Yiddish Curiosities: a library of wonderful but forgotten Yiddish songs from the late 1920s and after (includes Polish Jewish Cabaret). 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


Saturday, December 17, 2022

Ver ken di libe fun a heyliker mame farshteyn? Fabulous Yiddish tango from "Bandit Gentleman"

UPDATED to include a link to the Olga Mieleszczuk I just found on youtube: Heyliker mame.

And here is my singalong video (with the transliterated Yiddish text and translation):

yiddish song di libe fun a heylike mameOr click on the long-suffering mother (right) to listen to and/or buy this track from our Lebedik Yankel cd.

In Itzik Zhelonek's collection he references this song as being from BenZion Witler's show "Bandit Gentleman" - I couldn't find the recording by Benzion Witler until I wrote to Karsten Troyke, who has recorded the song as "Ver ken di libe," and he kindly pointed me to the Witler 78 - it's hiding on Youtube under the name Der ken di libeh.

Since I hadn't been able to find that version, I had already transcribed the song from a Herman Fenigstein recording found at europeana.eu - and here's our version of the song and the sheet music with translation, transcription, chords, etc:

Here's our Yiddish music video with captions from a 2013 concert:

Troyke's version is faster and has the authentic rhythm from the Witler recording. Ours is more like the slower Fenigstein version. It's a great song either way. Note bene, the song has also been found under these transliterations: Ver ken du liebe and Wer, ken du liebe.

Lyrics and translation after the jump:

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Friday, October 28, 2022

Lo lanu di naye (Yiddish theater song) (Lo Lani)

UPDATE: Reposting to add the animated video I did today. Nobody ever listens to the automatic videos created by Routenote of the songs from our cds so I thought I'd make one today and see if it gets some listeners:


Here's something very interesting about the fellow I called here (in the second verse) "Vayzote" but who, it seems, is called in Yiddish Vayzuse and whose name is also used for "idiot." He was Haman's youngest son. You can read a great blog article about him, from the Mayrent Institute blog, here: Vayzuso. And there is a wonderful recording from way back in 1901 made by Dave Franklin, "the king of comic singers." A great song and a great read!

Click the picture to listen to and/or buy this track, Di naye lo lanu, from our Lebedik Yankel cd. Aviva Enoch plays the piano on the cd.

(Picture: Mordechai on his horse, as mentioned in the song!)

And here is a live concert version with Roger Lynn Spears playing piano:

This song was printed twice in the collection (once in 1929 and once in 1934) which indicates it must have been pretty popular! As with "Di Naye Al Chet" and "Me Shoklt Zikh," the song begins in a religious setting (pious Jews praying at Sukkot and waving their lulavs). It plays with the line from the Halleluja, "Lo Lanu" (not for us but for you, God) and the similar "lo eleinu" which means more or less, "let it not happen to me/us!" Having set the proper context, it then wanders off and applies the concept in a more secular context.

Aviva and Roger both do a great job of interpreting the accompaniment as heard on the Herman Fenigstein 78 found at Harvard's Judaica Collection. (Fenigstein sings the same first verse as noted in Zhelonek's book, but his second and third verses are different.) Although ordinarily I adapt lyrics to standard Yiddish (because that's what I know), in this case many of the rhymes won't work unless one sings "Lo lani" (what he sings sometimes sounds more like "Loy lani") so that's what I did.

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Sunday, July 3, 2022

Yosl un Sore-Dvoshe: a tale of a lover's spat which culminates in a noisy trip to the theater

UPDATE to add video from our May 2022 concert at the Shadowbox. We just did the first two verses and went out with a bass solo.

This is Kasriel Broydo's send-up of Fanny Gordon's tango Milosc cie zgubila.That's Fanny in the picture. She was the only female composer I know of working successfully in the Polish cabarets and nightclubs between the World Wars.

This Yiddish version was sung in Europe by Mina Bern and Joseph Widetzky.

I love how the loving couple displays behavior that must have been so aggravating to the singers: they sneak into the theater for free, they snap and crunch sunflower seeds and cookies in the front row and they even eat fruit compote and nudge around with their pal Velvl.

You can listen to or buy the cut from our album here: Yosl un Sore-Dvoshe on Cabaret Warsaw: Yiddish & Polish Hits of the 1920s - 1930s by Mappamundi

Here's my translation from the Yiddish:

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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Sex Appeal! Sung (then) by Benzion Witler and Adam Aston - now by Mappamundi!

UPDATED so I can post the video we made last month at the Shadowbox Studio, thanks to Mark Sidell for the audio and Paul Deblinger for the video. This was one of the first songs Beth and I found that existed in both a Polish version, lyric is by Ludwik Starski (see the iconic performance by Eugeniusz Bodo singing "Sex appeal" in drag) and a Yiddish version, written by Igor S. Korn-Teurer, more famous for serious Holocaust poetry. (Menasze Oppenheim singing "Sex Appeal" in 1938)
If you want the words write me.

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Thursday, June 23, 2022

Der Dales - Nikodem - Yiddish and Polish versions of the same theater song

UPDATED to add a video made from our May 8 2022 concert. 

When my band Mappamundi was making the Cabaret Warsaw cd, we were looking for songs from the 1920s and 1930s which had both a Polish and a Yiddish version, and this song was one of them.

We wondered which came first until I found, at YIVO, Ben-Zion Witler's copy of this published sheet music for Nikodem with his own handwritten lyrics, in Yiddish, tucked inside. In my later research I've found several Polish songs which he re-wrote for his own repertoire.

The Polish version is about an obnoxious guy who thinks he's hot stuff. Witler's version is more interesting - it's about the anthropomorphized concept of Poverty as a sentient creature who comes to live with you and, sadly, like a leech of an uninvited guest, will not leave.

We recorded it for our Cabaret Warsaw cd: Der Dales and Nikodem by Mappamundi. We sing two of the three verses Witler recorded and then just the chorus of the Polish version (Nikodem) by Starski and Wars.

Here's my translation of the Yiddish lyrics. For a charming description of "Der Dales" (Mr. Poverty) see the bottom of this post.
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