Archive for Russia

“In toyznt naynhindert ferter yor” Performed by Feigl Yudin

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 7, 2017 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

In toyznt naynhindert ferter yor (In the Year One Thousand Nine Hundred and Four), performed here by singer Feigl Yudin for a 1980 (circa) concert produced by the Balkan Arts Center (now the Center for Traditional Music and Dance) is one of a number of Yiddish songs about the Russo-Japanese war; a conflict that was fought between the Russian Empire and the Empire of Japan from 1904 – 1905.

The build-up to the war began in the late 1890s as one can see from the variants of this song which all begin with a different year – 1899 – “In toyznt akht hundert nayn un nayntsiktn yor”. See: Beregovski/Slobin Old Jewish Folk Music page 231, with music, and also see the endnotes there for other variants. A version is also found in Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archives (ed. Slobin/Mlotek, 2007) with music.

At the bottom of this post we have attached an interview with Yudin from an issue of the magazine Sing Out!, Volume 25, #5, 1977.

Another Yiddish song from the Russo-Japanese war – “Di rusishe medine” – sung by Majer Bogdanski can be heard on his CD “Yidishe Lider”  (Jewish Music Heritage Recordings, CD 017.)

I received help with the text of Yudin’s song from Paula Teitelbaum, Jason Roberts, Sasha Lurje and Zisl Slepovitch. Though, I am still not sure, in the first verse, what is meant by the expression di godnikes por/ gor (?) Your comments on this are welcome. Also note she does not sing the obvious dialectical rhyme in the third verse “miter” with “biter”.

1) Toyznt naynhindert ferter yor,
Iz geven in Rusland a shlekhter nabor
Men hot opgegebn di gotnikes po/.gor (?)
Far mir iz geblibn di ergste fir yor.

2) Zay zhe mir gezunt mayn tayerer foter,
A gantse fir yor verstu nebekh fin mir poter.
Oy, zay zhe mir gezunt un bet far mir Got,
Men zol mir nit naznatshen in dalniy vostok.

3) Zay zhe mir gezunt mayn tayere muter.
Dir iz dokh shlekht un mir iz dokh biter.
Oy, zay zhe mir gezunt un bet far mir Got,
Men zol mir nit naznatshen in dalniy vostok

4) Zay mir gezunt mayn tayere kale.
Nokh dir vel ikh benken, oy, mer vi nokh ale.
Oy, zay zhe mir gezunt un bet far mir Got,
Men zol mir nit naznatshen keyn dalniy vastok.

5) Dalniy vostok volt geven on a sakone
Es zol nor nit zayn vi a panske milkhome.
Oy, zayt zhe ale gezunt un bet far mir Got.
Men zol mir nit naznatshen oy, in dalniy vastok.

1) The year one thousand nine hundred and four,
there was a terrible recruitment/draft.
A few recruits were sent into service –
These were my worst four years.

2) Fare well my dear father,
Alas, four long years will you be rid of me
O, fare well and pray to God,
They should not assign me to the Far East.

3) Fare well my dear mother,
You feel so bad and I feel miserable.
O, fare well and pray to God,
They should not assign me to the Far East.

4) Fare well my dear bride.
I will long for you, o, more than the rest.
O, fare well and pray to God,
They should not assign me to the Far East.

5) The Far East would be without danger
if there were no lordly war [war created by the Lords].
O, fare well and pray to God,
They should not assign me to the Far East.

1904a1904b1904c

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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

“In dem vaytn land Sibir‟ Performed by Chana Yachness and Rukhele Yachness

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2013 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

It was very sad and shocking news to hear that Chana Yachness passed away on September 29th, 2013. She grew up in the leftist (“linke”) Yiddish circles of New York, loved Yiddish culture and was a wonderful link to that world. She was beloved by all and this week‘s contribution to the Yiddish Song of the Week is in her memory.

Chana and ted
Chana Yachness and her husband, Ted Haendel.
Photograph by Emily Socolov.

Her mother Rukhele Barak Yachness was a fine Yiddish singer and actress and in this recording (which I recorded in the Bronx, 1999) they sing together a revolutionary folksong In dem vaytn land Sibir that can be found in the volume of Moshe Beregovski’s writings and transcriptions edited by Mark Slobin, Old Jewish Folk Music (1982, see below). It‘s obviously not a perfect recording with bantering and joking – Chana sings the name of Yiddish actor “Maurice Schwartz‟ instead of “khmares shvarts‟, but it is the only recording I can find of the song. Their spirited interpretation gives one the sense of how a Yiddish revolutionary song used to be performed, especially by Jewish choruses.  Note that in the Beregovski volume there is a second verse; Chana and Rukhele sing the first and third.

Many of the Yiddish songs that are sung by di linke today, including In dem vaytn, were learned from the folk operetta  A bunt mit a statshke (A Revolt and a Strike) assembled from songs printed in Beregovski‘s song collection of 1934 by the choral leader and conductor Jacob Schaefer and critic Nathaniel Buchwald. This operetta was not only performed by the choruses of the time, 1930s, but in the Yiddish leftist camp Kinderland (at Sylvan Lake, Dutchess County, NY) where Chana no doubt learned it in the late 1940s and 1950s. See the recent documentary on Kinderland – Commie Camp

The West Coast musician Gerry Tenney had long planned with Chana Yachness to produce this operetta again; see Hershl Hartman‘s post on A Bunt mit a statshke on the email-list Mendele from 1997.

In the distant land Siberia
Where the sky is always covered by clouds,
I was banished there,
for one word – for freedom.
I was beaten with the whip,
so I would no longer say
“Let there be freedom – to hell with Nicholas‟

Soon will come the happy time,
Soon we will know from near and far,
that Russia is bright, that Russia is free.
“Let there be freedom – to hell with Nicholas‟

YachnessItzik

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YachnessBeregovski1

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