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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Yidishe Kazatzke

Let's start off with transcription hell. How something is spelled was less of an issue before Google. But now, if you can't spell it you can't find it.

The dance form here, the kazatzke, was not Jewish in origin. On Youtube you can find Ukrainians and Russians dancing the казачок (Little Cossack) which theoretically would be transcribed Kazachok but is also Kozachok Kozachock Cassatschok Casatschok Kozáček - and they are often dancing to the nationalistic 1938 Soviet "folksong" Катюша (Katyusha Katusha Katjuscha Katiusha Katjusha) - a song which inspired the nickname of the Red Army rocket launchers of World War II.

A characteristic of the dance: those with strong ankles squat low to the ground and kick their feet forward.According to a quick peek at Wikipedia, the dance dates back to the late 16th and 17th century.

Recently Amanda (Miryem-Khaye) Seigel was looking for Jewish versions of this dance and I remembered seeing this offering from the prolific Joseph Rumshisky (later Rumshinsky), published in 1920. It's got its own transliteration problems. In Yiddish on the cover it is דער אידישער קאַזאַק (transliterated as Yudishe kazatzke) while on the lyrics page it is אידישער קאָזאַטשאָק (Yudisher kozachok).

You may think all this talk about transliteration is boring, but you'd be amazed how many people write to me looking for songs which are actually easily findable - but under a different transliteration. Some of the transliterations pass all understanding. Some are just ridiculous typos. You have to be imaginative.

Jeff Warschauer writes:
The melody starts with a popular broyges tants motif. Ruth Rubin also collected alternative lyrics for that broyges tants melody. The lyrics are about a daughter who is too young to go to the khupe.

This is what's sometimes called a macaronic song - it mixes Yiddish, Russian, and Hebrew. Here is the lyrics page from the sheet music (click for a larger view):

Musically I felt the sheet music presented a problem. Typically a kozatzke is quicker toward the end, but in this song the second half was considerably slower than the first! There is no archival recording to be found - or maybe there is one but it's hiding under an odd spelling! Provisionally I just decided to double-time the second page. Here's my very hasty recording from a couple days ago:

By the way, in the early 1930s came Tsirele Mirele, one of my favorite songs from the Itzik Zhelonek Yiddish theater songs collection, Aaron Lebedeff coaxes his sweetheart back into a good mood and suggests that she should "dance the kozatske like a boy" ...

Transliteration and translation after the jump.

Larry Gillig and Shalom Goldman helped with the Hebrew.

Zaigraitye mnye Kozatshok po misnagdski pokhasidski hop hop hop
Vos men meg, meg men mit dem rebns koyekh vos men tornit meg men oykh.
Oy! Gdalti u geboyrti eyn le saper a perikl mishnayes iz af ales mekhaper
Vot tebye vot tebye kozatshok, po misnagdski po khasidski hop hop hop
Okh! yismekhu bmalkhus kho shomrey shabes oy vey oy vey shabes oy vey oy vey shabes
Vot tebye kozatshok vot tebye kozatshok oy vey oy vey shabes

From Professor Lawrence Feinberg:
The first line is Заиграйте мне казачок ("Play me a kazachok"). Kazachok/kozachok is a Russian/Ukrainian folk dance which begins slow and gradually picks up tempo. Line 2: По-миснагдски, по-хасидски: "Misnaged-style, Chasidic-style." Lines 7, 12-13, 16-17: Вот тебе казачок: "There's a kazachok for you!"

Play me a kazachok Misnaged-style, Chasidic-style
What one may do, one does with the rebbe's strength
What is forbidden, one can do that also.
Oy, I grew up and I grew strong, impossible to recount.
A little chapter of mishnah atones for everything.
There's a kazachok for you! Misnaged-style, Chasidic-style
Those who observe Shabbat and call it a delight...
Oy vey, Shabbat.
There's a kazachok for you!
Oy vey, Shabbat.

For sheet music and/or performances contact me:



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