing Jewish through our amazing multi-layered Yiddish songs. Researching Yiddish musical folklore became my profession, passion, and a tribute to my grandma’s bravery and real heroism in passing our musical tradition to new generations amid the tribulations she lived through.

Arele kumt in vald (Arele Comes to the Woods)

This is how I remember learning the words as a child. I understand they sound not totally grammatically correct, but this is how I sang it as a kid.

Most of the time, we sang the second and third verses in the reverse order. The line in question meant Arele wasn’t taken aback; didn’t fear (I don’t remember the Yiddish word). When it was sung as the second verse, it made his attempt to escape appear to be futile given the next stanza (he thought he could run away, but now he can clearly see the dire situation – the mouth, the paws, etc). This way the time between his climbing up the tree, crying in despair, and eventual rescue was much longer and more terrifying in his eyes.

This was the order of the verses my grandma usually used. Switching the verses makes his actions appear more brave (he didn’t lose his head despite realizing all the details of the dangerous situation beforehand). Also, we sang it a bit slower, in a more storytelling manner, than I did in this recording.The English transliteration reflects the Yiddish dialect more than the Yiddish transcription.

Arele kumt in vald,
Dreyt zikh ‘hin un ‘her.
Ven er dremlt bald
kumt a greyser ber!

Der ber mit lapes greyse!
G’valt, dos iz nit gut!
Fun eygn trern heyse,
Ot iz sheyn kaput!

Arele is nit flit [foyl?]
Eyfn beym er kletert.
Un der ber mit ofn mul,
G’valt, nito keyn reter!

A reter iz ba sholem,
A greyser nes getrofn!
Geven iz dos a kholem,
Ven Arel iz geshlofn!

Arele comes to the woods,
wanders here and there.
When he slumbers, right away comes
a great big bear.

The bear with giant paws!
Help, this is not good.
From his eyes hot tears stream.
Now all is kaput.

Arele is not lazy
and on the tree he climbs.
And the bear with an open mouth
Help, there is no rescue!

A rescue did come in peace;
a great miracle happened.
This was all a dream
while Arele was sleeping.

arele1 arele2

“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.