Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Friday, February 8, 2019

A firter hashiveinu nazad - a Yiddish parody advertising a book store in London

I met Vivi Lachs at the first European Yidish-vokh, which took place in Sounion Greece a few weeks ago. Vivi is a performer and an academic and she is researching (among other things) penny songsheets sold in London around the turn of the 20th century. If you think that sounds like something that would interest me intensely, you'd be right. We talked quite a bit and I very much enjoyed her lecture.

(I'm also jealous of Vivi because she gets invited to present her music and research in loads of places that ignore me because I'm not an academic.)

I bought her book, Whitechapel Noise, which was recently published by Wayne State University Press, and was intrigued by her commentary on Hashiveynu nazad (or Hashivenu nasad as it's spelled on the sheet music).

The original is one of Abraham Goldfaden's numerous songs about returning to Zion and it was featured in a show I would like to see, called Der Yidisher Faust.

Vivi wrote:
The title is unusual and not commonplace Yiddish, but a carefully crafted Yiddish hybrid. The word hashiveynu comes from a Hebrew word meaning "return us." It is a familiar term to synagogue-going Jews, as it is part of the Sabbath morning liturgy... The familiarity of the liturgy gives the word intense and deep resonances. ... The second word of the title, nazad, is also not standard Yiddish and comes from Russian meaning "back there." The title in full means "return us back" or "take us back." ...

"A firter hashiveynu nazad" and "A finfter hashiveynu nazad" ... were both written and published by Yozef the bookseller and are double parodies, both of the Goldfaden original and of "Dem nayem hashiveynu nazad" ... the songbook being advertised ... was the "Idishe bine," an 800-page American publication of theater songs published in a double volume in 1897.

I'd certainly love to see the book Der idishe bine!

And by the way, Vivi herself has recorded the first parody, Dem nayem hashiveynu nazad, which is quite serious and deals explicitly with issues for London Jews, with her own melody. You can hear it on Youtube and on her cd with the Klezmer Club, Whitechapel, Mayn Vaytshepl.

I love songs that get turned into ads so I asked Vivi for the songsheet and she sent it. I couldn't find a recording of the original song (or its parodies), but the sheet music is available from the Library of Congress website.

Here's my recording from this morning of Mr Yozef's text (verses 1 and 3) shoehorned into the original melody. Sorry about my rotten piano playing.

Text and translation from the Yiddish after the jump.

A ferter hashiveynu nazad

Ven di sho shlogt oys, geyen mentshn aroys,
Batrakht gut dos hoyz un farshtey vos ikh meyn
Korner of Canaan Strit, farshrayb dir dos git,
nem dos lid mit, zolst visn vu tsu geyn.

A nayer derfindung hot Mister Yoyzef derfinen,
in eyn bukh zoln zikh ale lider gefinen
fun di greste zinger fun der gantser velt
fun Berlin, Pariz un vi vaat
kent ir koyfn far veynik gelt
Vi gefelt aykh mayn Hashiveynu nazad

Zolst kumen tsu geyn, mayn kupletist iz sheyn
Ikh vel dikh oyfnemen fayn, zogar ven du vest nit koyfn
Az du vest mayne lider zen, vestu zogn aleyn
Az zey zenen gants sheyn un du vest kumen tsu loyfn

Ikh endik shoyn, brider, mayn naye lid
Zolst zen bald tsu kumen korner of Canaan Strit
Az du vest dos lid in hand bakumen
Du vest megn zayn fun mir gants vaat
Gloyb mir af nemones az es loynt tsurik tsu kumen
Hundert finf un zibetsik Canaan Strit hashiveynu nazad

When the hour strikes, people depart,
Think about this house (store) and understand my meaning
The corner of Canaan Street: take careful note of it,
Bring this song with you, you'll know where to go.

Mr Joseph has found a new discovery:
All songs will be found in one book.
From the greatest singers, from the whole world,
From Berlin, Paris, no matter how far,
You can buy it for not much money.
How do you like my "take us back"?

You should come! My coupletist is good.
I'll treat you well even if you don't buy anything
When you see my songs, you yourself will say
That they are very beautiful and you'll come running

I'll soon end my new song, brother,
You'll soon come to the corner of Canaan Street
If you get this song in your hand.
No matter how far away from me you are,
Believe me, take my word for it, it's worth it to come back
175 Canaan Street - "take us back."

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