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


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Ikh hob dikh tsufil lib: an "evergreen" classic Yiddish song by Alexander Olshanetsky and Chaim Tauber

I was recently asked for the sheet music to this song so I found a copy and you can order it from me below. This has got to be one of the most-recorded Yiddish theater songs of all time. There are dozens and dozens of versions on Youtube. It was the big shlager (hit) from Alexander Olshanetsky’s 1933 musical comedy Der katerinchik (The Organ-grinder).

The Milken Archive has a great writeup of Ikh hob dikh tsufil lib. Briefly, Tsirele (Jewish) and Abrasha (a supposedly Gypsy organ-grinder and pickpoket) are in love. Masha, a fortune-teller who is herself in love with Abrasha, reads her own fortune and, seeing in the cards that Abrasha will marry Tsirele, she sings this torch song to him. (It turns out later that Abrasha is not a gypsy but a Jew kidnapped as a baby so all is well.)

Click here to purchase sheet music for $2.50: Ikh hob dikh tsufil lib digital pdf file sheet music download.

By the way, when you search for a Yiddish song online be sure to search for alternative spellings. Ikh is often ich. Hob is sometimes hab. Dikh is sometimes dich and some versions use dir instead of dikh. Tsufil can be tsufiel, tsi fil, sifeel, tzufil, tsufeel, etc. and lib is often lieb or leib.

In Russian I saw it this way: Их хоб дих цу фил либ

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

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

UPDATE: I just made this singalong video (with the transliterated Yiddish text) this morning:

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.

A kind anonymous commenter just pointed me to two versions of a Witler 33, each including this song. Note the transliterations: 1. Ver ken du liebe and 2. Wer, ken du liebe:

Lyrics and translation after the jump:

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Sunday, May 1, 2016

An eytsele tsum vaser-treger (Advice for the water carrier) - Moyshe Broderson and Henech Kon

Beth Holmgren and I were very taken by a video we heard on Youtube of Ola Lilith and Willy Godik singing together, An'Eicele, 1928 - "(Text Moses Brodersohn, Musik H. Kohn) - Ola Lilith u. Wł. Godik aus jüdischen Revue-Theater, mit Orchester Begleitung, Homocord Pl.29078, Wyrób Polski (Polish) c. 1928"

In standard transliteration that would be An eytsele (Some Advice).

I wasn't satisfied with my ability to transcribe the words and, besides, it was about women from various places and how lousy they would all be as wives, we didn't want to sing that. So I replaced the text with one from the Itzik Zhelonek's lost songs, one that at the time was still lost (ie had no melody) but which I have since found: Der vaser treger as sung by Moshe Kraus. Though I didn't know it then, Der vaser treger was also written by Moshe Broderzon and Henech Kon. I added a different punch line. (In the original song, the punch line is, "so we don't have any potatoes to go with our bread - God will provide.")

Here's us singing the concocted song:

Here are the words. If you ever sing it (or any of the others) please let me know and I'll link to your performance!
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Better Go Back into the Dream - a stunning Yiddish ballad by Iso Shayevitsh

I was just hammered by the beauty of this song when I heard it in the Yiddish movie 'On a heym," (homeless), the last Yiddish movie made in Poland before the Second World War. It was sung by a very young Wiera Gran, who had only recently learned Yiddish, playing Bessie the cabaret singer. I believe it was never recorded; I transcribed it from a dvd of the movie. Here we are performing it for the first time, at Duke University, for our Cabaret Warsaw inaugural run:

I looked for a musician credit at the start of the film and all it said was, "Shayevitsh" - not even a first name. After some hunting I figured out who this was and added him to Wikipedia. Israel "Iso" Szajewicz (1910–41) was born in Kutno to Dineh and Józef Szajewicz, Yiddish itinerant actors. He worked as a hairdresser and taught himself music.

In 1927 he moved to Warsaw and began playing violin in theatre orchestras and composing. In 1931 he became music director at the Kaminski Theatre and conducted concerts of the Jewish Music Society.

I read today that he also composed the music for Der Tunkeler's musical comedy Got's ganovim (God's thieves) produced by the Vilner Troupe in 1935. I'd like to get hold of that.

At the outbreak of World War II, Szajewicz fled to Bialystok and toured in Minsk. When German and Soviet conflict broke out he started back to Warsaw to be with his mother. Somewhere in the woods between Bialystok and Baranowicze he was killed before he was thirty years old.

Here's a transcription and the translation:

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Saturday, April 30, 2016

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

UPDATE: Re-posted to add 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 magnificent 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. There is also an Aaron Lebedeff version, "Oy Vie iz Tchurckit," with yet more lyrics.

My translation from the Yiddish:
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