THE KLEZMORIM > Disko > Streets of Gold > Liner Notes 

[Track notes from the original record release:]

Di Zilberne Khasene (The Silver Wedding)
From the wine-cellars of Bucharest, the alleys of Odessa, and the hashish-dens of Constantinople, wandering musicians blended nineteenth-century Western harmonies and rhythms with ancient Eastern modes to create klezmer music. This soulful, defiant Old World jazz came over on the boat with refugees from European oppression and was heard often in the streets of America — streets which, for many, were paved not with gold but with broken backs. Our arrangement of this wedding freylekhs (merry dance) is based on three different recordings made in the 1910s by klezmer bands.

Papirosn (Cigarettes)
This song was popularized by "Der Poyets" (The Clown), Herman Yablokoff, whose lyrics told the tale of an orphaned cigarette peddler freezing on a street corner. Papirosn long ago entered the folk tradition. Several of us knew variant versions. Our instrumental arrangement reflects this diversity. We begin with an improvised doina or lament in Rumanian-Yiddish style. Then we strike up a hot dance-band rendition which includes a version orignally done by the great clarinetist Dave Tarras with Abe Ellstein's Orchestra.
The stringed instrument heard prominently here is a tsimbalom built by Jozsef V. Schunda of Budapest. Its 35 courses (sets) of strings are struck with a pair of small hand-held wooden hammers with cotton-wrapped tips. When the tsimbalom was enlarged and refined from earlier hammered dulcimers a century ago, its distinctive sound soon became an integral feature of urban Hungarian, Slovak, Rumanian, Gypsy, and klezmer ensembles.

Medyatsiner Waltz
We culled this lovely waltz from Tshortkover Rebns Khasene, a wedding suite recorded by Art Shryer's Orchestra in the late 1920s. Amid the tumult of processional marches for the bride and groom, the clop of horses' hooves, and the ribald humor of the klezmorim (all crammed onto one side of a ten-inch 78-rpm disc), the wedding jester identified this as the devotional tune of the Medyatsiner Rebbe (spiritual community leader).

Mayn Rue Plats (My Resting Place)
The tailor and writer Morris Rosenfeld chronicled the desperate longings of his fellow sweatshop workers in hundreds of poems which appeared in the Yiddish press from the 1880s to the 1920s. Set to music, many of them entered the folk tradition — some as love songs, others as anthems of the emerging labor movement. Mayn Rue Plats is both. Miriam Dvorin learned it from a socialist songbook which belonged to her grandmother.

Nit zukh mikh vu di mirtn grinen.
Gefinst mikh dortn nit, mayn shats.
Vu lebns velkn bay mashinen,
Dortn iz mayn rue plats.

Nit zukh mikh vu di feygl zingen.
Gefinst mikh dortn nit, mayn shats.
A shklaf bin ikh vu keytn klingen,
Dortn iz mayn rue plats.

Nit zukh mikh vu fontanen shpritsn.
Gefinst mikh dortn nit, mayn shats.
Vu trern rinen, tseyner kritsn,
Dortn iz mayn rue plats.

Un libstu mikh mit varer libe,
To kum tsu mir, mayn guter shats,
Un hayter oyf mayn harts di tribe
Un makh mir zis mayn rue plats.
Don't look for me where myrtles are green.
You will not find me there, my beloved.
Where lives wither at the machines,
There is my resting place.

Don't ook for me where birds sing.
You will not find me there, my beloved.
I am a slave where chains ring,
There is my resting place.

Don't look for me where fountains spray.
You will not find me there, my beloved.
Where tears flow and teeth gnash,
There is my resting place.

And if you love me with true love,
So come to me, my good beloved,
And cheer my gloomy heart
And make sweet my resting place.

A Glezele Vayn (A Little Glass of Wine)
Klezmorim often received their pay in the form of alcohol rather than in negotiable currency like kopecks or zlotys. At such times a military march could end up sounding like a three-day pass.

Baym Rebns Sude (At the Rebbe's Meal)
This is one of the oldest pieces in our repertoire, and we play it as it might have been played by a street band in the days of the Czar. As in the old days, the clarinetist improvises an introduction based both on liturgical modes and on military fanfares, and the other players join in as soon as they recognize the theme. The folk drum heard here is a baraban made by hand out of wood, rope, calfskin, and goatskin.

Af Shabes in Vilna (On the Sabbath in Vilna)
This raucous march from an old disc by Abe Schwartz's Orchestra has little to do with the Lithuanian town of Vilna, and even less to do with the Sabbath. Since klezmorim seldom had names for the tunes they played, the titles of their recordings (which conjure up images of wedding gaiety or old country tradition) were almost always chosen arbitrarily in the recording studio.

Of all the recordings that Brian Wishnefsky's grandparents played for him years ago in Brooklyn, Sonya and Anushke were the most memorable. These songs from Czarist Russia enjoyed great popularity here in the 1920s. Sonya, in fact had several different sets of lyrics about lost love, Siberian exile, and the experiences of Russian-Jewish immigrants in America.
The hammered dulcimer heard on this track is a tsambal mik from Rumania. For several centuries this portable predecessor of the tsimbalom provided melodic, rhythmic, and chordal effects in traveling bands of Central and Eastern Europe.

Firen di Mekhutonim Aheym (Leading the In-Laws Home)
Our source for this elegant tune in the sirba rhythm ("limping" 3/8 from Rumania) is a recording made in the mid-1920s by clarinet master Naftule Brandwine, whose career was brilliant and brief. We've been told that he used to perform with his back turned to his listeners, to prevent anyone from copying his technique.

Lebedik un Freylekh (Lively and Merry)
At a traditional wedding the jester or bandleader would frequently shout, " Lebedik! Lebedik! Freylekh!" to urge the musicians on to excesses of speed and virtuosity. This is one of our favorite klezmer tunes and if you don't dance to it, you'll never find out why.

Freylekhs fun L.A. (Merry Tune from L.A.)
The band learned this nineteenth-century klezmer tune from David Gray, who learned it from fiddler Mark Simos, who learned it from his neighbor Israel Lakretz, a mandolin-playing retired farmer born in Russia and now living in Los Angeles.

Bessarabyanke (Girl from Bessarabia)
We all seem to have always known this Russian Gypsy melody in one form or another. Our title comes from a version which made the rounds of Continental cafés after the 1917 Revolution, recalling the fine wines and wild women of Bessarabia.

Taxim (Improvisation)
A plaintive doina and dance melody originally recorded over 50 years ago by violinist Jacob Gegna.

[Album credits:]

Produced by The Klezmorim and Chris Strachwitz

Recorded live without overdubbing at 1750 Arch Street, Berkeley, California
on 11 & 13 March and 15 July 1978.

Engineer: Bob Shumaker

Cover illustration: R. Crumb

Art Director: Wayne Pope

Photos: Chris Strachwitz

Notes: Lev Liberman and David Julian Gray

Special thanks to: Dr. Martin Schwartz, mentor & gadfly; klezmer-investigator Henry Sapoznik; and jazz historian Richard Hadlock for lending us his rare copy of Wolff Kostakowsky's 1916 klezmer book.