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

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Friday, September 30, 2016

A reader's query about a Warsaw underworld romance, 1920s-1930s - can you help?

This is the story that was sent to me via email. If you have any ideas please let me know (jane@mappamundi.com) - thanks.

The reader writes:

Please could you help me identify a song about a Warsaw underworld tragedy. Chana Dziobak was a street merchant who sold cookies at the gate of Rynkowa/Gnojna 3 in Warsaw where my father lived before the war. Chana's husband Melech Paser (also known as Melech Ganev) was an underworld character who had an affair with Chana's sister Esther-Chaye. My father wrote:


"The lusting of Melech Fence for Esther-Chaye was transformed, with time, into a stormy spurt which connected them together like a couple on their wedding night. Chana Pockmark became wounded to the depths of her concealed feelings. She threw herself upon her sister like a bleeding animal, smashed her body, hit her, bit into her flesh with her teeth and nails – and these two sisters remained blood enemies forevermore. Chana did not reproach Melech, and she did not speak to him anymore. A wound oozed in her heart, which pushed its way through her laughter, song, and her entire being. Warsaw sang a pop song about Chana Pockmark’s tragedy, a song that meandered through the attics and cellars of the Warsaw realm of poverty."

Do you know of any Warsaw pop song (shlager) that might fit this story?

Monday, September 19, 2016

New information comes to light about Itzik Zhelonek

Josh Fogel, out of the kindness of his heart, sent me an amazing treasure yesterday. He is translating the massive Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur - it's a side project, he says, "a labor of love and hopefully of use to younger scholars coming up in that field ... I'm always looking out for any details I can add to the bios--dates, correct titles, etc. When I came to your guy, I googled him and found your website."

This is the FIRST time I've ever found proof of Zhelonek's existence outside of his own little booklets! I see he wrote for Haynt and Ekspress, if I can find a way to search for his work there I will. Thanks Josh!! Here's the article (click for a larger view):



Josh's translation is at his wonderful blog, Yiddish lexicon: YITSKHOK ZHELONEK (ICEK ZIELONEK) - to paraphrase, Zhelonek was born in 1902 in Warsaw to a laboring family. He was a reciter of poetry and a modern wedding entertainer [one of the booklets I've got is called Der moderner badkhn]. He published humorous poetry. Nothing was heard of him after World War II.

The information was taken from Sefer hashana lebibliyografya yehudit bepolanya (Annual of Yiddish bibliography in Poland) (Warsaw, 1936), p. 40.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

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

UPDATE: Reposting because I just read something very interesting about the fellow I called here (in the second verse) "Vayzote" but who, it seems, is called in Yiddish Vayzuso. 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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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Mir voyle yingelekh (Hert oys gute brider) A lost song found! White slavery in Buenos Aires, Argentina

I regard this blog as more or less completed because it seems the last lost songs of Itzik Zhelonek may never be found.

However, this week I heard from Jeanette Lewicki -- she sent me sheet music for a variant of one of the almost extinct songs. She found it in a book (available as a pdf from the Yiddish Book Center Archive) called Arkhiv fun yidisher shprakhvisnshaft, literaturforshung un etnologiye by Noekh Prilutski and Shmuel Lehman, Warsaw 1926-1933, in the chapter called Di untervelt in ire lider (The underworld in its songs). Wow, THANKS Jeanette! I was so excited to get this!

And as promised I sent her a free copy of one of my books - she asked for Yiddish Songs of the Gaslight Era . Anybody who finds me one of the lost songs gets a prize!) And then I got Jim Baird, who plays in my band Mappamundi, to do a guitar part. I sang and added concertina. Here's our recording:


The "Underworld" chapter in this book comprises songs collected by S. Lehman; they are mostly songs about Jewish prostitution in Buenos Aires (rendered in Yiddish as Bines-Eyre, Bones Eyre, Bune, etc). You can read about white slavery in Argentina and Brazil on many websites including at the Jewish Women's Archive and Ynetnews.com and Rense.com. Here's an excerpt from Wikipedia.


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Friday, September 9, 2016

Di firme Boymvol is a parody of "Katinka" by Ben Russell and Henry Tobias

UPDATE: Reposting because the brilliant Jean Hessel just found another contrafactum (another text set to this same melody) on Youtube! Dos is nicht mein arbeit (Dos iz nisht mayn arbet), sung by Leo Fuchs in 1930! Thanks, Jean! Anybody want to take a whack at taking down the words? If I get them I'll post them here!

You can hear (and buy, if you like) our recording of Di Firme Boymvol here:


Foxtrot Katinka by Henry TobiasOne of my lost Zhelonek songs, Di firme Boymvol, had the intriguing direction: "To be sung to the melody of Poktsro Katinge." I asked Yiddishists and Slavic professors, and all protested that these were not real words in any language. Stymied.

One night I remembered that P and F are virtually interchangeable and flashed on FOXTROT - I looked online for foxtrots called "Katinge," no luck, then flashed: KATINKA. Bingo! On the sheet music, Katinka is subtitled A Russian Fox Trot-Sky.

The 1926 song, which in typical American fashion makes ignorant fun of Russia, sailed east across the Atlantic and became very popular there; on youtube you can find translations of this song in Finnish and Greek. But here is the original American version, George Olsen's 1926 recording of Katinka Foxtrot. I hope you enjoy the lyrics and the Russian scat singing later in the song. Around my place we now have a terrible earworm and are going around singing: "But she went nutsky for the hey, hey, oy, vey,"
So FYI here's the recording I transcribed:
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