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

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Leybke fort keyn Amerike - a song about a typical jerk of his time (Leybke goes to America)

Click on the album cover to listen to and/or buy this track from our cd Nervez!

Zhelonek cites M. Brodetski as performer of this odd, meandering song. I have never heard of this singer (maybe his name is Brodetsky or Brodecky or some such). I transcribed it from the singing of Pinkhus Lavenda / Pinchas Levander, a recording that can be heard at the Judisches Museum Berlin website. Back in the day the song, also called "Leybke in Rusland (part one and part two)" is so long it takes up both sides of a 78.




Pinkas Lavender (Pinchus Lawanda) was born in Lodz in 1898 and went to Berlin in 1916 to join a theater troupe. Ten years later he went back to Poland and after two years emigrated to the U.S., where he joined the Yiddish Actors Union and had a fine career.

Last night I finished making this animated music video: I use Camstudio screen capturing software and doodled the pictures on the laptop trackpad with my finger. I make these videos because the music seems pointless to a modern audience without captions (so you can understand what's going on) and you can't have captions unless there are images. There are many songs I'm not going to be performing live any time soon, so I have to draw pictures.

A friend has been calling my Yiddish theater music videos "naive folk art" which I will take as a compliment. Here's the latest video:

Here's my English translation of the Yiddish lyrics:

When Leybke went to America his wife really lamented: "You're leaving, oy, no." Leybke said: "I'm going out in the wide world, God will bless me with a good livelihood. You'll see, with my first earnings I'll send you a ship ticket." "Remember, Leybke, you're leaving me with a child. Please send a ticket soon." "Don't worry, Reyzl, goodbye," and Leybke left.

Leybke arrived safely in America and became a skilled machinist. He took to the work well and earned a lot of money. He lives in the Golden Land, in New York he's "all right," but he hasn't got the time to write a letter to his wife at home. And Reyzl sits by the cradle, her head bowed, she waits for a letter that never comes. She sings the child a song, lyu lyu, we'll soon go to your father.

And Leybke dresses like a 'sport' and he knows and understands everything. He's getting it on with a girl from his hometown and wants to buy her a diamond ring. But suddenly the girl reminds him of his wife at home. He quickly sends a letter to Russia. And Reyzl lies sick, poor thing, from hunger and cold. She's thinking her husband is dead. Her eyes are sunken deep in her head, her hair's gray already, and no letter comes from Leybke.

But suddenly Leybke's letter arrives. She jumps out of bed, tears open the letter and reads - that Leybke has sent her a divorce. Reyzl loses her health and with great difficulty tells her child: "We've waited and hoped in vain, your father deceived us, sleep, my child, lyu lyu, we will not travel to your father."

And Leybke and his bride Tsipe go together to the khupe. Back at home, Reyzl sobs. Here, the cantor prays: "Blessed is He who causes the bride and groom to rejoice, amen." And Reyzl? Reyzl is left alone.

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