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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Katarina, a wonderful Yiddish-Russian-Hebrew folksong from the Zhelonek collection

UPDATED: Re-posted to add the video I just made, click below:


Or click on the album cover to hear the whole cd Lebedik Yankel.

This is one of the happiest songs in the Itzik Zhelonek collection. Nothing bad happens! The narrator, probably a yeshiva bokher, hears somebody shouting in Russian in the woods. The unseen fellow is saying, in Russian, "Katarina, come here!" Our narrator knows Yiddish and Hebrew but not Russian, so he parses the Slavic words as if they a passage to unravel in his learning.

Russian Jewish Yiddish folksinger Nekhama LifshitzThere's a gorgeous recording of this song by Nekhama Lifshitz - it's available at the Dartmouth Jewish Sound archive. Zhelonek wrote that this is a folksong but there are 1930s sheet music arrangements available.

The first line, in Hebrew, does not appear in Zhelonek's collection, but Lifschitz sings it.



Here's my translation:


"As I walked in the forest, I heard a heavenly voice."
This means: I went in the forest
And I heard a voice, certainly from heaven:
"Katarina, moloditsa, poydi syuda!"

"Katarina, moloditsa, poydi syuda!"
What do these words mean?
"Kat" is a group,
"Rino" is a song.
Together it means,
"A group, singing - moloditsa - poydi syuda!"

"Kat rino" we already know,
What does "moloditsa" mean?
And "poydi syuda"?
What does this verse mean?
"Mole" means full,
"Ditso" is joy.
Together it means:
"A group, singing, full of joy - poydi syuda!"

"Kat rino" we already know,
"Mole ditso" you also understand,
What about "poydi syuda"?
"Podiso" - you have redeemed us,
"Shaday" - the Almighty himself.
Together it all means,
"A group, singing, full of joy, the Almighty has redeemed us!"

A group, singing, full of joy,
You have redeemed us, our God,
Everyone sing, sing together,
Sing with joy, like this:
"Kat rino, mole ditso, podiso shaday!"

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