Polish Jewish Cabaret: a library of wonderful but forgotten Yiddish songs of the 1920s - 1930s. Have a listen!

1. Link to list of posts on this site
2. Link to songs for sale
3. Click here for our music videos of Yiddish songs with English subtitles (mainly post-1925)
4. List of the still lost songs. Do you know any of them?
5. Warszawa zumerkurs song links


Thursday, April 28, 2022

Oy, vi es tyokhket! Oh, how it throbs! Concerning love and the yeytser hore

UPDATE: Six years after I last posted this song, Arye Menachem has found a recording of Aaron Lebedeff singing Es Tyokhket (which was at the time transliterated by the record company as Oy Vie iz Tchurckit) and has posted it on youtube with the lyrics and a rhyming version in English: "Es tyokhket." Enjoy!

Six years ago I re-upped this post with a (now obsolete but funny) Instagram 60-second video excerpt:

Or click the album cover to hear and/or buy this track from our cd Nervez!

The Yiddish word yeytser is sometimes translated mildly denotes lust or desire for - something and yeytser hore is the scolding terminology for wanting sex.

Itzik Zhelonek cited a Pinkhus Sapir recording of this song, noting that it was from the show Der eybiker nar (The Eternal Fool) but I couldn't find that recording.

My transcription is from the singing of the "Betty Koenig / Kenig from her Syrena Grand Records 5286 Es tiochket. Obviously she sang the song from a woman's point of view and, as I am a woman, I chose her lyrics over Sapir's.

My translation from the Yiddish:
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Thursday, January 13, 2022

Ales kumt dokh fun upstairs (Everything comes from upstairs) - Max Wilner's TV appearance

This song is found, as far as I know, only on the Youtube channel of Spookylorre. He doesn't say where it comes from, but somebody told me it was from a TV show in the 1950s. I'd love to know more! 

So here is Max, mugging his way through this delightful song: Ales kimt dokh fin upstairs

 As far as I know, the song was never recorded or published, this clip is all there is. The great challenge was figuring out the lyrics. 

I asked Len Mis, Lenny Misikoff, proprietor of Arye Menachem's Cornucopia of Yiddish Song, to help out. He has generously been transcribing lyrics for unpublished songs for quite some time, it's a huge favor he's doing everybody who cares about Yiddish songs. Check out his YouTube channel: Yiddish Songs with Translation by Arye. There were a few murky spots, I did the best I could... He got Yelena Shmulenson to help, so, thanks to both! Here is my living room recording from earlier today:

It would be interesting to have a date for Wilner's video. There is so much English in the text, but the heart of the song is very old-fashioned - it follows the same form we saw in Yiddish vaudeville songs of the turn of the 20th century. The idea - that everything we have comes from above - is reflected in three very different ways in the three stanzas. If anybody knows more about this tv show, please let me know. Transliteration and translation after the jump. 

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Thursday, September 9, 2021

Birobidzhan: Stalin thought you should want to live there and this song agrees.

UPDATE: Somebody asked me for a sing along version, so here it is, the recording is still from "I Can't Complain" at Bandcamp
This Yiddish song of propaganda and emigration is often called Yugn Zikh Tsvey Taykhn - lyrics by Betsalel Friedman and music by Ben Yomen. I didn't know this until yesterday and when I looked up Ben Yomen's songbook Lider far shul un heym I found it (thanks to Jack Falk):

Yiddish song Birobidzhan original sheet music

There is also a cute song in the book called The Biro Bidzhan Freylekh. I can only assume Ben Yomen sincerely believed Birobidjan could be a good place for Jews to settle.

I was very startled to see this sheet music, because it's so different from what I learned - somewhere along its way to me the melody morphed into something quite different. I've never heard a recording of the song: I learned it from a pianist who had learned it from a cassette (which he can't find for me now).

Click below to hear the version Aviva and I recorded (and buy the sheet music of our version, if you like it):

This is the video Aviva and I made at our first concert together:

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Friday, September 3, 2021

Khsidemlekh zingen (Khsidemlekh tantsn) - Yiddish theater song by Yosele Kolodny

UPDATE:Reposted to add (on the right) a brand new singalong version (I hadn't thought of that back in 2016 when I last posted this song). On the left, a live version from the very first time pianist Aviva Enoch and I performed the song. Maybe 2011? Ah, time flies.

Yosele Kolodny, composer of this song, died in the Holocaust. Little is known about him. He was composer of another song in the Itzik Zhelonek collection - Dem Rebns Shirayim - which I have not been able to find (it's possible it was sung to a tune very much like this one, the scansion is similar). In the book The Jews of Pinsk, 1881 to 1941 Yosele Kolodni is mentioned as a young actor, a Pinsker, married to Ulia Rabinowitsch, performing in a comedy called Dolarn in 1923.

Zhelonek sold (and transcribed) a 78 made by Yossele Kolodni himself, but I haven't found it. Ben Bonus sang the song - as a cheery tango - and that's what I transcribed (download his version here). It's at the Dartmouth Jewish Sound Archive. At the Freedman catalogue you can find mention of quite few recordings of the song, which is sometimes called Khasidemlekh Tantsn and sometimes Khasidemlekh Zingen. These include a performance by Ben and Florence Belfer available online in the Florida Atlantic University collection: Khasidimlakh. Chava Kramer sent me the link.

Click the album cover below to hear and/or buy this track and all the others from our cd Nervez!

hasidic dancing

The slippers and socks mentioned here are cited in Wikipedia:

Hasidim in the mid-19th century show a far more Levantine outfit (i.e. a kaftan lacking lapels or buttons) that differs little from the classical oriental outfit consisting of the kaftan, white undershirt, sash, knee-breeches (halbe-hoyzn), white socks and slippers (shtibblat). This outfit allegedly had a Babylonian origin before its later adoption by Jews, Persians and lastly the Turks, who brought it to Europe.

Here's my translation:
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Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Goodbye New York by Pesach Burstein (aka Gud-bay Nyu York)

UPDATE:Reposted because a reader of the blog found a recording of this song, by Aaron Lebedeff, at the Mayrent collection in Wisconsin. Have a listen: גוד־באַי, ניו יאָרק.

Here's a 1-minute Instagram video. It's fun making short videos and the square size is entertaining! Here it is:

Click the album cover to listen to and/or buy our recording of this song, Good-bye New York, from the In Odess cd.

On page 130 of Pesach Burstein's autobiography Oh, What a Life! he mentions this song as being sung in Warsaw, and it appears in one of the Itzik Zhelanek books along with "Zi Hot Es," another number from the same show. Zhelanek says the show was Gasn Zinger but Burstein says it was from Radio Singer.

On my trip to Harvard's Judaica collection I found orchestra parts for this song, but not a lead sheet. That was the case for a number of other songs; I wonder if this was because the singers were afraid their songs would be stolen so they committed them to memory and ate the lyrics pages. I reconstructed the tune from the fiddle part, so it might not be exactly right - I've never heard the song as it was sung. If you "click to order" you can buy the sheet music with translation etc for $2.50 (includes the mp3 of the song):

I think it's pretty obvious why this song became "lost" - the protagonist says he has had ill luck in New York and is going back to Eastern Europe. Nobody would have sung such a thing after the Holocaust. Nikolai Borodulin found, maybe, the town our protagonist was returning to - Berëzovka [Russia], Berezivka [Ukraine], Berezówka [Polish], Beresowka, Beresovka - in Ukraine, 223 miles south of Kiev.

As always, if you have information about this song let me know. I reconstructed the melody from a hand-written fiddle part for the score in Harvard's Widener Library Judaica Collection, it might not be quite right, I've never actually heard anybody sing the song.

Here's the transcription:

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