Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Friday, August 2, 2019

Di matbeye - Yiddish theater song of 1908 - די מטבעה

UPDATE: In March I wondered if this song were lost forever. It's a wonderful Yiddish take on "If You Ain't Got That Do-Re-Mi" !

Happily Lorin Sklamberg and Eléonore Biezunski at the YIVO Sound Archive found a recording of Solomon Smulewitz singing this song, his own composition, and I liked it so much we put it on our Yiddish Ragtime album even though it has nothing in common with the other songs. It is the only natively Yiddish composition on the disk.

דיא מטבעה
I originally found it in the Solomon Smulewitz publication Der teater zinger דער טעאַטער  זינגער

Click the image for a larger view.

It says at the top of the page, Gezungen fun Mr Katzman un fun Madam Raynhart.
געזונגען פֿון מר. קאַטזמאַן און פֿון מאַדאַם רײנהאַרט

Perhaps these are Jacob Katzman and Fannie Reinhart.

I love everything about this song, from its snide and discouraging tone to its dark advice and its interesting, long tune. But my favorite part is the Question-and-Answer period. When I recorded it with Randy Kloko I said: let's have those answers sound like they came from on high via the Magic Eight Ball.

Transliteration and translation from the Yiddish after the jump.

Di matbeye

Kenstu keyn kerbl klaybn, ligstu bagrobn tif in dr'erd.
Megst gantse bikher shraybn, veys az dos hot a knapn verd.
Bistu a zinger? Vet tsum lebn dir zayn karg.
Hostu keyn klinger? Oy! Ligstu in dr'erd vi a barg.

Ikh ken gut mentshn fayne, tsu got iz zeyer tayne.
Vos er git eynem tsufil un dem tsveytn nit.
Zey blaybn bay dem fregn... der tsveyter hot farmegn,
Darfst visn vi tsu nemen... dan vet dir zayn git.

Nemstu nit aleyn, bistu shofl, kleyn,
Kenstu ober nemen gor? Iz voyl tsu dayne york.

In der gantser velt, shpilt di rolie gelt
Der nar vert a khokhem, men zogt nokh im shvokhim
A raykher grober ying ken un veys altsding
Vayl ver es hot matbeye der hot di gantse deye

A meydl hayntike tsaytn ohne nadn hot keyn verd
Hot zi nit mit vos tsu heyratn? Ligt zi bagrobn tif in dr'erd
Ikh hob keyn toes: meg zi mayles hobn fil
Hot zi keyn moes? Oy! Iz zi vayt fun tsil.
Keyn bokher vet ir glaykhn, a shadkhn vet ir vaykhn
Der badkhn vet ir kshteln aza lange tsing
Ir sheynkayt ken nit shotn, der tsu a raykhn tatn...
Ersht dan krigt zi a khosn gor a voyln ying...
A bokher hantike tsayt iz dokh zeyer geshayt
Khasene hobn zogt er iz git,
Nor on nadn rirt er zikh nit, vayl...

If you can't pull any rubles together, you're sunk
Maybe you can write whole books, you know it isn't worth much.
Are you a singer? Your life is going to be threadbare.
You don't have any dough? Oy, you might as well be six feet under.

I know fine people, they have a bone to pick with God:
He gives too much to one and to another, nothing.
They keep asking... someone else has earnings,
You need to know how to take them away, then you'll prosper.

If you don't take for yourself, you're lowly and small.
But if you can take? You'll do well.

Money plays a role throughout the world
A fool becomes a wise man, he'll get compliments.
A coarse, rich young man, oh he knows everything.
Because the one with the money calls the shots.

These days, a girl without a dowry is worthless.
She doesn't have anything to get married with? She's six feet under.
I'm not mistaken: she may have every so many good points,
But she doesn't have dough? Oy! She's far from her goal.
No boy will like her, a matchmaker will shun her.
The badkhn will stick out his tongue at her.
[Whereas with another...] Her beauty can't hurt, and if in addition she has a rich father...
Then she can get a very fine young man for a bridegroom.
A bachelor these days is very crafty, of course,
He says getting married is good, but he won't lift a finger if there's no dowry, because...

For sheet music and/or performances contact me:

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