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“Der freylekher kaptsn” Performed by Jacob Gorelik

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2017 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Der freylekher kaptsn (The Happy Poor Man) is an upbeat song I recorded from Jacob Gorelik in 1985 in New York City. The song follows the alef-beys for 23 verses. Der freylekher kaptsn is also known as Der freylekher khosid and Hop-tshik-tshak, which is a dance or dance step.

GorelikSingsBX

Jacob Gorelik sings at the Sholem-Aleichem Center with
Dr. Joshua Fishman sitting next to him (Bronx, 1980s)

As he says in his spoken introduction, Jacob Gorelik sent this song to the Israeli folklore journal Yeda-Am and it was printed in 1967 (Vol. 12 no 31-32) with the music. Attached are scans of those pages which include the Yiddish verses, a Hebrew translation and a brief commentary (in Hebrew) by the editor on the song at the end which includes references to other versions of the song found in other song collections. When he sang this for me Gorelik was reading the lyrics from the journal.

Gorelik also pointed out the similarity in melody to Khanele lernt loshn-koydesh (words by A. Almi), a song that was later recorded by Chava Alberstein and the Klezmatics among others.

The verse that corresponds to the letter ע begins with the word “helft” – because, as Gorelik explained, in the Ukrainian Yiddish dialect the “h” sound at the beginning of the word is often silent.

A humorous parody of the song about kibbutz life was collected and published by Menashe Gefen in issue 3-4, 1972, of the Israeli periodical מאסף, Measaf. Two scans of that are attached as are two scans of the version collected by I. L. Cahan and included in his 1912 publication Yidishe folkslider mit melodyen.

Thanks this week for help with the blog go to Paula Teitelbaum, Psoy Korolenko and Facebook friends

 

Gorelik speaks:

Lekoved mayn tayern gast, Itzikn, vel ikh zingen a folklid, an alte, alte folklid – “Der freylekher kaptsn”.  Un es geyt in gantsn loytn alef-beys. Du veyst kaptsonim zenen ale mol freylekhe. Gehert hob ikh dos mit etlekhe tsendlik yor tsurik fun mayn froys a shvoger: Hershl Landsman. In Amerike hot gebitn – in Amerike tut men ale mol baytn – gebitn dem nomen af London. Far zikh, far di kinder, zey zoln kenen vern doktoyrim.

Un er hot es gehert baym onfang fun tsvantsikstn yorhundert. Hershl iz shoyn nito; lomir im take dermonen. Landsman is shoyn nito. Zayn froy iz nito shoyn. Mayn eygene tayere froy iz shoyn nito.

Der freylekher kaptsn.  Es geyt loytn alef-beys. Gedrukt iz dos in Yeda-Am. Flegt aroysgeyn in Yisrol a vikhtiker zhurnal, a folklor-zhurnal. Unter der redaktsye fun Yom-Tov Levinsky, 1967 iz der zhurnal aroys, der numer.

 

א
Ikh bin mir a khosidl, a freylekhe briye.
Bin ikh mir a khosidl, on a shum pniye.
Bin ikh mir a khosidl, a khosidak.
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

ב
Borves gey ikh mit hoyle pyates.
Fun oyvn biz arop mit gole lates;
Bin ikh mir a lustiker a freylekher bosyak
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

ג
Gole lekher iz mayn kapote
fun oybn viz arop mit shvartser blote;
Tu ikh mir on fun eybn dem yarmak.
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak!

 ד
Der dales iz bay mir afn pritsishn oyfn.
Der kop tut vey fun dem arumloyfn;
kh’loyf un loyf azoy vi a durak.
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

ה
Hering mit broyt iz bay mir a maykhl,
abi ikh shtop zikh on dem baykh.
un kartofles far a pitak.
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

ו
Ver s’geyt in mayn veg,
der vet hobn gute teg;
in a bisl bronfn gefin ikh nit keyn brak;
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

ז
Zingen, zing ikh af mayn gorgl
un shpiln, shpil ikh af mayn orgl.
Bin ikh mir a khosidl, a spivak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

ח
Khotsh ikh bin mir horbevate
un dertsu nokh stulovate;
A bisl bronfn nem ikh mir geshmak
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

ט
Toybenyu, mayn vayb zogt tsu mir:
nito af shabes, vey tsu dir;
leydik iz mayn keshene, nito keyn pitak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

י
Yontif iz bay mir di beste tsayt,
tsu antloyfn fun der klipe – vayt;
un makh ikh dort a koyse mit dem knak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

כּ
Koshere kinderlekh, a ful getselt,
hungerike tsingelekh aroysgeshtelt.
Esn viln zey gants geshmak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

ל
Loyfn, loyf ikh af di piates,
vayl shikh zaynen gole lates.
Ikh loyf un loyf vi a bosyak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

מ
Mirenyu, mayn tokhter, zi zogt tsu mir:
ven met kumen di nekhome af mir?
Gib mir a khosn mit a kurtsn pidzak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

נ
Nekhome, mayne, zog ikh tsu ir:
Du vest nokh heysn mitn nomen – shnir.
Dayn shviger vet zayn a groyser shlak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

ס
S’hoybt nor on tog tsu vern,
heybn zikh on di kinderlekh iberklern;
un kalt iz zey gants geshmak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

ע
Elft mir kinder zmires zingen,
vet ir zayn bay mir voyle yingen;
shenken vel ikh aykh a pitak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

פּ
Peysekh kumt, bin ikh mir freylekh,
mayn vayb a malke un ikh a meylekh.
Matsos hobn mir a fuln zak;
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

צ
Tsadikim, rebeyim, veysn aleyn,
az s’iz nit gut tsu zayn gemeyn;
tsores faran in a fuler zak,
tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

ק
Kinder mayne, hob ikh gezogt:
haynt iz simkhes-toyre, nit gezorgt;
A koyse veln mir makhn gants geshmak;
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

ר
Royzenyu, mayn tokhter, zogt tsu mir:
kh’hob a man, iz er gerotn in dir:
er git mir nit af shabes afile keyn pitak;
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

ש
Shoyn Purim iz do, a yontif bay mir,
Ikh trog shalekh-mones fun tir tsu tir.
Khap ikh a trunk bronfn gants geshmak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

תּ
Tomid freylekh, nit gezorgt,
Nor layen, nor geborgt.
un in keshene iz nito keyn pitak,
Tants ikh mir a freylekhn hop-tshik-tshak! 

In honor of my dear guest, Itzik, I will sing the folksong, an old, old folksong “The Happy Poor man”. It goes according to the alphabet. You know poor people are always happy. I heard this a few decades ago from my brother-in-law Hershl Landsman. In American he changed – In America one is always changing – In America he changed his name to London; for his sake, for his children, so that they can become doctors.

And he heard it at the beginning of the 20th century. Hershl is no longer here; his wife is no longer here. My dear wife is no longer here.

“The Happy Poor Man”. It goes according to the alphabet. It was published in Yeda-Am, that used to be published in Israel: a folklore journal, an important journal, edited by Yom-Tov Lewinsky. In 1967 this issue was published.

א
I am a khosid, a happy creature.
I am a khosid, with no bias.
I am a khosid, a khosidak [humorous form of khosid]
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

ב
I go around barefoot with bare soles.
Up and down I’m full of patches.
I’m happy-go-lucky, cheerful and barefoot
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

ג
My kaftan is full of holes
from top to bottom full of mud.
So I put on my overcoat
and I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak.

ד
I treat poverty as if it were nobility,
my head hurts from all my running around.
I run and run as an fool,
so I dance a joyous hip-tshik-tshak.

ה
Herring with bread is a real treat
as long as I can stuff up my tummy,
with potatoes for a penny.
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

ו
Whoever goes in my path
will enjoy good days.
In a little whiskey I find nothing to waste;
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

ז
I sing with my throat
and play on my organ.
So I am a khosid, a singer.
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

ח
Though I am a hunchback
and I slouch a little too,
I take a nice swig of whiskey.
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

ט
Toybeynyu, my wife says to me:
We have nothing for sabbath, woe is me.
Empty is my pocket with no penny.
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak.

י
Holidays are the best time for me,
to escape far from my shrewish wife.
And I drink a shot with real snap.
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

כּ
Observant children – I have a tent full;
their hungry tongues sticking out.
They really want to eat a lot.
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

ל
I run on my soles
because my shoes are all patched up.
I run and run like a barefoot man,
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

מ
Mirenyu, my daughter, says to me:
when will I get some relief?
Give me a groom with a short jacket.
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

נ
“My solace”,  I say to her:
“You will yet one day be called ‘daughter-in-law’.
Your mother-in-law will be big nuisance.
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

ס
As soon as the day breaks,
my children start to consider their state:
and they are so very cold.
So I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

ע
If you help me children to sing zmires
you will be good kids.
I will give as a tip, a coin.
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

פּ
When Passover comes I am happy:
my wife is a queen and I a king.
We have a full sack of matzoh
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

צ
Holy rabbis, Rebbes, know already
that it’s not good to be vulgar.
We have a sack full of troubles.
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

ק
My children, I said,
today is Simkhes-Torah, don’t worry.
We will all down a good drink,
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

ר
Rose, my daughter, says to me.
I have a husband just like you.
He doesn’t give me a penny for the Sabbath
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

ש
Purim is already here, a real holiday for me,
I carry shalekh-mones from door to door.
I take a quick swig of whiskey, really fine.
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

ת
Always joyous, never worried,
Always borrowing, always mooching,
And in my pocket not a penny.
And I dance a joyous hop-tshik-tshak!

Yeda-Am, 1967 (Vol. 12 no 31-32):

hoptshikyedaam1hoptshikyedaam2hoptshikyedaam3

hoptshikyeedaam4

Measaf, 3-4, 1972:

kibbutz1

Kibbutz2

I. L. Cahan, 1912:

Cahan1Cahan2 copy

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“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

“Khanele mayn lebn” Performed by Norman Salsitz

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 28, 2016 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This  week’s song was contributed by Bret Werb, Music Collection Curator at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Wurb interviewed and recorded Norman Salsitz singing in New Jersey in 2002 Khanele mayn lebn. The recording is provided courtesy of the USHMM Archives and used with permission.

As Mr. Salsitz explains in the introduction in English, the well-know songwriter Nokhem Shternheim, who was from the Polish Galician town of  Rzeszow ( Rayshe in Yiddish) often visited and stayed with them in Kolbuszowa (Kolbushov in Yiddish). Mr. Salsitz believed that Sternheim composed this song for Salsitz’s sister, but it turns out to be a Mordkhe Gebirtig song “Khanele un Nokheml” that has been recorded by Chava Alberstein and Mike Burstein. Thanks to singer/collector Leo Summergrad who follows this blog for pointing out the correct composer.

220px-Gebirtig
Mordkhe Gebertig

For more information on Shternheim – 1879    – 1942 – and a collection of his songs see “Hobn Mir a Nigundl: We have a little tune: The Songs of the Yiddish Troubadour Nokhem Shternheim” edited by Gila Flam and Dov Noy, Jerusalem 2000. In any case it is interesting that Sternheim, apparently, sang songs by Gebirtig.  There are added lines in Salsitz’s version that refer to her mother and father that do not appear in the printed Gebirtig version. Did Sternheim compose those?

SternheimNokhem Shternheim

The part B of the melody is the same as the part B of the song “Moyd fun Gas” (Girl of the Streets)    written by Shloyme Prizament and can be found in his collection Broder zinger, Buenos-Aires, 1960.    Arkady Gendler and “The gonifs” (singer Jeanette Lewicky) both recorded a version of “Moyd fun gas”.

The English transcription and translation of the song follows the singer’s version and dialect. We are attaching Gebirtig’s words in Yiddish and music as they appear in the book “Mordkhe Gebirtig zingt”, IKUF, 1963

Khanele mayn lebn

Sung by Norman Salsitz, recorded in New Jersey, 2002, by Bret Werb.

Khanele mayn leybn, Khanele di man,
Ikh vil di zolst mir geybn
Dus reytsl tsu farshteyn (faryshtayn)

Ven di kimst af mayne zinen,
Meygn royshn di mashinen,
Un dus biglayzn vern kalt.

Hob ikh azoy lib in gern,
Shuen lang fin dir tsu klern.
Un tsu zen far mir dayn tayer lib geshtalt.

Numkheml mayn leybn,
Nukheml di mayn.
Ikh vil dir bald geybn dus reytsl tsu farshteyn.

Dos bavayst di host mikh gern.
Dokh _____[?} tsu klern.
Es vet kayn toyve zayn far mir.

Vayter nemen kh’vel dayne zinin.
Vest koym af broyt fardinen.
Un ikh vel hingern bay dir.

Khanele mayn leybn, khanele du mayn.
Vos iz dos far an entfer?
Ikh ken dikh nisht farshteyn.

Ikh red fun libe. In mitn drinen
kimste veygn broyt fardinen
Hot a libe shaykhes den mit broyt?

Ikh vays ven me libt a khusn
miz men af a mol zan entshlosn
tsi di greste oremkayt un noyt.

Nukheml, mayn leybn, Nukheml di mayn.
Aza hayse libe
ken ikh nisht farshteyn.

Ikh hob gehert fin mayn mamen ,
Mit di greste libeflamen
Hot der tate zi amol gelibt.

Dokh ven zay hobn noyt gelitn.
hobn zey zikh arimgeshlitn,
Tsi iz den aza libe nisht batribt?

Khanele mayn leybn, Khanele di mayn.
Vuz iz dus far an entfer?
Ikh ken dikh nisht farshteyn.

Tsi hosti libe shlekht farshtanen.
Dus hot kayn shaykhes mit dayn mamen.
Nor di host moyre far dem noyt.

Vil ikh koyfn tsvey mashinen,
Di vest helfn af broyt fardinen
Un farzikhert vet zan indzer broyt.

Nukheml mayn leybn, nukheml di mayn
Di host dikh yetst bakimen,
Ikh ken dikh shoyn farshteyn.

Di vest dort nisht bay mir oysfirn,
Ikh vel zikh nisht bay dir unrirn.
Shoyn genig geplugt zikh in genay.

Ikh vil fastriges mer nisht tsien,
Yungerhayt zikh nisht farblien,
Ikh vil lebn uin genisn fray.

Khanele mayn lebn, khanele di mayn.
Di host nokh azelkhe taynes,
Vus vet nokh shpeyter zayn?

Gelt, nukh gelt ,vesti bagern.
Mir dus leybn tsi fartsern
ven fardin ikh vel nisht azoy fil.

Du a het [?], un du af klayder,
In bin ikh dokh nor a shnayder.
Ikh zey s’vet zan a troyerike shpil.

Nukheml mayn leybn, Nukheml di mayn.
Di bist geveyn mayn khusn,
mayn man vesti nisht zan.

Khanele my dear, my Khanele
I want you to
explain this riddle for me.

When you come into my head
the machines may whirl,
and the pressing iron can get cold.

I so love and am so glad
to think about you for hours
and to see before me your dear, lovely self.

Nokheml my dear, my Nokheml,
I will soon
explain this riddle to you.

This shows how you are fond of me,
yet ___ to think of me.
It will not be doing me any favors.

If I further take your purpose –
you will barely earn enough for bread
and I will go hungry with you.

Khanele my dear, my Khanele,
what kind of answer is that?
I cannot understand you.

I speak of love and out of nowhere
you speak of earning enough for bread.
What does love have to do with bread?

I know that when you love a fiance
You must once and for all commit yourself in spite of
the greatest poverty and hardship.

Nokheml my dear, my Nokheml
such passionate love
I cannot understand.

I heard tell from my mom:
with the greatest flames of love
did my father once love her.

Yet when they suffered hardship
they went from place to place [literally: sledded around]
Is not such a love a troubled one?

Khanele my dear, my Khanele
What kind of answer is this?
I don’t understand you.

Perhaps you have misunderstood love?
This has no connection to your mother.
But you are fearful of such poverty.

So I want to buy two [sewing] machines
so you will help earn our bread,
and thus ensured will be our income.

Nokheml my dear, my Nokheml.
You have made yourself clear.
I now understand you.

You won’t get me to do what you want,
and I won’t be touched by you
I’ve suffered enough by sewing.

I won’t sew any more basting stitches
and wilt away in my youth.
I want to live and enjoy freely.

Khanele my love, my Khanele.
You have such complaints,
what will be later?

Money, and more money is what you crave,
and you’ll devour me
when I don’t earn so much.

Here for a hat [?] and here for clothes,
but I am only just a tailor.
I see this will be a sad game.

Nokheml my dear, my Nokheml
I was indeed engaged to you
but you will not be my husband.

KhaneleYID2

KhaneleYID1

“Di gantse velt iz hevl-havolim” Performed by Lillian Manuel

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2012 by yiddishsong
 
Commentary by David/Dovid Braun
 
 
Lillian (“Libby”) Manuel née Schwartz was born in or around 1910 in the town of Sukhovolye (Polish:  Suchowola), now northeastern Poland by the border with Belarus (a.k.a. White Russia), where she was originally known as Libe Shvarts or, among her townspeople, “Libe Yankl dem shvartsns” – ‘Libe, Black Jake’s [daughter]’).  She immigrated to Philadelphia in 1926 and later lived with her family in New York City and northern New Jersey.  She died in 1990.
 

 
“Yiddish-vokh” at the Workmen’s Circle “Circle Lodge”, NY 1987.  Libby Manuel is in the middle of the front row. Shirley Manuel top row at left. Dovid Braun is in the second to last row in a striped shirt.
Photo courtesy of Itzik Gottesman (click to enlarge).
 
She would reminisce about having sung all the time with her two elder sisters, Maryashe and Khay-Sore, who raised her, as their mother had died when Libe was in her very early childhood and their father was rarely home during the week, instead on the road in neighboring villages trading in hemp and other fibers which were used for rope and pig hair which was used for brushes.  From what she recounted, the sisters kept a home-made songbook into which they’d write the lyrics to songs they’d learned.
 
I am her grandson.  As I was growing up, I recorded her singing in the late 1970s through the late 1980s.   In 1980 she suffered a stroke which significantly affected her pitch and the strength of her voice, but her melodies were still generally discernible and her memory of long texts remained prodigious.  Her love and habit of singing inspired her daughter, Shirley (Yiddish:  Zelde-Leye) Manuel, to a musical career as a violist and teacher of string instruments, just as her attachment to Yiddish language, lore, and letters inspired her grandson.
 
I recorded my grandmother performing Di gantse velt iz hevl-havolim (The Whole World is Vanity of Vanities) in the latter half of the 1980s. Variants can be found in the folkloristic literature, sometimes under the name based on a slightly differing first stanza, “Hevl iz havolim” (‘Vanity is vanities’) or “Un Hevl iz Havolim‟ (‛And Vanity is Vanities‛).  One version was typically performed, as her signature song, by the late activist for secularist Yiddishism Gerry Revzin of the Chicago area (thanks to the late Max Rosenfeld of Philadelphia for this information).  A particularly long version appears in print in Ginzburg-Marek (song #124, no melody); others are in Beregovski-Fefer 1938 (pages 384 – 385 with melody), Ruth Rubin’s Voices of a People (pages 54-55). I. L. Peretz cites the song in his essay ‟Dos yidishe lebn loyt di yidishe folkslider‟ (Jewish Life As Reflected in Yiddish Folksongs), YIVO-bleter 13:1-2 (1937). In volume 9 of Idelsohn‘s Thesaurus of Hebrew Oriental Melodies, page 178, a verse with a different melody is printed.
 
All versions of this song are introduced by the Hebrew and Yiddish phrase that corresponds to those words beginning and ending the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, namely, “Vanity of vanities!” (or in other translations:  “Absurdity of absurdities!”, “Futility of futilities!”, “Utter meaninglessness!”,  “Sheer emptiness!”).
 
According to Mrs. Manuel’s account, this song was beloved by her next-door neighbor in her shtetl, her sickly Aunt Itke, who would frequently warm herself by the oven and would have Libe entertain her with this song.  Mrs. Manuel believed there was a continuation to the song but didn’t know any more of it herself.  In the recording presented here, the melody of the first two stanzas is slightly different from how she sang it on other recorded and unrecorded occasions, and in hevl-havolim, we hear a diphthong in the first syllable ([eyvl]) which, again, was not her typical way of pronouncing or singing that first word – it was usually [evl]. Her dialect lacks [h].
 
Di gantse velt iz hevl-havolim,
un di velt iz nor a kholem,
un a kholem iz di velt,
un zi shteyt dokh nor on gelt.
 
The whole world is vanity of vanities
and the world is just a dream
and a dream is the world
and it’s constantly without money.
 
Un far gelt koyft men bir,
un vos dray iz nit fir,
un vos fir iz nit dray, 
un vos alt iz nit nay.
 
And for money one buys beer
and three is not four
and four is not three
and what is old is not new.
 
Un vos nay iz nit alt,
un vos varem iz nit kalt,
un vos kalt iz nit varem,
un vos raykh iz nit orem.
 
And what is new is not old,
and what is warm is not cold,
and what is cold is not warm,
and what is rich, is not poor.
 
Un vos orem iz nit raykh
un vos krum iz nit glaykh
un vos glaykh iz nit krum
un vos reydn iz nit shtum.
 
And what is poor is not rich,
and what is crooked is not straight,
and what is straight is not crooked.
and what is spoken is not mute.   

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.

“Tsu dir, tsu dir dos glezele vayn” Performed by George (Getsl) Ribak

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 7, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Singer George (Getsl) Ribak was born in Dvinsk, Latvia, and died in 1979 at age 93. He sang Yiddish songs in public at the local JCC.

George Getsl Ribak

The recording was made in the 1960s by Ribak’s granddaughter Cheryl Cohen of Sarasota, Florida. It is one of several songs sung by her family that Cohen sent to Bob Freedman (of the University of Pennsylvania’s Robert and Molly Freedman Jewish Music Archive), and Bob sent it to me.

I do not know this short drinking song, which Getsl Ribak sings with much gusto. According to Chana Mlotek, collector, YIVO archivist and author of Yiddish songbooks, the song originates from the early Yiddish stage, and she will write about this version in her next column in the Forverts newspaper.

Ribak’s melody and rhyming schemes seem a little off. In parentheses I wrote what I believed to be the “correct” ending, grammatical form or dialect pronunciation. Clearly “glik” should rhyme with “kik”, not “kuk” for example.

After the original posting, Cheryl Cohen wrote to provide some additional biographical information:

My grandfather George (Getsel) Ribak was born in Dvinsk, Latvia. He fled  before being drafted in the Czar’s Army to Capetown, South Africa. He became a British citizen while working  in the shoe making trade. He later fled to avoid the Boer War. He was in England, then in Canada, then finally to the United States. He lived with his wife Rose (Rochel Swirsky) in Chattanooga, TN, where he was in the meat market business. I think he also did house painting in Detroit. He and his wife finally settled in Bridgeport, Connecticut where he had a second hand clothing store. He would  take the train into New York and make his purchases there, I believe.

He and his wife raised 3 children, one of which was my mother. I remember spending weekends in their apartment, listening to WEVD, and seeing the Foverts newspaper.  He loved to sing songs in Yiddish, Hebrew, and English with me for fun but he really enjoyed performing at the Jewish Community Center in Bridgeport for various events. He was not a professional singer but had a very strong and pleasant voice. He even performed at the Jewish Home for the Elderly in Fairfield, CT. while he was a resident there. He wanted everyone to be freylach!

In dir, in dir, du glezele vayn,
In dir, in dir, mayn gantser (gantse) glik.
Ven ikh vil mir freylekh zayn
Damolts gib ikh af dir a kuk.(kik)


In you, in you, you glass of wine,
In you, in you, my whole fortune.
When I want to be happy
Then I take a look at you.

Tsu dir tsu dir, hob ikh lust.
Du bist di nekhome
fun mayn neshome.


For you, for you I lust,
You are the comfort
of my soul.

Af kapores darf ikh gelt
A riekh in dos (dem) gelt arayn.
Ikh lakh mir oys fun der gantser velt.
Nor tsulib dir du glezele vayn.


I have no use for money
The devil take the money!
I laugh at the whole world,
because of you my glass of wine.