Archive for war

“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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“Ikh tu dir a brivele shraybn” performed by Harry Ary

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Benjy Fox-Rosen

A powerful song lamenting the horrors of war. A soldier lies wounded in the hospital and writes to his mother and fiancé.

This recording is from Ruth Rubin’s field recordings courtesy of Lorin Sklamberg and the YIVO Sound Archive. It was recorded in 1955 in Montreal. The singer is named Harry Ary, he is the same singer who sings “In Droysen iz Finster” from Ruth Rubin’s “Jewish Life: The Old Country” LP of field recordings. I love his delivery and especially the very slight differences between each verse. He may be my favorite male singer on that record.

Note the difference in the opening phrase on the first, and later verses; at the beginning of the second and third verses, he sings a sharp fourth instead of the natural fourth.

On the second and third verses, when he repeats the last two lines, I especially like the different way that he treats, “mayn harts” and “mayn kale.” The variations have very much the same shape, but are sung varied slightly each time. Also his final cadences at the end of each verse are of particular interest to me, for he sings almost a quarter tone sharper than a flat second (in the mode), and this is of course intentional. This difference in tuning is often overlooked in transcriptions and re-interpretations of folk sources, however these controlled variations in pitch are what make this singer particularly interesting.


I will write you a letter Mamenyu,
And Mamenyu, I write of my health,
Oy, my hand was amputated,
And in both eyes, Mamenyu, I am blind.

I lie in the hospital, wounded,
And the doctors stand around me,
My heart is gushing with blood,
My dear Mamenyu is not near me.

I write a letter to my bride,
And I write of her alone,
That she should rip up the engagement,
And go with someone else to the khupe.
(translation by Benjy Fox-Rosen)

Itzik Gottesman writes: Below is the version of the song from “Yidishe folks-lider” edited by Moyshe Beregovski and Itzik Feffer, Kiev 1939, page 119. The melody is essentially the same, and the words vary only slightly. However one textual change should be noted: in the Beregovski-Feffer version the singers says in the second line of the third verse “I write to you only about myself” which is the opposite of Harry Ary’s version.”