Klezmer music and new poetry book


On the night of 26 January, there was poetry and music in the theatre.

First, music by Fabian Schrama (vocals and guitar). He also plays in a blues band. His solo work is also a bit blues-influenced but less so than in the band.

Then, presentation of a new book, with poems by various local poets.

Then, a poem from the new book was read by Han Ruijgrok.

Then, two poems by Mieke van den Berg: one about winter, and a sonnet about her deceased mother.

Then, Anita Wieman’s poems; about prostitution and chess.

Finally, poems by Hans te Slaa about death and ancient crafts.

After a pause, a column by yours truly; about the 3 March local elections.

Then, music by Spiel Klezmer Spiel.

This video from the Netherlands says about itself:

Dutch Klezmerband Spiel Klezmer Spiel performing ‘Kolomeyka‘, at theatre ‘De Speeldoos’, Baarn.

Featuring:
Hiske Overweg, clarinet
Sietske Overweg, trumpet
Emilie Prast, baritone/percussion
Aldert Prast, accordion

Tonight, they were three about twenty year old musicians. Two women on clarinet and trumpet, and a man on accordion and sometimes vocals. Emilie Prast was not at this performance, as she was in Germany.

They played klezmer music from the late nineteenth-early twentieth century. This music arose from the Eastern European Jewish community. It has influences from East European folk music styles, and later from US American jazz.

Klezmer itself influenced other music as well. Its lyrics are usually in the Yiddish language, but it left its mark on songs in modern Hebrew like “Hava nagila“, and on the English language musical “Fiddler on the roof”.

Hiske did not just play the clarinet, but also told a story linking the songs. It was about a poor Jewish peasant in a village near Cracow in Poland. His wife blamed him for their poverty. One night, he had a dream that, if he would go to the Charles Bridge in Prague, then he would find a treasure and his money troubles would be over. Spiel Klezmer Spiel at this point of the story played “If I were a rich man” from Fiddler on the Roof. Though the peasant’s wife laughed about this dream, he walked all the way to the capital of Bohemia.

There, he looked everywhere around the bridge, but did not find any treasure. “Have I gone all the way to Prague in vain?” The Charles Bridge keeper asked: “What are you looking for?” Honestly, the poor Jew from the Polish countryside told him about his dream. “Ha ha ha!” the keeper reacted. “Man, you are naive. Believing in dreams! If I would be as naive as you, then I would have gone to a village near Cracow. My dream told me that there, in a poor man’s market garden, there is a treasure under a pear tree.” Immediately the poor man understood that he had not gone to Prague for nothing. As fast as posible, he started walking back to his village. There, under his own pear tree, he found a chest with enough money to take his financial troubles away forever. His wife stopped nagging and swearing at him, and once again became the lovely woman he had fallen in love with originally.

The band also depicted this happy end on stage, with the clarinet player holding a big paper heart above the accordion player, playing the peasant, and the trumpet player, playing his wife.

Then, the final song: the 1930s Yiddish love song Bei Mir Bistu Shein (To me, you are beautiful; the song was later translated into English and sung by the Andrews Sisters and others).

There is also a Dutch language version of this song. However, that version is not a love song, but a sarcastical song about how poor people saw the 1930s economical crisis:

Bei Mir Bistu Shein [in Yiddish original in the Dutch lyrics],
we leven van de steun [we are dependent on unemployment benefits]
we leven van het crisiscomitee [we live on rich people’s charity].

We krijgen erwtenssoep [We get pea soup]
die lijkt op koeiepoep [which tastes like cow shit].
We krijgen roggebrood [We get rye bread]
daar gooi’n we de kat mee dood [good only for killing the cat by throwing it].

We eten vlees uit blik [We eat canned meat]
van een bedorven sik [of a rotting goat carcass] …

Bei Mir Bistu Shein,
we leven van de steun [we are dependent on unemployment benefits]
en de groeten van het crisiscomitee [and best wishes from the rich people’s charity].

This is a video of that Dutch language version, plus other songs (barrel organ and vocals).

Murder, bisexuality and the blues: the surprising intersection of black and Jewish culture in 20th century music: here.

8 thoughts on “Klezmer music and new poetry book

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