Archive for Ruth Rubin

“Ikh hob gevolt a meylekh zan” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 21, 2019 by yiddishsong

Ikh hob gevolt a meylekh zan / I wanted to be king
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman
Recorded in Bronx, NY by Leybl Kahn 1954

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This is our 153 posting on the Yiddish Song of the Week blog. Upon reflection, it has given us great satisfaction to see the effects of the blog. Songs from YSW have been recorded; choral leaders have introduced these songs to their groups; and in concerts and around dining room tables many singers around the world perform songs learned from YSW. It has also inspired some to look for Yiddish song recordings in their own families and contribute.

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank Pete Rushefsky, Executive Director of the Center for Traditional Music and Dance in New York who is the webmaster of the blog and has done an outstanding job.

After each post we receive some comments about the translations, misspellings and corrections, additional information on the songs and we appreciate all of them. We do not have the time or staff to sit down and change the original posts, but will some day we hope. Therefore it is important for the readers of the blog to also read the comments. Now onto this week’s post…

Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) rarely sings dance tunes such as this in 2/4 time. Perhaps this is based on a sher (square dance) from her hometown of Zvinyetshke, Bukovina? Versions of the lyrics, verses and refrain, are better known with a different, slower melody. For example, Feygl Sultan sings it and calls it Hob ikh mir a shpan on Ruth Rubin’s recording Jewish Life: The Old Country. Menachem Kipnis includes this song with the slower melody in his collection of 60 folksongs and calls it Zol ikh vern a rov. Others call it A bal-agole lid or Der bal-agole (The Coachman). That version has been recorded many times by cantors in particular.

LifsheAndFeterWidman

Lifshe with her second husband Isaac Widman, 1950s NY

Though LSW only sings two verses, a creative singer could take lyrics from these other recordings and printings to extend the song. The song begs for contemporary lyrics – “ikh hob gevolt a president zayn….” etc. In almost all the other versions the rhyme with “vilt zikh” is “shilt zikh” (my wife is always cursing) which seems right.

TRANSLITERATION
Ikh hob gevolt a meylekh zan,
hob ikh nisht keyn malke.
Kh’o gevolt a hitsl zan,
hob ekh nisht keyn palke.

Kh’o gevolt a melamed zan,
ken ekh nisht keyn Toyre.
Kh’o gevolt a soykher zan,
hob ekh nisht keyn skhoyre.

Refrain:
In in leybn vilt zekh
un mayn vayb krigt zekh.
Zey ikh mir a shteyn,
zets ekh zekh in veyn.

TRANSLATION
I wanted to be king
but I have no queen.
I wanted to be a dogcatcher,
but I have no club.

I wanted to be a melamed [teacher of children]
but I don’t know any Torah.
I wanted to be a merchant
but I have no merchandise.

Refrain:
l want to enjoy life
but my wife argues.
So I see a rock
and I sit myself down.
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“Shteyt in tol an alte mil” Performed by M.M. Shaffir

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2019 by yiddishsong

Shteyt in tol an alte mil / An Old Mill Stands in the Valley
Words by M. M. Shaffir,  Music -“adapted from a Romanian folk melody”
Recorded by Itzik Gottesman, Bronx

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The poet M. M. Shaffir (1909 -1988) was born in Suchava/Suceava (in Yiddish – “Shots”), Bukovina, Austria-Hungary; today – Romania. He immigrated to Montreal in 1939 and published 18 books of poetry. He was known for his love of Jewish folklore and his expert knowledge of the Yiddish language.

Screen Shot 2019-02-21 at 1.38.12 PM

M.M. Shaffir, Screen Shot from Cindy Marshall’s Film “A Life of Song: a Portrait of Ruth Rubin”

He was a close friend of the linguist, writer and editor Mordkhe Schaechter, and visited him in the Bronx several times.  At one of these occasions in 1974, the Sholem-Aleichem Cultural Center organized an event honoring his visit and afterward he sang three songs that he had composed at the Gottesman home across the street.

In this post we look at the first of those three songs, a doina-style melody Shteyt in tul an alte mil. He included the words and music in his collection Bay der kholem multer (Montreal, 1983) which are attached.

Several lines in his performance differ from the printed poem. On top of the musical notation, Shaffir wrote “loyt a Romeynishn folksmotiv” – “adapted from a Romanian folk melody.” To compare a Romanian traditional song to Shaffir’s composition Romanian music researcher Shaun Williams suggested listening to this Romanian doina sung by Maria Tanase:

Singer and scholar Michael Alpert also suggested listening to this Romanian “epic ballad”:

In Cindy Marshall’s film “A Life of Song: A Portrait of Ruth Rubin”, Shaffir can be seen in the episode where Rubin records singers in Montreal. The photo of him in this blog is taken from that scene. The entire film can be seen at YIVO’s Ruth Rubin Legacy website.

TRANSCRIPTION

1) Shteyt in tul an alte mil.
Veyn ikh dortn in der shtil.
Shteyen dortn verbes tsvey
Veyn ikh oys mayn harts far zey.

2) Ergets vayt in kelt un shney
iz gefaln mayn Andrei.
Ergets af a vistn feld.
Hot zayn harts zikh opgeshtelt.

3)Deym boyars tsvey sheyne zin
zenen nisht avek ahin.
Nor Andrei hot men opgeshikt
hot a koyl zayn harts fartsikt.

4) Hot zayn harts zikh opgeshtelt.
Ergets oyf a vistn feld.
Ergets vayt in kelt un shney
S’iz mir vind un s’iz mir vey.

TRANSLATION

An old mill stands in the field
where I cry there quietly.
Two willows are there
and I cry my heart out for them.

Somewhere distant in cold and snow
my Andrei has fallen.
Somewhere on a barren field
his heart stopped beating.

The boyar’s two handsome sons
did not go there.
Only Andrei was sent
and a bullet devoured his heart.

His heart stopped beating
somewhere on a barren field.
Somewhere far in cold and snow,
Woe is me, how it hurts!

From Bay der kholem multer by M.M. Shaffir (Montreal, 1983) pp. 72-73:
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“Reb Tsudek” Performed by Itzik Gottesman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2018 by yiddishsong

Reb Tsudek
Sung by Itzik Gottesman, recorded Nov 2018, Austin TX

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

I was asked to post the song “Reb Tsudek” as sung by the Yiddish poet Martin Birnbaum. He sang it to Michael Alpert and me in 1984-85 in NYC.  But, alas, I cannot find the original recording so I have recorded it myself.

Birnbaum was born in 1905 in Horodenke when it was Galicia in the Austro-Hungarian empire. Now it is in the Ukraine  – Horodenka. According to a NY Times obituary he came to the US in 1923 and died in 1986. In the YIVO Institute’s Ruth Rubin Legacy Archive, Birnbaum sings four songs but not this one. Those recordings were done in 1964.

I believe there is more Yiddish folklore to be discovered about this shlimazel (bad luck) character Reb Tsudek. When I asked the Yiddish poet Yermye Hescheles about him he affirmed that there was such a comic figure in Galicia, where both he and Birnbaum were from.

The song mocks the Hasidic lifestyle – absurd devotion to the rebbe, irresponsibility, staying poor. The word “hiltay” – defined by the dictionaries as “libertine” “skirt-chaser” “scoundrel” – is really a cue that this is a 19th century maskilic, anti-Hasidic, song. The word is often used in such songs. The humor also hinges on the double meaning of tsimbl both as a musical instrument (a hammered dulcimer) and as a verb – “to thrash or scold someone”.

couple tsimblA tsimblist, about to be thrashed by his wife.
(courtesy Josh Horowitz)

In the song two towns are mentioned: Nay Zavalek remains a mystery but Grudek, west of Lviv, is Grodek in Polish and Horodok in Ukrainian.

Here is a clip of Michael Alpert singing  the song, with Pete Rushefsky on tsimbl, Jake Shulman-Ment on violin and Ethel Raim singing at the Smithsonian Folkife Festival in Washington D.C.,  2013:

TRANSLITERATION

Fort a yid keyn Nay-zavalek,
direkt bizn in Grudek.
Fort a yid tsu zayn rebn – Reb Tsudek.
Tsudek iz a yid, a lamden.
Er hot a boykh a tsentn,
Un s’iz bakant, az er ken shpiln
of ale instrumentn.

Shpilt er zikh derbay (2x)

Fort a yid keyn Nay-zavalek
direkt bizn in Grudek.
Oy vey z’mir tatenyu!
Fort a yid keyn Nay-Zavalek
direkt bizn in Grudek.
Oy vey z’mir tatenyu!

Un Reb Tsudek, er zol lebn,
hot gehat a gutn shabes.
Tsudek hot gekhapt shirayem,
mit beyde labes.
Aheymgebrakht hot er zayn vaybl
a zhmenye meyern-tsimes.
Un dertsu, oy vey iz mir,
a tsimbl un strines.

“Hiltay vus iz dus!” (2x)

Oy hot zi getsimblt Tsudek
fun Zavalek bizn in Grudek.
Oy vey z’mir tatenyu!
Oy hot zi getsimblt Tsudek
fun Zavalek bizn in Grudek.
Oy vey z’mir tatenyu!

TRANSLATION

A man travels to Nay-Zavalek,
directly until Grudek.
The man is traveling to his rabbi,
Mister Tsudek.
Tsudek is a learned man,
and has a belly that weighs ten tons.
And everyone knows that he can play
on all the instruments.

So he plays as he travels –

A man travels to Nay-Zavalek
directly until Grudek,
Oh my, dear God!
A man travels to Nay-Zavalek
directly until Grudek,
Oh my, dear God!

And Reb Tsudek, may he be well,
had a good Sabbath.
Tsudek caught the Rebbe’s holy leftovers
with both paws [large, rough hands].
For his wife he brought home
a handful of carrot – tsimmes,
and in addition – oh no! –
a tsimbl with no strings.

Scoundrel! what is this? (2x)

Boy did she thrash Tsudek
from Zavalek until Grudek
Oh my, dear God.
Boy did she thrash Tsudek
from Zavalek unti Grudek
Oh my, dear God

tsudek1

tsudek2

tsudek3

“Ikh bin a tsigaynerl a kleyner” Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 29, 2018 by yiddishsong

Ikh bin a tsigaynerl a kleyner / I am a Small Gypsy (Rom) Lad
Pre-war version from Chernovitz, Romania.
Sung by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman [BSG]
Recorded by Itzik Gottesman at the Sholem Aleichem Cultural Center, Bronx 1980s.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The more popular song version of this poem by Itzik Manger (1901 – 1969) was composed by Hertz Rubin (1911 – 1958) and has been recorded by at least thirteen artists. According to Chana and Yosl Mlotek in Songs of Generations, the singer Masha Benya received that version from Manger’s widow Genia Manger after the second world war in NY.

MangerItzik Manger in his Chernovitz days, 1920s

But this earlier version has a different melody, and slightly different words without the “Ekh du fidele du mayn” refrain. BSG learned this song in Chernovitz, which was Romania between the world wars and is now in the Ukraine.

Manger’s lyrics carry a number of commonly-held negative stereotypes about Romany (Gypsy) culture. However, considering the time in which he was writing, through first-person narration, Manger creates a sympathetic window into the challenges faced by Roma including poverty, oppression, and a sense of otherness as a minority community. The ever-wandering Manger, no doubt, felt like a kindred spirit.

In the Ruth Rubin Legacy: Archive of Yiddish Folksongs at YIVO, Sore Kessler sings this Chernovitz version and explains she learned it from the Yiddish poet M. M. Shaffir in Montreal. Shaffir was also from the Bukovina region (not Bessarabia as Kessler says in her spoken introduction), and a friend of BSG. Some of Kessler’s text differs and she sings a verse that BSG does not:

Shtendik zaynen mir af vegn,
mir af vegn.
Say bay nakht,
un say in regn.

Always are we travelling,
travelling [on the roads.]
Both at night
and in the rain.

Accordionist Mishka Zignaoff (who was a Yiddish-speaking Russian Rom musician based in New York) recorded the melody as Galitzianer khosid (Galician Hasid) in a medley with the famous Reb Dovidl’s nign.

I am posting this song to mark Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman’s 5th yortsayt (1920 – 2013) which falls on the second candle of khanike.

BeyleItzikTapes2Beyle and Itzik Gottesman looking over Yiddish field recordings, 1970s.

TRANSLITERATION

BSG Spoken: [Itzik Manger] iz geveyn maner a landsman, un hot geredt Yidish vi ekh. Vel ikh zingen in durem-yidish azoy vi er hot geredt. “Ikh bin a tsiganerl a kleyner” un di lider vus ikh zing zenen a bisele, tsi mul, andersh vi ir zingt zey, val ikh ken zey nokh fun der heym.

1) Ikh bin a tsigaynerl a kleyner, gur a kleyner
ober vi ir zeyt a sheyner.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

Ikh veys nisht vi ikh bin geboyrn, bin geboyrn.
Di mame hot mikh in steppe farloyrn
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

2) Dem tatn hot men oyfgehongen, oyfgehongen
Vayl er iz ganvenen gegangen
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

Burves, hingerik un freylekh, ober freylekh
Fil ikh zikh vi a ben-meylekh.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

3) In mayn lidl kent ir hern, kent ir hern
Mayn tatns zifts, mayn mames trern.
Tra-La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

S’kost in gantsn nor a drayer, nor eyn drayer.
S’iz mayn veytik gurnisht tayer.
Trala-la-la-la-la-la-la

Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

TRANSLATION

BSG Spoken: “[Itzik Manger] was from the same city as me and spoke Yiddish as I do. So I will sing in the southern Yiddish that he spoke.  “Ikh bin a tsiganerl a kleyner” and the other songs that I will sing are a little different than the way you sing them because I learned them form home.”

I’m a small Gypsy lad, a very small Gypsy lad,
But as you see good-looking.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

I don’t know where I was born, was born.
My mother lost me somewhere in the Steppes.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

Refrain: Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

They hanged my father, hanged my father
Because he went thieving.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

Barefoot, hungry and merry, always merry.
I feel like a prince.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

Refrain: Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

In my song you can hear, can hear
My father’s sigh, my mother’s tears.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

It will only cost you three kopecks.
My suffering doesn’t cost much at all.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la
tsigaynerl 1

tsigaynerl 2

tsigaynerl3

“Farmutshet in fintserer tfise” Performed by Leo Summergrad

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

Farmutshet in fintserer tfise / Exhausted In a Dark Jail
Sung by Leo Summergrad, recorded by Summergrad in 1959

Commentary by Itizk Gottesman

Upon hearing a previous post Es hot geshneyet un geregnt sung by Esther Gold, Yiddish singer, song lover and collector Leo Summergrad wrote to say that the melody is similar not only to In kampf by David Edelshtadt but also to the song Farmutshet in fintserer tfise. I asked him to send his recording of the song to the Yiddish Song of the Week.

RussianPrison

Russian Prison, circa 1890

Farmutshet in fintserer tfise is a Yiddish translation of a popular Russian poem Замучен тяжелой неволей by Gregori Machtet (1852 – 1901). Here is a choral version of the original Russian song:

In Albert Bitter’s song collection Zing-A-Lid (NY, 1940, 1941) he has printed the words and melody and noted that it is a translation from Russian. In a Yiddish song collection of the 1890s Lieder Magazin (NYC)  it is already noted that the source of the music for Edelshtadt’s In kamf is the Russian song.

The Yiddish translator is “A. Kovner” which I assume to be a pseudonym.  In the on-line Ruth Rubin Legacy: Archive of Yiddish Folksongs at YIVO,  Naomi Feder sings the first two verses of Farmutshet in fintserer tfise. I could not find any studio recording of the song.

Leo Summergrad writes about this recording:

I probably learned the song in Mitl Shul, which was also before the war.  I don’t recall the when and how, but we put on plays honoring Naphtali Botwin and Hirsh Leckert.  Perhaps it was part of the plays.

As to the recordings:  I’ve had a love affair with Yiddish music since I was a very young child.  My mother and father both sang beautifully and did so all the time.  My uncle was the lead tenor in the Oscar Julius quartet.  A big regret is that I never recorded my parents when I had the opportunity.

In 1959 I bought a quality reel to reel tape recorder, which I still have, for the sole purpose of memorializing some of the songs I love.  Over a period of months, I did so.  On the recording I say, “These are a few of my favorites”.  I then record two hours of songs.  As technology improved, I converted the reels to cassettes and later to CDs.  פארמוטשעט אין פינסטערע טוויסעס appears on volume 1, under “Songs of Struggle”.

About the same time, I started collecting Yiddish recordings and song books.  I currently have about 700 recordings from 27 different countries and more than 60 books.  Information about the recordings and songs, of which there are about 2300, are in data bases that I developed.

Over the years, I have made about a dozen more recordings, many of which were of programs that a friend and I put on at various locations over a number of years.

Thanks this week to Leo Summergrad for sending us his stirring recording. 

TRANSCRIPTION

Farmutshet in fintserer tfise,
in kamf far der arbeter-makht.
Bagegnt dem toyt hostu heldish,
bist erlekh gefaln in shlakht.

Neyn, sine hot bloyz undz nor gevorgn,
getribn in shlakht hot undz mut.
Baym keyver mir hobn geshvoyrn
batsoln dem faynt far dayn blut.

Far undz iz nor eyn veg nor dayner,
vi du zayn in tfise farshmakht.
A lebn nor shtraykn nor kemfn,
un faln vi du far der zakh.

TRANSLATION

Exhausted in a dark prison,
in struggle for the workers’ power,
you met your death like a hero
and died honestly.

No, hatred has only strangled us.
Our courage drove us into battle.
At the grave we swore
to make the enemy pay for your blood.

For us there is only one way – yours,
As you, to be suffering in prison.
A life of only strikes and struggles,
and to die as you for the cause.
jail lyrics.jpeg

“Erev-Yonkiper nokhn halbn tog” Performed by Yankl Goldman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2018 by yiddishsong

Erev-Yonkiper nokhn halbn tog / On the Eve of Yom-kippur, In the Afternoon
Sung by Yankl Goldman
From the Ruth Rubin Legacy Archive of  Yiddish Folksongs, YIVO Institute, NYC

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Untitled drawingThis is a variation of the most common nineteenth century Yiddish murder ballad which often begins with “Tsvelef a zeyger”. But this version is unusual because the performer Yankl Goldman says before he sings that the boyfriend/suitor is a non-Jew and this is the reason why her parents reject him.

Other than the name “Panilevitsh”, there is no indication in the song itself that he is not Jewish. The version follows very closely to many other versions in which all the characters are Jewish.

Thanks to sound archivist Lorin Sklamberg and the YIVO Sound Archives for the recording. 

TRANSLITERATION

Spoken by Yankl Goldman: “A libeslid vos me hot gezungen nukh a tragishn tsufal ven der gelibter hot ermordet zayn gelibte tsulib dem vos di eltern hobn nisht tsigelozn, az zi zol khasene hobn mit em vayl er iz nisht geven keyn yid.”

Un di lid geyt azey –
Erev-yonkiper in halbn tog
ven ale meydlekh tien fun di arbet geyn.
Dort dreyt zikh arum Panalevitsh.
Git er Dvoyrelen oyskukn.

Azoy vi er hot zi derzeyn,
zi geblibn far zayn[e] oygn shteyn.
“Un itst iz gekumen di libe tsayt
Di zolst mir zogn yo tsi neyn.”

Tsi libst mikh yo, tsi di libst mikh nit
mayne eltern zey viln dikh nit.
Oy, mayne eltern tien mir shtern,
Ikh zol far dir a kale vern.

Azoy vi er hot dos derhert
Es hot im shtark fardrosn
aroysgenumen hot er deym revolver
un hot Dvoyrelen dershosn.

[Ruth Rubin: “Oy!”]

Azoy vi er hot ir dershosn.
Iz zi gefaln af a groysn shteyn.
Troyerik iz di mayse, ober lebn –
lebt zi shoyn nisht meyn.

TRANSLATION

Spoken by Yankl Goldman: “A love song that was sung after a tragedy, when the lover killed his beloved, because her parents would not allow her to marry a non-Jew.”

On the eve of Yom-kippur, in the afternoon
when the girls leave work,
Panalevitsh is hanging out,
waiting impatiently for Dvoyre.

As soon as he saw her
she stopped right before his eyes.
“And now has come the right time
for you to tell me – yes or no”.

“What does it matter if
you love or don’t love me
my parents do not want you.
Oy, my parents have ruined
my becoming your bride.”

As soon as he heard this
he was very chagrined.
He took out a revolver
and shot Dvoyre dead.

[Ruth Rubin says in background “oy!”.]

When he shot her
she fell upon a large stone.
Sad is the story, but
she lives no more.

Screenshot 2018-09-12 at 4.33.20 PM

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Merke Levine Performs “Mayn harts, mayn harts”

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2018 by yiddishsong

Mayn harts, mayn harts / My heart, my heart
Sung by Merke (Mary) Levine, recorded by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman
Bronx, July 6, 1991

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The singer Merke (Mary) Levine was from Belarus and came to NY after the first world war. She lived in the Bronx and was active in the Yiddish left, and later in life was a board member of the Sholem Aleichem Cultural Center in the Bronx. Her husband Tevye Levine was a teacher in the Arbeter ordn folkshuln.

merkeMerke (Mary) Levine

This love song Mayn harts, mayn harts is found twice in the YIVO Ruth Rubin on-line collection. There it is sung both by Golde Fried and her husband Israel (Sruli) Freed with the same melody and only minor textual differences.

In terms of  Yiddish folksong poetry, what stands out is the line “Mayne gedanken – ahin, aher”, which I translated as “My thoughts – any way you look at it”.  The expression “ahin-aher” or “hin-her” can also mean “after long discussion”, or “to get to the point”

TRANSCRIPTION

Mayn harts, mayn harts veynt in mir.
Ikh darf zikh sheydn itst mit dir.
Mayne gedanken – ahin-aher.
Mit dir tsu sheydn iz mir shver.

Vu forstu mayn zis lebn?
Vu forstu fun mir avek?
Vu vel ikh dir darfn zukhn?
Zog zhe mir in velkhn veg?

Fun yedn shtetele, fun yedn derfele,
a brivele shraybn zolstu mir.
Betn, bet ikh dir mayn zis lebn,
nit fargesn zolstu mir.

TRANSLATION

My heart, my heart cries in me.
I must now part with you.
My thoughts – anyway you look at it: [lit: this way, that way]
to leave you is hard for me.

Where are you traveling my dear love?
Where are you traveling and leaving me?
Where will I have to search for you?
Tell me in which way?

From each town, from each village
you should write me a letter.
I ask of you, my dear love,
please not to forget me.

mayn harts yiddish