Shabbos Frivolity: Mark Warshawsky
2 October 2010, 4:13 PM
Simchas Torah is over, but I can’t help beginning what may turn out to be a year of yiddishkeit frivolity with this video:
That’s the Klezmatics recording, of course, and “Simkhes-Toyre Time” is one of my favorite of theirs, and one of my favorite Simchas Torah songs. And, you know, a song in Yiddish with Portuguese subtitles. If you like, there is an odd video with the Max Klezmer Band with bits of them playing this tune in Benin, if your multi-culti buttons are still unpushed.
The songwriter is Mark Warshavsky, who has been described as the Yiddish Woody Guthrie. Well, by me, anyway. The story is that Sholem Aleichem (with whom he toured) couldn’t tell which songs Mr. Warshavsky had written and taught him and which ones his mother used to sing to him in his cradle. This is, presumably, a compliment, rather than a despairing note about a failing memory. But his songs do have that odd characteristic of seeming to have evolved naturally rather than having been deliberately written. This is particularly true of “Oyfn Pripetshik”, (By the Fireplace), which is actually called “The Aleph-Bet”, but since there are a million other songs called “The Aleph-Bet”, it’s better to call this one by its first words. This song, actually, is often called by its first words (Kinder mir hobn simkhes toyre) to distinguish it from the other Simchas Torah songs.
Because I am very lucky, I was able to go upstairs at my place of employment and pick up a book of his lyrics. Because I don’t read Yiddish, I am unable to tell if Sholem Aleichem tells that story I mentioned above in his introduction to the collection. I am, however, able to make out that the lyrics are on pages 37-39. I can tell that the next song is called “Der Vinter”, which seems to be about the oncoming winter. Hey! Multilingualism!
And just for frivolity’s sake, here’s an odd thing I came across and feel I should link to: a scene from Dummy featuring Milla Jovovich as a punk diva wannabe hired to sing klez at a wedding, and belting out a version of Mr. Warshawsky’s Di Mizinke Oysgegebn. Have we covered the whole world yet?
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,