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

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4. List of the still lost songs. Do you know any of them?
5. Warszawa zumerkurs song links

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Mazl mazl vi bistu mazl? Luck, where are you? Joseph Feldman writes a Yiddish folk song.

This song was printed by Joseph Feldman in an issue (was it the only one?) of his "Yiddish Theatrical Magazine," shared with me by Steven Lasky. This melody sounds like a folk song and the words have that feel as well, but Feldman copyrighted the song (or at least he wrote here that he did).

Note the transliteration, Mazel, we bisty mazel, and on the lyrics page it says Mazel, mazel, wie bisty mazel? In standard (klal) Yiddish this would probably be Mazl mazl vu bistu mazl? (Luck, luck, where are you, luck?) but in the first verse it says: Wie bisty fun mir antrinen? In which case I like vi (how) rather than vu (where). YMMV I guess.



Here's my recording from half an hour ago:



Words and translation after the jump.

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Chort vozmi, a variant by Joseph Feldman

In 2014 I posted a folk song called Dos Fleshele (Chort voz'mi) which was found in the Itzik Zhelonek collection of Yiddish theater songs beloved in Warsaw between the wars. I transcribed the tune from a cassette made by Itzik Gottesman when Jacob Gorelick sang the song in his living room in the 1980s. Gorelick said the melody was borrowed from the Russian folksong карие глазки (Karie glazki).

Recently Steven Lasky, proprietor of the Museum of the Yiddish Theatre, posted this lovely issue of Joseph Feldman's "Yiddish Theatrical Magazine" on Facebook. It contained lyrics and even a few bits of written music. One of the songs is this one, Chort vozmi.

The tune is very similar to the earlier one, but different enough I suppose that Feldman felt he could copyright it. While the other song's lyrics focus on how rotten it is to be a drunk, this version focuses on how rotten it is that a woman dumps you and forces you to become an alcoholic.

Earlier today the helpful band of Facebook yids (Marek Tuszewicki, Shane Baker, Michael Alpert, Eli Rosen, and Paula Teitelbaum) helped me with the word bridiage: it means vagabond or bum in Russian. Eleanor Reissa said she loved the words and would like to hear the song, so I decided to just jump in and record it.


Here are the words as transcribed in Feldman's magazine. Once again I want you to feast your eyes on the extremely non-standard transliteration. I would not have ever guessed a spelling like TSORT WAS MIE and as I've said many times before, if you can't guess the spelling you can't find it.

Words and translation after the jump.

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Kadish nokh a yidishn zelner, aka Durkhn Dorf Geyt A Geshrey

UPDATE: I just realized the chorus of this Kaddish nokh a yidishn soldat is from a hearty Polish drinking song, Więc pijmy wino, szwoleżerowie (Let's Drink, Cavalrymen) - there are several versions on youtube.

Here's an Instagram 60-second video of the last verse:



Or click the image to listen to and/or buy this track from our Lebedik Yankel cd.




Zhelonek credited Pinkezon as the singer of this song. I wonder if that's a pseudonym for Pinchus Lavenda (right), whose version - found at the Robert & Molly Freedman Jewish Sound Archive - I transcribed for my sheet music version. There is a Polish version of this melody, words by Julian Tuwim, called Szwolezerowie (The Regiment).

Some of the lost Zhelonek songs turned under different names. Lorin Sklamberg, tenor extraordinaire and sound archivist at YIVO, sent me this information via the Jewish Music list:

"This song was originally written in German, and appears in both the Yiddish and German versions in the cd collection Vorbei: Beyond Recall, the catalyst for a concert program developed over the summer by Alan Bern under the title Semer Reloaded and premiered at Berlin's Jewish Museum.

"There were two vintage recordings made in Yiddish by Pinchus Lavenda - one for the German Semer label and one for American Vocalion (though I'm not sure that this is the same song, since I haven't heard the recording). We're not sure who made the Yiddish translation. There was also a recording by Martha Schlamme using a translation she made with a Yiddish poet. I believe there is a third verse that fills in the story between the other two verses."

Yiddish text (about the same as my transcription except it fills in the end of the first verse) and translation after the jump.
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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Az men farzukht (Az men farzikht un s'iz git) - Leo Fuchs version

The other day I put up the Aaron Lebedeff version of Az men farzukht because I could get the words more easily (with Sheva's help). The reader's original request, however, was for the later Leo Fuchs rendition.

I did as much of this one as I could and then asked the brilliant Yiddish performer/ethnographer Michael Alpert for help and he very graciously fixed my occasional gibberish, pointing out, however, that the zeitgeist past zikh nisht these days. Here he is:


Yes, Leo Fuchs and in fact all the Yiddish theater song stars were politically incorrect, but that's for some PhD student to complain about. And in the meantime, nobody says you can't write your own verses. There is plenty of greed in the world these days. Get yourself a Yiddish rhyming dictionary and have at it!

Words after the jump.

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Az men farzukht un s'iz gut, vilt zikh nokh a mol - as sung by Aaron Lebedeff. Reader's request.

In Lebedeff's dialect this would be "Az men farzikht in s'iz git" (and that's the way I did the sing-along titles).

The title is also transcribed as "Az Men Farzijt" and "Az men farzucht un s'is gut." It's about men's insatiable appetites.

I don't know anything else about this song (if you do, let me know). There is another available recording, with different verses, sung by Leo Fuchs. Maybe I'll do that one too.

Here is the video with translation and sing-along captions.


The hard thing about these songs: figuring out the words. The performers sung in so many different dialects and the sound quality is rarely as good as it is in this recording. There are a few people who are good at this and one of them is Yiddishist Sheva Zucker. She helped me with the lyrics here. (See them after the jump.)

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