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Tantslieder by YL Cahan --work in progress--posted below

The tantslieder below were taken from the book:   Yiddish Folksongs with Melodies by Y.L.Cahan, edited by Max Weinreich, published by YIVO, New York, 1957.

Some of the tantslieder are songs that probably were once used as dance calls when people were learning the dances.  See RuthRubin's work for a complete discussion of this topic and also Cantor Joseph Levine's article in the Journal of Synagogue music, 2010.  Whether at some point in time we will have enough clues from various sources to reconstruct some of the dances, I don't know, but would like to begin by collecting as much information as possible. 

1 Another function of the dance songs, was to provide music for dancing when instruments weren't permitted such as on the Sabbath.  Scroll to the bottom of this spreadsheet to find a reference to one such event from an online memoir.

I have uploaded Pdf copies of the tantslieder and  articles about them in Yiddish from Cahan's work.  The articles come from another of his books called "Shtudies vegn Yidisher Folksshafung/ Studies in Yiddish Folklore. Published YIVO New York 1952 .  You can also read the English (pdf format) translation
2 of some of the content of these articles, kindly donated by Cantor Joseph Levine.

I would like to thank Michel Borzykowski, Wolf Krakowski, Fraidy Katz, Josh Horowitz, Michael Wex**Cantor Joseph Levine, Steve Weintraub, Itzik Gottesman, Paula Teitelbaum, Andreas Schmitges  and Leon Balaban  for assisting me with translation and other information.
Some of these songs were translated and discussed in Ruth Rubin's book Voices of a People The Story of Yiddish Folksong. Philadelphia:The Jewish Publication Society of America., 1979. (A newer edition of this book exists, but I have the 1979 edition) I've tried to indicate those within the chart.  If you have any information to share or would like to contribute a translation, please e-mail me .
**Cantor Levine has translated the lyrics to maintain the rhyme scheme and has also added some modern touches.  His translations are highlighted in the yellow cells in the table felow.  See also Levine, Joseph A.  Yiddish Dance Songs. Journal of Synagogue Music, Vol 35, Fall 2010, pp 59-96.
#/ Cahan’s Title
Cahan's Footnotes Comments from others: Additional Comments
Sore, Rivke -- turn to the middle
Khaykele, -- go to the side
Nu -- turn around
May disaster befall you
Turn to the middle
Nu -- turn around
Damn you
I'll break your corset

Look, Tamara
Make something (lit: make "a ware")
Look, Nakhale -- how I go
And you, Yenkele, turn to the middle
Kheykele, turn around


Note by Login: (The lyrics of) this song are, without any doubt, born under influence of the melody, when the dance leader gave instructions (on how to dance). The remarks of the singer are interesting: "We sang this one to accompany a dance, to a Pas DE’SPAN or to another --- dance (I have already forgotten the name).

I remember that shabes during the day when we used to gather to sing and dance, my mother would say:

" When boys and girls dance together , demons dance between their feet."

This belief is worth heeding. Under the notes is written Gekhele which is a typo for the name Nekhele, a common women's first name

note from Itzik Gottesman:
listen to variant on Ruth Rubin's Old Country LP of field recordings. Please note the humor here, which probably indicates a parody of the original.
Comment from Helen:

The Lancers Quadrille was a very involved dance. To learn more about it, consult the following references:

1) History of the Lancers on Streetswing.com
2)Routledge's Manual of Etiquette by
George Routledge which makes it very clear that dancers who didn't know the dance, were not welcome to join it--they would mess the whole thing up.
3)View a British group doing Lancers on Youtube.  Additional video here.
4)For those who speak Russian, you can see the full notation in Russian in an historic dance manual.

Once you have reviewed all these sources, the Yiddish dance-songs will seem very natural.  Many of us folk dancers have found ourselves in the midst of a set dance that goes a little/a lot out of control.  We can empathise with the characters in the dance-songs. 

Also, within the yizkor books, there are instances of dance masters being involved with teaching new dances within communities.  You can view some excerpts here.

You can listen to a field recording of Yiddish quadrille on the Smithsonian Folkways website on Ruth Rubin's Jewish Life:  the Old Country
The track can also be streamed on Spotify:


Version 2:
Soreh Rivkeh, turn to the center, tra-la-la--
Khaykele, now’s the time to enter, tra-la-la.
Why won’t you twirl (or break a leg)!
Sashay down the line--
Honor your partner (or catch the plague)!
You’re really doing fine.

Make way, Tamara, see how it’ done--
Watch! Gekhele (oi, what fun)!
Lift her, Yenkele, she’s not a nun--
(Even though she weighs a ton)!

218 To a Laanse
Reytze, Reytze
Turn your face to me (x3)
Yente, Yente
Pass on over

I asked him to dance
They spoiled everything
I let him get over
They did not heed me

This song and also 219 is a dance improvisation with an angry mood, derived from a Laanse. See Ruth Rubin Pg187/fn18

She comments that the lyrics represent joyousness during the crossover period between arranged marriages and unchaperoned dating.

219 To a Laanse
Motl, Motl -- turn your face to me
Yente, Yente -- into the middle
Gitl, Gitl -- over there, now
Dvoyre, get back, now
You didn't go the right way
You should have gone to the middle
You should have gone over there
Give your hand to the bear

You didn't go the right way
You should have gone to the middle
You wasted the (laanse)
May you story rot (life-story, life)

From my first Warsaw collection. Excluding the 1890s. note from Itzik Gottesman:
listen to variant on Ruth Rubin's Old Country LP of field recordings.please note the humor here, which probably indicates a parody of the original.
220 Siebenschritt
(Bialitze Near Vilna)
I chose me a handsome young man
The dance is pretty, rightly, yes
I can dance A-me-ri-ca
(Sore Fridman) Similar to 221 and 222; Berman p. 390, n. 63; a-n p.410, n.8) German dance melodies similar to 220 & 221 compare Erk-Behme 2. N.991. Kehler-Meyer n.346. In the collections of children songs Zimrok nn. 863-865; Wegener nn 996-997; Drozihn nn. 236-241; Behme 1812-1816; Leval…. 172, 180, a dance melody, under name "Der Siebenshritt" (step of seven), widely spread among Germans and Czech. Compare Jungbauer, Bibliographie des deutschen Volkslieds in Böhmen n.1213. [Title by Cahan: 'Zibntrit']

See Romanian info here Throughout history the latest dance fashions were introduced to the peasant population at social functions. These were then adapted into the village context. The polka now has many variants in Moldavia (Polca, Polcuta) although these look very different to the original lively Czech Polka and are now believed to be Romanian dances by the villagers. The polka and Germanic dances such as the Seven Steps (Siebenschritt) are found in Transylvania where Germans were employed in the mining industry - e.g. Roata de sapt pasi (Baia Mare), Porka and Hétlépés (Szek). The quadrille dance form reached Maramures via the Ukraine (Jurelul).

See Ruth Rubin pg189/fn23

for other variations of this song.

Siebenschritt www.volkstanz.at
Video also available here.

Translated by
Josh Horowitz
(from Lower Austria and Styria) Niederösterreich und Steiermark

Beginning Position:
Couples dance in circle, Normal position, Facing each other

Part 1:
Bars 1-2 The couples run with 7 normal steps forward Bars 3-4 The couples run with 7 normal step backwards Let go.

Part 2
Bar 5: The dancers turn away from each other and run with 3 running steps, the boys to the left and the girsl to the right.

Bar 6:
The dancers turn toward each other and run with 3 steps to each other.

Part 3
Take position to twirl
Bars 7 - 8: Twirl with running steps forward
Bars 9 - 12: repeat Parts 2 and 3

" This dance is danced in many ways by our people. The dance is old and has its roots in the pagan times. The version presented here is younger and comes from the Austrian Alps.. We have taken the dance from:"Altösterreichische Volkstänze" gesammelt von Raimund Zoder (Wien, österreichischer Schulbücherverlag 1924)Source: Fladerer, Oswald: Deutsche Volkstänze aus verschiedenen Gauen;

Kassel, Bärenreiter, 1928

221 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
Play the polka, just like it's written
Make it row to here
Make it row to there
Like the rose flowers in bloom
Similar to 220 and 221. To A Zibntrit (Sevenstep) See Ruth Rubin above
From Itzik Gottesman:  the line "Shift zi zikh aher" is translated as "make it row here". I am not so sure about that translation though i can't say I understand the word "shift" here either.
Version 2:
One, two, three, four, five-six, seven--
Play that Polka and send me to heaven,
Swing your partner here,
Swing your partner there,
Swing it before the clock strikes eleven!

One, two, three, four, five-six, seven-eight--
I’ve found me a girl/boy friend
Who is really great--
And knows how to dance,
So I’ll take a chance
On romance, before it’s too late!
222 To a Rinelender/Rhinelander
(David Haradok, near Vilna)
Where is the girl that I love
There she is, there
And there she is not
And there she has gone
All to blazes
(Etl Garber) Similar to 220 and 221.


223 To a Broiges Tants
Perhaps you would accept, little Dushke, a kiss
A kiss (x3)
From somebody, yes -- from you, no
Go away, you are a "freyer" (see comment from Paula Teitelbaum adjacent)

Perhaps you would accept from me -- some earings
From me (x3)
From someone, yes, but not from you
Tam-ti- . . .
T-de ...
Go away, you are a "freyer"

(Chane Odoner) This was sung to a broyges-tants with a nice (nign) melody. From Paula Teitelbaum:I would like to offer another look at the word "frayer", which appears in a few of the song lyrics (for example, in 223 Broyges Tants at the very end).  Yes, it is an adjective and could mean a non-observant Jew, but I highly doubt it means that in this context.  In this context, it means a sucker,  a gullible person who is easily mislead and tricked.  The word also exists in Polish with that same meaning.

224 To a Kadril
Peshe, go into the corner
Gele, go to the side
Peshe, take the broom
Gele, *turn around/sweep up
(Play on words -- 'ker sikh oys' means 'turn around.'
'Kern' is also 'to sweep.')
(Matilde Moldavin). Similar to 232 .

There is also a similar Jewish dance-tune from a shtetl in (Upper Hungary?) There they joke, a "dancemaster" on the -----weakens the dancers.

Herauf zum Kasten,
Eru’ zu de Tir
Eher zun Oifen
Denuch zu mir

225 To a Krakovianke
(Tschudnov, Volyn)
Krakoviak Heritz (Herits, pronounced Horits [see rhyme with porits], is simply a form of Horace)
Get rid of (lit: push out) the nobleman/landowner (porets)
If the porets won't go
Knock his teeth out

Krakow Annie
Get rid of the the lady
If the lady won't go
Knock her teeth out

(Dr. R. Shatzki, who heard it from his mother Eydl Ayn-Shatzki. Note From Cantor Joseph Levine:
Porits (landowner) and Pan (lord, master) were the Polish Jews' Pulcinello, Commedia del Arte-type objects of innocent merriment--in private, of course--publicly, they were paid both rent and respect. So...
Version 2:
Poke the Porits, Yorits,
Push the Paneh, Anna;
If they won't budge--
Sock 'em in the teeth, Keith,
Knock out their tseyneh, Reyneh!

226 Krakowianke
227 Krakowianke
(Bravlov, Podolia)
Ya’akov, Ya’akov-ian,
Chase out the Lady!
The Lady will not go;
Knock out her teeth!

It’s not allowed to knock the teeth,
It’s not allowed to use the face;
Just like in Oddessa,
Like in Bucharest
Info Sonia Agranawicz
Besides this song, for all the Krakowianke’s, I have not found any Polish equivalent.
228 Krakowianke
(Pryluk, Poltawa region)
Krakaw – Krakawiane,
Drag in the lady;
The lady wouldn’t go.
Drag her by the teeth!
229 Also a Krakowianke
?Farshedene Tants Polish Operetta    
Vashlikov, Bialistok region

Where have you been the whole night,
Why didn’t you come to sleep?
Oy vey, mother, I didn’t think,
a misfortune happened to me!

Where have you been the whole night,
My dear, daughter of mine?”
Behind closed doors with an officer,
what a delight (mechaye), mother!
Info Matilda Moldawin
No known variations

Version 2:
My darling daughter, where were you last night?
You never came to bed (let’s not get into a fight)--

Oy vey, Mama, you cannot even guess
What happened to me—such a mess!

My messed-up daughter, my little princess,
A sneaking suspicion I must confess--

Don’t say it, Mama, officers are worst,
I think my heart’s about to burst!
232 To a Kadril   note from Itzik Gottesman: listen to variant on Ruth Rubin's Old Country LP of field recordings. Please note the humor here, which probably indicates a parody of the original.  
Hay, barley and millet,
Rivkah has lost her skillet,
And Yenkl has found it__
No need to expound it!

Rivkah sees in the looking-glass
The image of a pretty lass__
And, standing beside her
Is Yenkl, ever-ready to chide her!

They’re made for each other,
Not like sister and brother__
Rivkah has made up her mind
And Yenkl is not far behind!
  From Itzik Gottesman:
Hober un Korn has been recorded by Abe Brumberg (and Sidor Belarsky?). I never thought of it as an obvious waltz tune though it is in the right tempo.

***From Cantor Joseph Levine:
#233-234, (Hey Hober un Kom) are in duple rhythm. beat in a broad One- Two- i.e..slower than 2/4 but definitelynot a waltz.

JCahan was undecided whether they were doing a Poilke or a Mazur (original Polish name of what's now a Mazurka). The 3rd Yiddish line [in the footnote] reads: "Poilke-Mazur is their life
What he didn't say was: "Valtz-Mazur is their life."

The music notation's first beats now reflect the underlying staccato Yiddish lyrics:

16th - 16th - 8th
Haynt - i - keh

the classic Mazurka notation of first beats.

234 Waltz
  From Itzik Gottesman:
Hober un Korn has been recorded by Abe Brumberg (and Sidor Belarsky?). I never thought of it as an obvious waltz tune though it is in the right tempo.
see above 233
235 Polka
To dance a Polka I’m craving,
but only with handsome suitors!
I put on the white gloves,
And lets go to dance a Polka!
Tra la la, tra la la.
236 Polka
(Bialitse, Vilner region)
Hey you, move forward,
Let you be driven into the ground!
Must be that I love you,
You are worth it!
  From Itzik Gottesman:
"hey, hey rik zikh tsi" is also a known folk song with other words and more verses. My mother's version (Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman) from Chernovitz, Bukovina (Josh Waletzky sings it as well). I don't know if it's recorded.

"Ay, di, di, rik zikh tsi
Rik zik tsi, ti mir (2x)
Az di vilst a libe shpiln
kenstu nor mit mir

Tsibele iz volvl,
knobl iz dokh tayer.
Az a yingl libt a meydl,
brent es vi a fayer"
I travelled to Odessa
to the Moldavanke,
I did dance a Polonaise
with a Charlatan! (Translator's question:  or should it be loose woman?)
(Kiev Region)
Oh, scalding tea turns to frigid tea__
Cookies and biscotti,
Girls who when young are pretty__
Often act quite haughty.
(Mezvitsch Podolia)
I went to Odessa city,
To the Moldavanka,
There I danced a polonaise
With a loose woman!

Hot tea, cold tea,
Doughballs and beans
All pretty girls
Have such mean luck!

What did you cook all week?
Doughballs with beans;
What did you cook on the Sabbath then?
Doughcrumbs and spuds
(translation from Ruth Rubin)

  See Ruth Rubin pg 190/fn 25
She says the song has overtones of the Odessa underworld. Also gives alternate lyrics.

From Itzik Gottesman:
Abe Brumberg recorded this too on his LP, maybe a slightly different version. Ruth Rubin sings a song to a similar melody My grandmother's version (Lifshe Schaechter-Widman from Zvinyetchke, Bukovina)
"Ikh mit mayn lyubitshke,
mayn mame in der mit.
Ikh vil mayn lyubetshke,
Mayn mame vil zi nisht.

(refrain) For ikh mir avek,
Ash ken ades.
Un shtel mir ir a khupe,
in eyne mis-les.

Vayl gelt iz dokh kaylekhdik
gelt geyt avek.
Nem ikh mir may lyubitskhe
un for mit ir avek.
Version 2:
I took me to Odessa town--on the mighty Dnieper--
Met a gal whose hair was brown--she treated me like a leper!

All week she cooked très gourmet--chicken cacciatore--
Shabbos, much to my dismay—breadcrumbs, end of story!

Hot tea turns to frigid tea--
Cookies and biscotti,
Girls who when young are pretty--
Often act quite haughty.

240 Waltz
Bialystok coquettes
Blonds and brunettes,
Gather together
To seek a handsome fellow
(trans Ruth Rubin)
  See Ruth Rubin pg 192/fn 30 ***Note from Cantor Joseph Levine:
240-244 seem of a piece with #245, whose word-accents all fall on
the second beat. That, plus the "Moderato" heading instead of
"Waltz Tempo" and the busy-ness (triplets, multisyllables) of every first
beats-which act as pick-ups to the accented second beats, duplicates
the classic Mazurka notation (Maja Trochimczyk essay, "Mazur
«Mazurka»" in Polish Dance website, p. 6 of 9).
241 to a Waltz
(Vashlikova, Bialistok region)
Bialistok maidens,
they wear ripped skirts;
they have no money in the purses
and walk in torn boots.
Info: Matila Moldovin

Warsaw fellows,
they lay under the beds;
they got no penny in the pockets
and walk in torn boots.
243 Vengerke
Pinsk maidens and Warsaw girls,
They dance, they dance like turkey cocks,
And that’s what they call living.
They haven’t even a penny to give the bandsman.
(Trans Ruth Rubin)
  See Ruth Rubin pg 192/fn 30
244 Waltz
The girls of today have no brains at all,
They kick with their feet, just like horses,
They fall into the clutches of a falsehearted love,
He drives them young into the ground.
(Trans Ruth Rubin)
  See Ruth Rubin pg 192/fn 30
Women today (who speak like Okies)
Go to weddings and dance the Polkies__
They can twirl the whole night through,
But for paying the band they haven’t a clue!

Bandleader, bandleader, play it hot__
For that I’ll give you a five-spot,
A five-spot and maybe you’ll sing a song__
While tootin’ a horn the way you always do!

A wedding gig is not as bad a drag
As gettin’ hitched to an ancient nag__
Whose knee-bones rattle and dentures click,
I’d rather snuggle with a pretty young chick!
244-240   ***Note from Cantor Joseph Levine:
245: (Hayntike Meydelekh)-is a Mazurka,  "WALTZ WITH ACCENTEDSECONDBEAT"(as opposed to a waltz's consistent first-beat accent).
246 A Kozatske
Pretty maiden, come dance,
while the circle is turning!
Waitress, bring Vodka,
the owner is happy!
Info: Esther Perlmutter    
(Akerman, Besarabia)
Black are you, black,
but with charm;
To whom are you disgusting,
to me you’re beautiful!
Do you love me, yes,
do you love me, no -
At least, let’s take a stroll together.
  From Itzik Gottesman:
Brumberg recorded this too on his LP.
250 Polka
(Bielitsa, Vilner region)
When a girl goes for a walk
she doesn’t sleep the whole night;
the fellow will walk her home
and sings to her the Polka – rakh-tsakh-tsakh!
ram, ta-da-di-di, ram, ta-da-di-da,
tam, ta-di-di-da, ram-ta-ta!
Info: Sarah Friedman    
Version 2:
When a lady goes out walking,
It can be a danger--
If the gent who gets her talking
Turns out to be a stranger!

Ram, ta-di-di-di
Ram-ta-da di-da
Tam-ta-di di-da
Ram-ta ta!

(Droje, Vilner region)
You should not go with any other girls,
you should only go with me!
You should not come to your mother’s house,
you should only come to me!

Ta-ra-ra-ram pam,
Ta-ra-ra-ram pam,
Ta-ra-ra-ram pam, pam, pam, pam.

Ta-ra-ra-ram pam,
Ta-ra-ra-ram pam,
Ta-ra-ra-ram pam, pam, pam, pam

  From Itzik Gottesman:
a known Yiddish song. In the repertoire of Josh Waletzky.
Version 2:
With other girls let me never catch you,
They’ll put on airs that will turn our head--
And from my arms they will try to snatch you,
And then—you’re as good as dead!

Ta-ra-ra pam,
Ta-ra-ra pam
Ta-ra-ra ram pam pam pam pam…

With other girls you’ll never catch me,
Their charms will never capture my heart--
And from your arms they will never snatch me,
It’s you I’ve loved right from the start!

Ta-ra-ra pam,
Ta-ra-ra pam
Ta-ra-ra ram pam pam pam pam…

254 Kolomeyke
(Berhamet, Bukovina)
I thank Andreas Schmitges and Cantor Joseph Levine for contributing to this translation.

Where are you from, good brothers?
From the Kolomeyke.
Havn't you seen a maiden
who's name is Leyke?

We did see, we didn't see,
we don't want to tell you;
fetch a horse and wagon
and go chase her.

As we enter the inn
we are asked to sit down
unpeeled potatoes
we are ordered to eat.

Unpeeled potatoes
they are very disgusting -
on the fireplace sits a maiden,
is she sweet like sugar.

Whose little girl are you?"
I'm Yankl, the bath-house attendant's Ponele. [ponele would be untranslated ... who know perhaps it's just a name?]
So give me your mouth,
For some noodles / for a portion of noodles

Alternate interpretation of verse 5 courtesy of Cantor Joseph Levine:

"Whose little girl are you?" (a puzzle)
"I'm Yankel the bath-house attendant's pony"
"In that case, give us your little muzzle"
"Only for a plate of macaroni!"
info L. Kesner - There is no known variation to the Kolomeyke song.
remarks 1,2: Kolomeyke, kind of Ukrainian song and dance, very popular in Bukovina, East Galicia, and Russian-Carpats.
Barabules "potatos" - the name of the place under the song should be read:

From Cantor Joseph Levine:
“Barabulyes: This is one of those local-dialect usages; the standard yiddish word for potatoes is bulbes. But the tantsmayster needed an extra two syllables in creating lyrics to flesh out the Kolomayke dance rhythm. So he appended bara to bulbes--marshalling the dialectic usage, bulyes”

Comment from Andreas Schmitges:
The second "arayn" in the first line is a printing mistake, it doesn't work at all with the melody ...
Version 2:
Good friends, from where have you arrived?
From the Kolomeyke.
And I see that you’ve survived--
A lady name of Leyke!

So tell me, friends, how does she fare?
That lady so appealing?
Surely you must be aware--
Sadly, we’re not revealing!

I’m fine with that, let’s drink a toast--
To fully quench the thirst of life.
And to those we miss the most--
Like Leyke, your first wife?

255 To a Hopketants
Oy, what I wanted, I managed to get,
Let me so live!
I wanted a pretty boy,
God gave to me.
I thought, that he’s already mine,
I have already known him;
A prettier girl has arrived
And has taken him away.
  See #20 pg 499 Ruth Rubin for sheet music

—she calls it a Polka

Version 2:
Whatever I want, I manage to acquire--
God knows the reason why,
I wanted to meet a handsome squire--
And along came this good-looking guy!

I thought to myself: I’ve done it again--
It must be that I deserve him,
When—wouldn’t you know it—a prettier hen--
Put a move on that did innerve him!

So now I wonder: what kind of chick--
Can afford to rely on one rooster?
Better to play the field—and quick--
‘Cause of luck I’m not a big booste
I’ve got a bride, is she pretty;
Black eyes, white teeth;
She doesn’t suit me,
Because she went with another freyer(sucker).
  see comment in 223 re:  freyer  
257Kolomeyke   From Itzik Gottesman:
See the longer version in Dov and Meir Noy/Shmeul Zanvel Pipe collection page 163. Folklore Research Center Studies, vol. 2, 1971. Jerusalem "Yiddish Folksongs from Galicia". This seems to be Galician tune. This volume has a dance section too- pages 163-166. The words have sexual overtones, yet, I saw a version in a Hasidic song book atributed to a rebbe
258 Semene      
(Novaredak, Vilner region)

One bottle beer, two bottle beer,
three bottle-bottle beer!

Four bottle beer, five bottle beer,
six bottle-bottle beer!

Seven bottle beer, eight bottle beer,
nine bottle-bottle beer!

Ten bottle beer, eleven bottle beer,
twelve bottle-bottle beer!

Twelve bottle beer, eleven bottle beer,
ten bottle-bottle beer!

Nine bottle beer, eight bottle beer,
seven bottle-bottle beer!

Six bottle beer, five bottle beer,
four bottle-bottle beer!

Three bottle beer, two bottle beer,
one bottle-bottle beer !

Info. Berta Kling – note from the information:
I heard this song in the 1890’s. The tailors used to sing it while dancing in a circle. With every “bottle-bottle beer” they stomped their feet heavily to the rhythm. This dance song was likely from a German Opshtam (?)

Fro Itzik Gottesman:
it parallels the english "A hundred bottles of beer on the wall".
(Tschimerovitz, Podolia)
Play for me the new sher dance,
Which is all the rage
I fell in love with a handsome lad
And cannot seem to reach him.

I would go to him, o yes,
But he lives far away.
I would give him a kiss so sweet,
But what would people say?
And not so much what people said,
But how about God himself?
Oh, I would like to be with him
With nobody else around.

(translation from Ruth Rubin--see comments by Sam Weiss regarding the differences between Ruth Rubin's version and Cahan's version of this song)

  See Ruth Rubin pg 194/fn35

From Itzik Gottesman:
also recorded by Ruth Rubin.

From Cantor Sam Weiss regarding Ruth Rubin's version:

It's the same tune, with these differences:
1- It's a girl singing about a boy.
2- The melody is slightly more vocal and less rhythmically straight on "Kh'volt dokh im a kush gegebn."
3- There's a 2nd verse starting at the fifth line:
Kum-zhe tsu mir gikher
Ikh vart oyf dir shoyn lang
Kum shoyn gikher ariber
Me zol nisht hern dayn gang
Fir ikh dikh in shtibele
Fun mayn mamen aleyn
Khosn-Kale veln mir zayn
Un tsu der khupe geyn.

According to Hankus Netsky "it's a variant on the sher that became sher #1 in the New York Russian Sher Medley. No relation to the Ellstein (since his tune is actually a bulgar)"


Online recording of the sher version (not Ellstein's version) can be found on Smithsonian Folkways Jewish Folk Songs of Europe FW08712 1960

See also Yiddish Song of the Week Blog:http://yiddishsong.wordpress.com/,
“Shpilt zhe mir dem nayem sher” Performed by Isaac (Tsunye) Rymer.


Version 2:
As I download the latest Sher
Off of iTune,
I’m thinking of a girl so fair--
I’d love to see her soon.

If only she were closer
(She lives so far away)--
I’d tell her how I chose her
That very first day.

I am not ashamed
Of my secret love--
One fine day she will be named
Before the One Above.
(Davne, Volhyn)
Berele, Berele,
Play for me a Sherele__
Let my khosn be a scholar,
Just not down to his last dollar!

(Refrain) Poverty’s not good
In any neighborhood__
The fact that money talks
Is clearly understood!

Party crasher!
Who invited you, Asher__
Even though you’re very funny,
The question’s whether you have money!

(Refrain) Poverty’s not good
In any neighborhood__
The fact that money talks
Is clearly understood!
Oh Johnny, Oh__
This is not a rodeo.
While it’s true I’m not petite__
It hurts when you stomp my feet!

Oh Nancy, oh Nance__
This is not a Mitzvah dance.
While it’s true the room’s a-buzzin__
I am still your second cousin!
263 Kozak dance
Mother, mother, the bride’s coming
Put on your wedding dress!
Father, father, the groom is coming
Put on your fancy coat,
And we will dance a kozak.

I towards you, you towards me,
Let the four of us dance.
I am plump, you are plump,
Let us dance, hop, hop, hop.

I am thin, you are thin,
Let us dance round and round.
I am refined, you are refined,
Let us dance in a ring around.
 (translation from Ruth Rubin)

  See Ruth Rubin pg 190/fn26

From Itzik Gottesman:
a known yiddish folksong. I'm sure recorded by someone.

Version 2:
Mother of the bride, don’t you hide__
Here comes your daughter,
Father of the bride__
Don’t be afraid to show your pride!

Mother of the groom, there’s plenty of room__
Here comes your son, now,
Father of the groom__
(He’ll have some fun, now)!

We and you, you and we__
Let’s all dance a Kozak,
At the age of sixty-three__
There’s no need of Prosac!
Saturday evening the mother says:
Geytl, get dressed!
Pick only your most beautiful
Shabbes dress.
In case the groom comes
and takes you without money;
To get rid off an ugly maiden,
is good for the whole world.

Comments from Others
Steve Weintraub Jan 15/06
I have several pages of tanzlieder, also collected by Cahan, there are several musical excerpts- das lid fon'm tanz firer, ba a lansay, tzu a "zibn trit", tzu a kadril, a gantze nakht, bin ikh geforn kayn ades (odessa), az a meydl geyt shpatzirn, and fun der kolemayke- these are the songs that specifically have music notated. There are lots of song lyrics, but no notes or essay.  This is from the Pinkus (collection) of the Journal of Literature, Language(?), Folklore and Bibliography (books?) 1927-28.

The calls seem to combine actual instruction with funny/nonsensical rhymes and formulas.  Its interesting that the lyrics make fun of the dancers and expect them to mess up. This might be, perhaps, that dancing a kadril or lancers was "putting on airs" in a way, and was made more acceptable by being made fun of. (We're Jews, we don't take this dancing thing
too seriously). I don't know if the lyrics can really be used in an archeological way to reconstruct a dance- no more so than lyrics of 60's dance songs could help you reproduce, say, the twist (round and round and up and down you go, again) without knowing the vocablulary of the dance in the first place. Rather, I think the value might be in giving some novelty and authenticity to calling dances.

***From Cantor Joseph Levine regarding the waltz tunes:
I believe that either Cahan mislabeled or his transcriber mis-notated.  According to Cantor Levine, the waltz tunes are actually mazurkas.

1  Dance Songs Used to Provide Dance Music
This memoir describes a a girls’ party given for the bride and her female friends/relatives before a wedding.  At this point in the narrative, the story is about the great grandmother, born in 1785 in Shnurel Lithuania/Russia, who was left a widow and had to raise her children and marry them off with a dowry etc.—so this type of party must have taken place in the early to mid 1800’s

This affair was given for young women and especially for the single girls. I suppose this was more of a farewell party to the girls, and a hello to the young married ones. It lasted all day, eating, dancing, playing games, asking riddles, contests and congratulating the bride-elect and the rest of the family. Some of the games were very comical. For instance, when a player lost, he had to give forfeit, some personal possessions like rings or fine handkerchiefs and so forth. This had to be redeemed by doing something funny. She had to kiss the bride or anyone else or say something funny about herself. The worst of them was for a girl to have to say that she was in love with a certain young man. It brought a young girl almost to tears. If not done so, they would have to lose their things they had deposited as a fine, and they would also be marked as not good sports.
    They also danced a lot. Square dances, polkas and kasachkes. The last was something like a jig. There were two people dancing, one towards the other, bringing out different figures in their dancing.
    The music was furnished by the dancers themselves. They sang a different tune for each dance, as on the Sabbath it is not permitted to play an instrument.
    Anyway, that day was always a pleasant memory to all.

2The second chapter is Cahan's angry rebuttal of a critique in YIVO Bletter, which Cahan took as a scurrilous attempt to belittle the whole notion of a "dance-song" genre and to dismiss out of hand Cahan's lifelong project of researching it. (Cantor Joseph Levine, regarding Cahan's 2 articles)



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