A Conversation for Zog Nit Keynmol - The Story of a Song

Peer Review : A87720933 - Zog Nit Keynmol - The Story of a Song

Post 1

Dmitri Gheorgheni

Entry: Zog Nit Keynmol - The Story of a Song - A87720933
Author: Dmitri Gheorgheni - Post Editor, moving target - U1590784

Well, I don't know if we'll ever get a Polyglot Plaza, but we do need to pay more attention to literature. Somebody pointed out that we're short on poets and poetry.

This is a short summary of the background to a significant song.

I don't know where we are on Youtubes. This one's pretty sticky, since it's from 2009. I couldn't find another way to link to the Robeson performance.


A87720933 - Zog Nit Keynmol - The Story of a Song

Post 2

McKay The Disorganised

Don't know either Dmitri, but definately a good entry.

smiley - cider


A87720933 - Zog Nit Keynmol - The Story of a Song

Post 3

aka Bel - A87832164

Great tribute to the poets and the partisans. I'd never heard of this song before.


A87720933 - Zog Nit Keynmol - The Story of a Song

Post 4

Lady Pennywhistle - Back with a vengeance! [for a certain, limited value of Vengeance; actual amounts of Vengeance may vary]

I still need to read this with all due attention, but just wanted to make a quick correction to this sentence:

>>he began writing poetry in Hebrew at the age of 13. At that time, Hebrew was spoken nowhere in the world except in a synagogue or a Zionist meeting<<

Since he was born in 1920, that'd make this 1933? Incredibly untrue statement, then. By that time, there were already some native Hebrew speakers in Israel. In fact, in 1913 there was what was known as 'the language war' after the Technion school decided to conduct studies in German rather than Hebrew, and eventually they backed down from this decision. And even more 'in fact'-ly, even before what is formally known is the 'resurrection' of Hebrew, the language was still spoken, although not as a native language but mostly as a way for Jews from different places to communicate.
Moreover, many many Jewish poets in Europe have written in Hebrew, even when it wasn't their native language. The first one I thought of - just because she's one of my favourite poets - was Leah Goldberg (1911-1970), who started writing poetry in Hebrew at a very early age as well, but there are so many. In 1933, Israel's national poet Haim Nachman Bialik (who has been writing in Hebrew since before the late 1800s) was almost on his death bed. There so many poets - and there has already been an impressive body of translations to Hebrew, as well. And if you go beyond that 'resurrection of Hebrew' dealie, you have poets in Italy writing in Hebrew in the Middle Ages (and after), and you have the Jewish poets in the Muslim empire, writing great poetry in Hebrew, and... well, I'm getting a bit carried away, and I definitely do not want to take away from Glik's talent, but it's just a bit too much of a sweeping statement.
You might change it to >>nowhere in Europe<< to make it more accurate, or just rephrase that bit to explain that it was still a big thing, without making it sound like he was the first one to have done so, maybe give a bit more emphasis to the fact he was working in a context where poetry in Hebrew was unusual, but not unique.


This turned out longer than I intended, sorry. And almost off-topic really, what with getting carried away about how much Hebrew poetry was around by 1933.
More strictly on-topic, I would also like to add something about the Hebrew translation of this song. It's very well-known here. I started writing a message on the entry itself before I realised that it'd be better to write here, so I'll copy and paste it in a bit.


A87720933 - Zog Nit Keynmol - The Story of a Song

Post 5

aka Bel - A87832164

Great comment, Lady P. I'm glad you found your way here, since I am not familiar with the topic in question, so couldn't actually contribute anything worthwhile.


A87720933 - Zog Nit Keynmol - The Story of a Song

Post 6

Lady Pennywhistle - Back with a vengeance! [for a certain, limited value of Vengeance; actual amounts of Vengeance may vary]

Okay, so, like I said, the Hebrew translation of this song is fairly famous around here - understandably, it's mostly associated with Holocaust Day, but still, it's well known.
In the link below (Hebrew site) you can hear it sung in a recording from 1947, as well as see the Yiddish and Russian versions. Below them you'll see some more 'play' buttons, for other recordings, mostly in Hebrew, but the one saying '1937' is for the original Russian song. And even below that are three links for even more versions, the first (Betty Segal) being in Yiddish, from 1946.
http://www.zemereshet.co.il/song.asp?id=162

Here's the transliteration of the Hebrew, in case you'd want to add that as well, or just sing along:
(Quick pronunciation guide: kh = that 'something is stuck in my throat' sound, like German/Scots 'ch'. An apostrphe ['] indicates a glottal stop, like how the 'tt' in 'better' would sound in Cockney. The dashes are just me separating prepositions and such from the words, and have nothing to do with pronunciation. smiley - erm I hope that's clear enough.)

Al na tomar hinne darki ha-akhrona
Et or ha-yom histiru shmey ha-annana
Ze yom nikhsafnu lo od ya'al ve-yavo
U-mitz'adenu od yar'im: anakhnu po

Me-eretz ha-tamar ad yarketey kforim
Anakhnu po be-makh'ovot ve-yissurim
U-va-asher tipat dammenu sham nigra
Ha-lo yanuv od oz rukhenu bi-gvura

Amud ha-shakhar al yomenu or yahel
Im ha-tzorer yakhlof yomenu kemo tzel
Akh im khalila ye'akher lavo ha-or
Kemo sisma yehe ha-shir mi-dor le-dor

Bi-khtav ha-dam ve-ha-offeret hu nikhtav
Hu lo shirat tzipor ha-dror ve-ha-merkhav
Ki beyn kirot noflim sharuhu kol ha-am
Yakhdav sharuhu ve-naganim be-yadam

Al ken al na tomar: darki ha-akhrona
Et or ha-yom histiru shmey ha-annana
Ze yom nikhsafnu lo od ya'al ve-yavo
U-mitz'adenu od yar'im: anakhnu po

(Yeah, five verses rather than four, but the fifth one is just a barely-rephrased reiteration of the first.)

The same link I gave before also has additional details about the song and its translation into Hebrew, as follows:

>>The Hebrew translation of the song, made by Avraham Shlonsky [(1900-1973), an important translator, poet, writer, editor, and all-around amazing word-man -LP], was first printed in the daily 'HaMishmar' (3 Adar 5705 [16 February 1945 -LP]), and then in May 1946 in 'HaNitzotz', Year 6, vol. 15 (60), p. 11.<<
And quoting from a book called 'Fountains of Song', by Meir Noy:
>>After World War II, when the Pokras brothers heard the Partisan Song, they excitedly revealed their "secret": in 1937 they were asked to compose music for a cavalry song by poet A. Surkov for the film "Sons of the Working People" [my translation of the name; couldn't find it in English anywhere -LP]. They built their tune on the frame of the song "Oifn Pripetchik" (a small room / a humble hut) [Dmitri, any notes on the transliteration/translation here? -LP], which they have heard as children. In the Vilna Ghetto it has been adapted to Hirsh Glik's song, and thus, they said, the Russian tune has been purified with the blood of Partisans and returned to its roots...<<

A bit dramatic at the end there, but nonetheless interesting, I feel.


A87720933 - Zog Nit Keynmol - The Story of a Song

Post 7

Dmitri Gheorgheni

smiley - biggrin Thanks, Lady P. What a great website.

And you answered a question that was in my mind: why did I come away from writing this with the song 'Oyfn Pripitchek' in my head? I couldn't get it out. I must be a terrible musicologist. I didn't realise how close the two tunes were.

For anybody who wants to hear it, here's Esther Ofarim:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUF-jHyEuNg&feature=related

The tune will be familiar if you know the score to 'Schindler's List', it's a motif. The song celebrates the village school. 'Blessed little children, think, dear ones, of what you're learning there...'

Thank you for setting me straight on the whole Hebrew business. I rewrote that sentence a couple of times (with you in mind). As you indicated, I wanted to point out what an accomplishment it was to write poetry in Hebrew - and not, of course, to diss the kibbutzniks. smiley - winkeye

I'll reword that, and I'll get that link of yours in. And try to explain the significance of this song to the memory of the Shoah. Which is the real point here. smiley - smiley

Let me know if you think I've missed anything in the rewrite.


A87720933 - Zog Nit Keynmol - The Story of a Song

Post 8

Dmitri Gheorgheni

Oh, and a PS on the Hebrew poetry business: Emma Lazarus, an American, was a Hebrew poet.

She also wrote a very famous verse in English. It starts 'Give me your tired, your poor...'

It's inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty. (We brag on her.)


A87720933 - Zog Nit Keynmol - The Story of a Song

Post 9

Dmitri Gheorgheni

Sorry, I keep adding addenda, but you gave me so much to think about. smiley - smiley

'Oyfn Pripetchik', literally, is 'on the hearth'. The beginning of the song means 'on the hearth a fire is burning, in the room (Stube) it is warm, and the rabbi is teaching little children their alphabet.'

If that sounds trivial, readers, it's because I don't think many cultures attach as much importance to the alphabet as Jewish culture does.


A87720933 - Zog Nit Keynmol - The Story of a Song

Post 10

Lady Pennywhistle - Back with a vengeance! [for a certain, limited value of Vengeance; actual amounts of Vengeance may vary]

smiley - ok I like the new changes. It's pretty subtle, but now it definitely doesn't raise my nitpicker alarms. smiley - biggrin

As for the other posts:

It's a great site indeed. Their tagline is (in a literal translation) 'An Emergency Project to Save Early Hebrew Song' - and they not only collect old many songs from around the first half of the 20th century (as they put it, 'from the early days of Zionism to the founding of the State of Israel'), with as many old and arre recordings as possible, and to make all this material available to the public for free - they also organise singalong events, where people get together to sing these old songs, keeping the memories alive this way. It's an absolutely fascinating project, and a great example of the best things about the internet.

And I did not know about Emma Lazarus. That's neat. There really has been a _lot_ of Hebrew poetry throughout the centuries, even in places where the language was not spoken (except in prayer and such). A bit like the case with Latin, I suppose, where you have Neo-Latin poetry, written long after nobody spoke Latin anymore (except in prayer and such...). But the so-called 'Hebrew Revival' did give it a big push. There are some fascinating examples of poets writing in Hebrew, and translating to Hebrew, in almost complete isolation, and even under Soviet prosecution (some were in gulags, and worked in their head when they had no way - or were afraid - to write it down). Or stories of people like Bialik, who wrote almost exclusively in Hebrew, and was one of the main members of the 'Language Committee', but in his personal life spoke Yiddish, because it was easier. smiley - smiley


A87720933 - Zog Nit Keynmol - The Story of a Song

Post 11

Lady Pennywhistle - Back with a vengeance! [for a certain, limited value of Vengeance; actual amounts of Vengeance may vary]

Almost-completely-unrelated addendum:

I looked at that Zemereshet site (BTW, zemer=song, reshet=net/web) to write the previous post, and while I was there, hit the 'Zemereshet Radio' link they had, which is basically an online player with a shuffled playlist of all the recordings. And through that, I ran into this song that I was not familiar with before, and the first few notes caught my attention:
http://www.zemereshet.co.il/song.asp?id=968&artist=659
Even if you don't know Hebrew, I highly recommend listening to it. The effect of Scottish music with a very Levantine twist is... interesting.
(It's not a direct translation, in case you were wondering; just the same tune, and some very vague sense of the atmosphere of the original. This is actually relatively common in Hebrew music, especially with folk songs, but not just - for example, around the 70s Brasilian music was in vogue here, and many songs got 'adapted' similarly.)


A87720933 - Zog Nit Keynmol - The Story of a Song

Post 12

Dmitri Gheorgheni

smiley - rofl

What a wonderful find. smiley - biggrin Obviously, Israeli taste is truly eclectic.

Okay, revenge. If Israeli musicians could go Scottish, well, US musicians could take an Israeli song and 'bluegrass' it. My interpretation of this song is that it's the Israeli version of 'Comin' Through the Rye'. Girls, guys, a farm, a field...you get the idea...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZ5v651bQ1o

Lyrics: http://www.hebrewsongs.com/song-tzenatzena.htm

Note: Musical tastes have changed a lot over the years. This recording was #2 on the charts in 1950. Take that, Lady Gaga...smiley - run


A87720933 - Zog Nit Keynmol - The Story of a Song

Post 13

Lady Pennywhistle - Back with a vengeance! [for a certain, limited value of Vengeance; actual amounts of Vengeance may vary]

This is now completely off-topic, and I apologise. But thanks, Dmitri, that was awesome!

The translation, by the way, has the last line wrong - 'ben chayil' is not 'soldier', it's an idiomatic phrase meaning 'man of valour' (and related to 'eshet chayil', the 'virtuous woman' of Proverbs 31:10). So basically, this song is saying 'There are soldiers in the village, but don't worry, no reason for Pogrom flashbacks - they're good guys!'...
And while I'm talking about that song, it might interesting to note that the first line is a very obvious play on 'Tzena u-Reyna', an immensely popular little book containing bits of the Bible in Yiddish translation, with related exegesis and stories and such, made in the 17th century for Jewish women (who did not read Hebrew very well, since they could not go study). But of course, it's also a play on the original verse in Song of Solomon (3:11) that the name 'Tzena u-Reyna' is derived from - in the King James Version, it reads: 'Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold king Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart'. So you get a bunch of layers in this little ditty - the reference to biblical romance, the reference to diaspora culture, and the basic 'hey gals, come look at the handsome soldiers'.
Then there's the layer where the word 'tzena' in the song is a homonym (in modern Hebrew) of another word that was used for 'austerity measures'. Which were quite severe in Israel in the 50s and early 60s. So people were singing it with a bit of bitter satire (I don't know if they changed any of the other words)...

But I'm getting carried away again. Mostly, I just wanted to post and say:
I see your bluegrass Tzena Tzena, and raise you this bit of corny patriotism (sung by the one and only extra-large kosher ham, Yehoram Gaon): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ztqlj6udg8
I was absolutely shocked when I found the original song (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJ0JgqoF2W4 ). Never imagined it wasn't always a corny patriotic song in Hebrew.


A87720933 - Zog Nit Keynmol - The Story of a Song

Post 14

Dmitri Gheorgheni

smiley - roflsmiley - roflsmiley - rofl

Okay, you win - that's the weirdest one yet. Everybody - you MUST listen to this, even if you're allergic to foreign languages. And no cheating and clicking on the second one first. You will love it.

The reference to the 'Tzena u-Reyna' is cool. That book wasn't only for ladies, you know - it was also for goyim, whose ignorance was similar. At least, that's what my professor told me in Germany. I spent a semester reading it with him, one-on-one, every Shabbes.

He'd drag me through the Hebrew, I'd read the Yiddish, we'd schmooze about Rashi, and why the moon was smaller than the sun (you had to be there), and the correct translation of Genesis 1:2.

Oh, and he let me in on the origin of the Vulcan salute (although he didn't know it, not being a Trekkie). smiley - whistle

The virtues of a well-rounded education...

smiley - offtopic If anybody has anything cogent to say about 'Zog Nit Keynmol', go ahead, don't let us stop you. smiley - winkeye


A87720933 - Zog Nit Keynmol - The Story of a Song

Post 15

Elektragheorgheni -Please read 'The Post'

This is a great article, these song ones are not only international in nature,but offer Audio possibilities and as such make great guide entries. Any scout paying attention?


A87720933 - Zog Nit Keynmol - The Story of a Song

Post 16

Gnomon - Summer Time

This is a good entry, Dmitri.

I'm slightly puzzled by your statements about him learning Hebrew. First you say that speakers of Hebrew in Vilnius were rare. Then in a footnote you say that it was just about the best place to learn Hebrew.


That's the first time I've seen Yiddish written down. You say it is transliterated, but from what? Is it not normally written down with German spelling, since it is a type of German?


A87720933 - Zog Nit Keynmol - The Story of a Song

Post 17

Lady Pennywhistle - Back with a vengeance! [for a certain, limited value of Vengeance; actual amounts of Vengeance may vary]

I can answer that second question. smiley - smiley Yiddish, like most other Jewish dialects (such as Ladino - the Jewish dialect of Spanish - or Jedeo-Arabic or Judeo-Persian) was written in Hebrew letters.

As for learning Hebrew in the 30s, even in Vilnius, I am still a bit conflicted about how outstanding that was. Like I wrote before, even when it hasn't been spoken as a native language, it was quite common as a language of literature for many centuries. To be writing poetry at a young age in a foreign language _is_ an impressive feat, though.


A87720933 - Zog Nit Keynmol - The Story of a Song

Post 18

Dmitri Gheorgheni

Gnomon, what I meant to say was that it was rare to be able to speak Hebrew. For many centuries, speaking Hebrew was about as common as speaking Latin would be. Vilnius was a centre for Jewish culture and learning. Think Vatican colleges. There is so much you can learn, so much lore.

Lady P has answered the other question. If you know German, learning to read Yiddish is an excellent form of mental exercise. It's written using the Hebrew alphabet, with adjustments for vowels. It's written from right to left.

Here is a link to the Jewish Daily Forward ('Vorwerts'), a Yiddish newspaper published in New York City for a very long time now:

http://www.forward.com/channels/yiddish/

Due to the web, they're bilingual at a mouseclick. This page has some nice film clips with subtitles:

http://yiddish.forward.com/

Check out the one on Czernowitz. smiley - smiley

That being said, I will now go back and see if I can fix this offending business about Hebrew. Then you two can tell me if it's making sense yet. smiley - run


A87720933 - Zog Nit Keynmol - The Story of a Song

Post 19

Dmitri Gheorgheni

Okay. Let me know if that rewrite is user-friendlier. smiley - smiley


A87720933 - Zog Nit Keynmol - The Story of a Song

Post 20

Gnomon - Summer Time

It just seems odd to me that if you transcribed the Hebrew letters into standard German as:

Das lied geschreiben ist mit blut und nicht mit blei

it would be so much easier to read!

I'll have a look at your rewrite now.


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