Sunday, March 4, 2012

And Here I Thought... (Origins of Popular Jewish Tunes)

After posting about the origins of Mishanikhnas, several readers wrote to me about the origins of other popular Jewish tunes that share the same fate as Mishenikhans. I decided to post a compilation of these tunes. If you want to add to the list, feel free to email me OnThisAndOnThat at gmail!

Please note: Some of these videos may have Kol Isha and/or untzinus women.

I'll start with a Purim themed one. The famous tune song on the words "חייב איניש לבסומי בפוריא עד דלא ידע".

I'm not sure which came first, but this seems to be an old Romanian love song.

The next one is a Piamenta brothers classic, on the words of "Asher bara sason vesimha".

Listen to it here performed by the Piamentas, or watch this video below to hear it sung by "Lev Sameah" band.

And the source:

The credit for the following goes to Professor David Asaf, who posted these on his wonderful blog. In the posts, Prof. Assaf goes into lengthy discussions regarding the songs, which are very interesting. I provide the link to each of these individual posts, click and enjoy.

First on the list (link there's also the Hebrew version and the lyrics) is a song first recorded by R. Yom Tov Erlikh, and re-recorded by Avraham Fried.

and here's the source:

Here's another R. Erlikh classic (link, history and lyrics) as recorded by Avraham Fried:

And the source:

A famous Chabad song (link):

and its source:

And a not-so-famous Chabad song (link):

and the source:

The oh-so-famous MBD song (link):

and its oh-so-famous source:

An old Pirchai London song (link):

Its source:

Michoel Shtreicher (link):

The original:

And the last one from Assaf, a tune that took the opposite journey, from Shlomo Karlibach to Russia (link)

The source:

Yeah, apparently Shlomo was great enough to have *his* songs plagiarized...

Itzik Orlev, what a sweet voice!

And it's source:

Lipa Schmeltzer (of course):

Its cute source:

This is the last one. Maoz Tzur:

Its source (partially):

Credit for the following three goes to Wikipedia's entry on MBD. Wikipedia also has the "Yidden" song which we have above from David Assaf's blog.

MBD's "Lichtiger Shabbos":

The source:

MBD's "Daddy Dear":

The source:

MBD's "Shir Hashalom"

And the source:

You have no idea how many times my computer froze during the making of this post...You are welcome.
If you know of anything else, send it in and I'll add it. 


  1. They say that Carlebach used to say, "I don't mind if you steal my songs, but don't kill them."

  2. As a card carrying chabadnik, the song mi armia was intentionally taken from the Russian marching song in a classic yisron ha'or mitoch hachoshech model. that the choshech itself becomes or. as for hop cossack, whose to say which came first. The chassidim - at least in chabad - are pretty open about songs that originate from the outside. although it is taken for granted that not everyone is able to elevate the songs.

  3. as for hop cossack, whose to say which came first

    Sefer Hanigunim might be a good place to start:

    הצדיק "דער שפאלער זיידע" הי' דרכו בקודש לנסוע ממקום למקום בערי אוקריינה ורוסי' הלבנה, בשביל אוסף כספים לפדיון שבוים ולקרב לב ישראל לאביהם שבשמים. בתוך ניגוניו נמזג הרבה מרוח הסביבה, כי דרכו הי' לעבד את ניגוני אכרי השדה ששמע ולשכללם לניגוני חסידים, והי' שר עפ"י רוב, בשפת הגוים. הניגון הזה נמשך בתנועות של שמחה ותקוה חזקה, ובהגיעו לרום ההתרגשות קורא בקול רם ואמיץ: "האפ קאזאק", ע"ד הקאזאקים שברוסי' שהיו מפורסמים בגבורתם ואומץ לבבם ועמדו בשורה הראשונה במערכת המלחמה.

    Also, I disagree about the slightly presumptuous ohr/choshech bit. The idea behind the Chabad cover versions of numerous Russian songs is the sentiment that the temperament of the Russian gentile is not much different than that of the Jew. That's the reason why there are entire classes of Chabad songs named for the Russian genres they belong to (e.g. "וואלאך" after the region of Wallachia, and the more generalizing "פאנקע" (sample here) which basically means 'Goyish' (lit. 'mister', 'sir' in Polish/Ukrainian).

    But yes, it would be prudent on the baal-ha'blog's part to draw a distinction between conscious and unconscious borrowing.

  4. At the Heichal Neginah page you can find 11 וואלאך\וואלאח's and 7 פאנקע's.

  5. But yes, it would be prudent on the baal-ha'blog's part to draw a distinction between conscious and unconscious borrowing.

    I don't think the Chabad tunes were "unconsciously" borrowed. At least not in the way you mean it. As for which came first, I would urge you to click on the links to David Assaf's blog. He has some real nice things to say.

  6. Just to clarify who's saying what:

    Yeedle: Isn't it interesting to note the gentile origins of various Jewish tunes.

    Typical guy: I was taught all about how holy Jewish music is, and to keep away from the goyishe stuff. This stuff is shocking, disillusioning and mortifying. Anyway, the goyim probably copied from us.

    Mendel: Yeah, I know what you're thinking, but no, this kind of stuff is allowed when holy chasidim do it. Outsiders probably wouldn't understand.

    Me: You need to make a distinction between the Chabad tunes on this list (one is a transparent parody of a Soviet military march and the other is called Hop Cossack for heavens' sakes) and the others, and between conscious borrowing vs. the unconscious. Jews who are averse to anything gentile (and generally unaware of musical culture past and present) certainly won't deliberately add gentile songs to their repertoire, yet these same people are at the mercy of social influences which inevitably sneak this stuff past their unsuspecting eyes, to their later horror and disbelief. Chabad, however, aren't borrowing Eastern European music; they are its active participants. You don't sing bar (equivalent of pop) songs (ניע זשוריצי כלאפצי, ניעט ניעט ניקאווא), or talk of וואלאך and פאנקע Nigunim (equivalent of referring to Country and R&B Nigunim) unless you wish to shamelessly flaunt pretty deliberate behavior. It appears that a lot of what Chabad culture back in Russia was about, was about being quite the philosopher and the mystic all while maintaining an earthy, plainspoken attitude. Unsurprisingly, this describes the Russian creative soul in general, and the result is that chasidim clearly evinced no hesitation in outright adaptation of whatever music they felt spoke to them. Chabad felt conspicuously Russian, and they bothered to leave all the evidence.

  7. And because we really love to keep you on your toes, Yeedle, this (and this?) should keep you busy. ;-)

  8. Maskil, thanks for the homework... Part two is in preparation. Truth be told, songs from Black Hattitude and Country Yossi do not belong in such lists since they do not make it a secret that they are parodying/adapting goyish tunes. Same thing as with A.K.A.pella, Gershon Veroba, etc. MBD on the other hand is a Chassidic singer. He's songs are supposed to be "Jewish" songs. Someone pointed out to me that Itzik Orlev's Na Na Na does not belong in the list, and I think that - according to my own criteria - he's right.

  9. Benny Friedman's song No Lyrics Nigun has the same 5 seconds intro as Alicia Keys' song Karma. I heard that he used to like the song Karma when he was a bochur...

    1. If we are going to discuss intros there are countless examples. But of course those are all (presumably) taken knowingly.

  10. 1) Hop-Kazak & the source you claim are 2 totally different songs.
    the source is or used to be played at weddings as a Kazatzka but it has nothing to do with Hop-Kazak (listen again using all your musical talent).

    2)Shir Hashalom from MBD was composed by a secular Jew in Israel when President Sadat Came to make peace between Israel & Egypt. So this So called Source took it from them.

  11. My neighbor, R' Yaakov Koppel Reinitz, takes credit for adapting the tune of "Dama Mama Dupa Ghirui" (a gypsy song that he knew from his youth in Hungary) to the words "חייב איניש לבסומי..." He says that he taught it to his talmidim in Yeshivat Kefar haRoeh (in the 1950s or 1960s), and it took off from there.

    1. That's Reinitz of the scholarly edition of Baal Ha'Turim fame! Fascinating.

  12. Don't forget about Wendall Hall's Ain't Gonna Rain No Mo finding its way into shuls everywhere on Yom Tov by way of a Benzion Shenker nigun. By us its used for Ka Keili; not sure what to call it here. But the chorus is "So how in the heck can I wash my neck if it ain't gonna rain no mo!"

  13. - song 1 - Siman tov is really this

  14. Maoz Tzur is a very old tune, originally used for the piyut for shabbos chanuka. I couldn't tell from that German video who the author was, but I wonder if the borrowing didn't go the other way, for Jew to gentile.