THE KLEZMORIM > Disko > East Side Wedding > Liner Notes 

[Writing in Berkeley in 1977, Lev Liberman established a context for East Side Wedding:]

To rediscover the unashamed passion and hysteria of authentic Yiddish music you have to journey to the limits of living memory, to the lean years when Eastern European refugees swarmed by the millions into tenements and factories of New York City. Neglected manuscripts and forgotten 78-rpm recordings are your ticket to the union halls, cabarets, and proletarian weddings of 1927 where the badkhn's (wedding jester's) bawdy rhyme, the Talmud scholar's chant, the Ukrainian peasant's drinking song, and the Rumanian Gypsy's lament were wedded in ways at once traditional and fresh — where melodies of Lublin, Kiev, Vilna, and Bucharest uncoiled night after night from the fingers of immigrant klezmorim.

The klezmer tradition goes back to medieval Europe, where bands of illiterate, impoverished Jewish musicians performing on second-hand or home-made instruments traveled from village to town to entertain at weddings and festivals, frequently in Gentile communities. The most geographically mobile of Jews, klezmorim bridged the cultural abyss between the ghetto and the world — performing tunes of peasants and soldiers in a style distinctively Yiddish.

Our own checkered musical backgrounds have to some extent paralleled those of the original klezmorim. Like them, we learned our craft playing with small bands in bars and cafés, at dance parties, and on the streets. We do most of our arranging comunally and by ear — improvising as much as possible in ways appropriate to each tune's time and place of origin. Where solos are concerned we make a point of never doing anything the same way twice.

[Track notes from the original record release:]

Trello Hasaposerviko (Crazy Dance)
A Rumanian Jewish freylakh which at some point was designated as a "butcher's dance in Serbian style" and was added to the Greek dance band repertoire.

Yoshke, Yoshke
This melody, also known as Reb Dovid'l, Der Rebbe Hot Geheysn, and Tants, Tants, Yidelakh, may be the Turkey in the Straw of Eastern Europe. Several variants have turned up on dics made in the 1920s and 30s by Ukrainian, Polish, and Greek bands. Though the lyrics seem to mark this version as a 19th-century Hasidic drinking song recalling Rebbe Dovid'l of Talno, it could equally well be a satire of the Hasidim devised by their opponents the Misnagdim.

Yoshke, Yoshke, shpan dem loshek,
Zol er gikher loyfn,
Tomer vet er zikh obshteln
Veln mir im nit kenen farkoyfn.

Der Rebbe hot geheysn freylakh zayn,
Trinkn bronfn nisht keyn vayn.
Yoshke, Yoshke, pace the horse,
Let him run quickly.
If he stops,
We won't be able to sell him.

The Rebbe has told us to be merry
And to drink whiskey, not wine.

Cîntec de Dragoste/Hora lui Damian (Song of Love/Damian's Hora)
A tender ballad of Rumanian Gypsy origin, and a lively hora created by the nai (panpipe) master Damian Luca. The Rumanian words (strigaturi) are shouted to add a rhythmic accompaniment to the dance tune. Rumanians have an expression: "Without strigaturi there is no dancing."

Hei plînge-ma maica cu dor
hei ca ti-am fost voinic fecior mai

Hei di prib'gese prin tari straine
si-o sa mor gândind la tine
Oh, cry for me, dear mother, with love
because I was a strong son for you

I wander through foreign lands
and I shall die thinking of you

Dem Ganefs Yikhes (The Thief's Lineage)
Yikhes, which means "breeding," "family background," or "social status," must have been a highly charged word for the smugglers and prostitutes of Odessa, among whom this lusty insult-match probably originated. Russian terms pepper the Yiddish text. The tune may have been composed as an aid to meditation by a Hasidic rebbe!

Vos-zhe bistu, Motkele, b'royges?
Vos hostu aropgelozt di noz?
Oy, efsher vilstu visn dayn yikhes?
Ken ich dir dertseyln ver un vos:

Dayn tate iz a shmarovoznik
Dayn mame ganvet fish in mark
Un dayn bruder iz a kartyozhnik
Un dayn shvester leybt mit a Kozak.

Dayn feter iz geshtanen oyf di rogn
Dayn mume — a hendlerke in gas
Un dayn bruder zitst in di ostrogn
Un dayn shvester... ai-di-di-dai-dai-dum.

Dayn zeyde iz geven a shoykhet
Dayn bobe — a tukerke in bod
Un aleyn bist du a mamzer
Genumen bist du fun priyut.
Why, little Mordecai, are you so angry?
Why is your nose turned down?
Oy, perhaps you'd like to know your breeding?
I can tell you who and what:

Your father greases wagon wheels
Your mother steals fish at the fair
And your brother is a card-sharp
And your sister lives with a Cossack.

Your uncle hangs around streetcorners
Your aunt — a street-peddler
And your brother sits in prison
And your sister... ai-di-di-dai-dai-dum.

Your grandpa was a butcher
Your grandma — a bath-house attendant
And you yourself are a bastard
Taken from an orphanage.

                              (Translated by Dr. Martin Schwartz)

Improvised lament in traditional Rumanian style.

Thalassa (The Sea)
Greek and Yiddish melodies are combined in this tune from the repertoire of the clarinetist Peter Mamakos. Our arrangement features the lauto, a Greek lute with four double courses, tuned CGDA.

Fidl Volakh (Violin Melody)
Greek influences may be heard in this Yiddish piece. The two-part volakh form is named for Wallachia, a region of southern Rumania famous for its Jewish and Gypsy violinists.

A kolo (line dance) from Serbia.

Finf-un-Tsvantsiger (Twenty-Fiver)
A drunken wedding guest plies the klezmorim with money, exhorting them to play his favorite song over and over.

Bayt-zhe mir oys a finf-un-tsvantsiger
Oyf samerodne drayer
Un shpilt-zhe mir, klezmorimlakh,
A lidele, a tayer.

Bayt-zhe mir oys a finf-un-tsvantsiger
Oyf samerodne firer
Un shpilt-zhe mir, klezmorimlakh,
Dos zelbige vi frier.

Bayt-zhe mir oys a finf-un-tsvantsiger
Oyf samerodne tsener
Un shpilt-zhe mir, klezmorimlakh,
Dos zelbige, nokh sheyner.

Bayt-zhe mir oys a finf-un-tsvantsiger
Oyf same imperyalen.
Ikh vel betn di klezmorimlakh
Zey zoln zikh nit aylen.
Please change for me a twenty-fiver
Into equal parts of three
And play for me, little musicians,
A precious little song.

Please change for me a twenty-fiver
Into equal parts of four
And play for me, little musicians,
The same one as before.

Please change for me a twenty-fiver
Into equal parts of ten
And play for me, little musicians,
The same one, but sweeter.

Please change for me a twenty-fiver
Into equal imperials.
I will tell the little musicians
They shouldn't hurry.

Sherele (Little Scissors Dance)
A well-known Russian Jewish melody.

Two Rumanian Yiddish dances from the International Hebrew Wedding Music book compiled by violinist Wolff Kostakowsky in 1916. The first of these is also known as Oyf a Khasene in Bessarabye (At a Wedding in Bessarabia).

Di Grine Kuzine (The Greenhorn Cousin)
One of the Yiddish Theatre's most durable hits, this song by Yankel Lazerovich spawned a horde of variations and parodies — including one in Irish-American dialect. Some versions attained epic dimensions with numerous stanzas detailing the young immigrant woman's disillusionment and premature aging in the sweatshops of "Columbus' Land."

Tzu mir iz gekumen a kuzine,
Sheyn vi gold iz zi geven, di grine.
Bekelakh vi royte pomerantsn,
Fiselakh vos betn zikh tsum tantsn.

Herelakh vi zaydn-veb gelokte,
Tseyndelakh vi perelakh getokete,
Eygelakh vi himl-bloy in friling,
Lipelakh vi karshelakh a tsviling.

Nisht gegangen iz zi, nor geshprungen,
Nisht geret hot zi, nor gezungen.
Lebedik un freylakh yede mine —
Ot aza geven iz mayn kuzine!

...Un azoi ariber zaynen yoren;
Fun mayn kuzine iz a tel gevoren.
Peydes hot zi vokhnlang geklibn,
Biz fun ir iz gornisht not geblibn.

Haynt, az ikh bagegn mayn kuzine
Un ikh freg ir: "'S makhstu epes, grine?"
Ziftst zi op un 'kh'leyen in der mine:
"Brenen zol Columbus's medine!"
To me there came a cousin,
Pretty as gold was she, the greenhorn.
Cheeks like red oranges,
Feet that just wanted to dance.

Hair curly like a web of silk,
Teeth like polished pearls,
Eyes like heaven's blue in springtime,
Lips like twin cherries.

She did not walk, but skipped,
She did not talk, but sang.
Joyful and lively her every expression —
Such a one was my cousin!

...And so passed the years;
My cousin became a ruin.
She gathered paychecks week by week
Until nothing was left of her.

Today, when I meet my cousin
And I ask her: "How you doing, greenhorn?"
She sighs and I read from her expression:
"Columbus's land should only burn!"
                              (Translated by Dr. Martin Schwartz)

[Album credits:]

Recorded at 1750 Arch Street, Berkeley, California
on 21 December 1976, 13 January 1977, and 27 March 1977.

Cover art: Daniela Barnea

Cover design: Wayne Pope

Producer: Chris Strachwitz

Recording and mixdown engineer: Bob Shumaker

Notes: Lev Liberman, Director,
Archives of Music & Performing Arts, Judah L. Magnes Memorial Museum

Special thanks to: Martin Schwartz; Gil & Gerda Daley