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


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Di rumenishe kretshme (The Romanian Tavern) sung by Irving Grossman. Yiddish theater song of 1929

This song - spelled Die Roumanishe kretchme and Die Rumainishe kretchme on the sheet music - and performed as Roumanishe Kretchme by klezmer hiphop performer SoCalled (Josh Dolgin) - is from a show called Helo Mali (Hello, Molly), starring Molly Picon, staged at the 2nd Ave Theatre as early as 1926 (accounts differ).

It was directed by Jacob Kalich, with music by Joseph Rumshinsky and lyrics by Morris Rund.

In 1932 Picon took the show to Argentina under the name Der kleyner mazik (The Little Devil).

The show was written by Sheyne-Rokhl Simkof, Semkoff) (Sheyne Rochl Simkoff). Shaye Rachel Simkoff was born in 1899 in Grodno. In 1915 she came to America and worked in a sweatshop, writing stories, plays and poetry by night. She eventually became successful enough to quit the sweatshop and make her living writing.

The excellent recording I have is by Irving Grossman, probably from 1929.

Transliteration and translation after the jump.

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Sunday, November 25, 2018

Oy mame bin ikh farlibt! Not rare, but often requested Yiddish theater song

Today I got yet another request for this song, one of the most popular songs in the Yiddish theater song repertoire. Oy, mame, bin ikh farlibt was written by Abe Ellstein for Joseph Green’s 1936 film Yidl mitn fidl. Joseph Green's films are priceless because they were shot in Poland just before the holocaust. A lot of the crowd scenes were shot with locals and passers-by.

The film Yidl mitn fidl is about a fiddler, Molly Picon, and her bass-playing dad, Ari, who take to the road as a traveling duo. Out of fear for her safety Molly calls herself Yidl and dresses as a man. On the road they meet another duo and they join forces. Yidl falls in love with young Froim. When he pats her cheek she's besotted and later sings this song. For the full plot watch the movie or read this fine summary of Oy Mame bin ikh farlibt by Neil Levin for the Milken Archive:

My band Mappamundi recorded this in 1994, before I had ever decided to study Yiddish. Bassist Robbie Link plays the solo.

Here is the sheet music if you want it, with transliteration, chords, translation etc:

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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Lebedike yesoymim (Children of divorced parents) - a Yiddish warning and lament.

UPDATE: Reposted because thanks to Yiddish Pour Tous I just found another version of this song, from 1917, sung by Anna Hoffman, hiding on YouTube under the name A Kind un a Heim

Here's our version on Youtube:

Mappamundi performs Yiddish theater songsOr you can click the album cover to listen to and/or buy this track, Lebedige yesoimim, and all the others from our cd Nervez!

Randy Kloko sings this luscious waltz, Aviva Enoch plays piano. This song is the most obscure of three by the same name. The other two songs can be found in sheet music form, one with words by Max Zavodnik / music by Henry A. Russotto, the other by "Samuel Secunda."

This one, which Itzik Zhelonek cited as a song performed by Herman Fenigstein, I transcribed from Fenigstein's own recording, found at the Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture.

Though the title is often translated 'lively orphans,' in this case it means 'children whose parents are still living, but who due to divorce now live like orphans.' The song changes point of view, from omniscient narrator to the orphan(s), sometimes addressing the parents, sometimes the children, sometimes God.

Divorce and its effect on children is an unusual theme for a Yiddish song. Have a listen, I think Randy kills it.

Though Zhelonek took down the words shtub-mame un shtub-tate (house-mom and house-dad), and though he is citing the very recording I have (which is a rare happenstance!), I listened carefully and think Fenigstein is singing shtif-mame un shtif-tate (stepmother and stepfather). Also, inexplicably, Zhelonek's text gives shoyn dayn zind mer nisht dermonen, which is the opposite of what is sung.

Transliteration and translation below:
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Friday, September 14, 2018

S'iz gut far mir (It's good for me) aka Sgit far mir - an old song recently revived.

The Forvert recently featured this song called "S'iz gut far mir" aka S'iz git far mir - "It's good for me," as sung by Levy Falkowitz. Here's his version is on Youtube:

לוי פולקוביץ ותזמורתו של יוחי בריסקמן "ס'גוט פאר מיר" | Levy Falkowitz - Yochi Briskman Orchestra

Falkowitz credits the song to Boruch Hass, who performed it at "Sliches night in Kiev" in 1992. Hass wrote the second verse (and removed a reference to a pretty girl in the third verse) but otherwise...

... the song actually goes back many decades. Max Perlman sang it throughout his career, crediting it to Aaron Lebedeff.

Here is a relatively modern Perlman version, from "Max Perlman Greatest Hits Vol 1."

Perlman's first and second verses are also sung by Falkowitz, but his third verse is about politics (see below).

And here is a great version sung by Henri Gerro:

In the Henri Gerro version the second verse is about a pretty girl and the third verse is about a car, but I don't have the lyrics for you.

Lyrics in transliteration and translation after the jump. If you want the sheet music write to me.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Tsen kopikes hob ikh (I have ten kopecks) - Aaron Lebedeff hit - first of the new shlager series!

At "Trip to Yiddishland 2018" last week I was talking with Alec Burko about his amazing project, the Yiddish Dialect Dictionary. We both love obscure corners of Yiddish culture. I said "people are only ever searching for the same few popular Yiddish songs, like Mayn shtetele Belz. They don't know to search for something they have never heard before."

Alec suggested I should put some of the most popular Yiddish songs on this blog, and then when people found them, they might stick around and look at some of the less famous songs and might even realize the rare ones are JUST AS GOOD AS the ones they already know. Or better.

So I'm going to follow his advice and put some hits on this blog (shlager means a hit). I'm starting with Tsen Kopikes; somebody was going to sing it at one of the cabarets at Trip to Yiddishland and Eli Rosen asked if I'd accompany the guy. I would have, happily, but the guy chickened out. But it's a great song! It may have been at least partially a folk song, fragments of the lyrics were collected and printed by folklorist Shloyme Bastomski.

Here's the classic Aaron Lebedeff recording -


By the way, the whole compilation album Odessa Mama is one hit after another, highly recommended.

If you want the sheet music with chords, email me. The Yiddish lyrics (words and translation) are here after the jump.

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