Shpil, Balalayke

While the feminist blogosphere devours its own innards, how about a little Yiddish folk music to take us into Shabbes? (Maybe at some point I’ll post my thoughts on the valid points and faulty logic in the Professor What If essay, but not today, my friends.)

I’m in a noisy coffee shop right now so I can’t attest to the quality of this version, but from what I can make out it seems pretty good. Legible lyrics and translation below the jump.

Shteyt a bokher, un er trakht,
Trakht un trakht a gantze nakht.
Vemen tzu nemen un nisht farshemen,
Vemen tzu nemen un nisht farshemen.

Tum-bala, tum-bala, tum-balalayka
Tum-bala, tum-bala, tum-balalayka
Tum-balalayka, shpil balalayka
Freylekh zol zayn.

Meydl, meydl, kh’vil bay dir fregn,
Vos ken vaksn, vaksn on regn?
Vos ken brenen un nisht oyfhern?
Vos ken benken, veynen on trern?


Narisher bokher, vos darfstu fregn?
A shteyn ken vaksn, vaksn on regn.
Libe ken brenen un nisht oyfhern.
A harts ken benken, veynen on trern.


A young lad stands and he thinks,
He thinks and thinks all night long.
Whom to marry without embarrassing another girl,
Whom to marry without embarrassing another girl.

Tum-bala, tum-bala, tum-balalayke,
Tum-bala, tum-bala, tum-balalayke.
Tum-balalayke, play, balalayke,
Play, balalayke,
And make it joyful!

Maiden, maiden, I want to ask you a question.
What can grow, grow without rain?
What can burn without ever stopping?
What can yearn, and cry without tears?


Silly lad, why do you need to ask?
A stone can grow, grow without rain.
Love can burn without ever stopping,
A heart can yearn and cry without tears.



5 Responses

  1. And then they get married?

  2. I had a Yiddish folktale book when I was little that came with an accompanying cassette tape (something about riddles and a miller’s daughter. I don’t remember what it was called.), and this song was on it. It was my favorite. 😀 Good Shabbes!

  3. And then they get married?

    No, no. In the next verse he goes, “A stone? That’s your answer? Stones grow? What, do you live in a volcano?”

    Steph, gut shabbes!

  4. actually, i learned an alternative version from a phenomenal Yiddish singer and songwriter from Ukraine, Arkady Gendler. he was pretty adamant that stones don’t grow, and it should be : hor ken vaksn, vaksn on regn [hair can grow, grow without rain]”

    there were also other differences in his version, something like “vos far a meylekh hot nisht keyn land, vos far a ____ hot nisht keyn zamd” [what kind of king has no country, what kind of ____ has no sand]. the answer to the first is “a meylekh fun korn hot nisht keyn land” [a king from (a deck of) cards has no country], but i can’t remember what the ___ is or the answer to that.

  5. that should be “kortn” [cards] not “korn” [rye]

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