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RS Hebrew/ Yiddish/ Ladino songs (88* d) Lyr Add: TUMBALALAIKA (trad Yiddish) 19 Sep 97

Well here we go; Tumbalalaika, as requested in the Hebrew / Yiddish / Ladino songs thread. This was from the Women's Song Evening songsheet I prepared recently - this song being on the theme of courtship. (I have posted a notice on the Women's Song Circle thread as well).


Yiddish: Traditional / Folk Song

English: Teddi Schwartz & Arthur Kevess ©1988

Yiddish: CHORUS:
Tumbala, tumbala, tumbalalaika,
Tumbala, tumbala, tumbalalaika,
Tumbalalaika, shpil balalaika,
Tumbalalaika, freylekh zol zayn.

Shteyt a bokher un er trakht,
Trakht un trakht a gantse nakht,
Vemen tsu nemen un nit farshemen; [or nisht]
Vemen tsu nemen un nit farshemen. [or nisht]

Meydl, meydl, kh'vel bay dir fregn:
Vos ken vaksn, vaksn on regn?
Vos ken brenen un nit oyfhern? [or nisht]
Vos ken benken, veynen on trern.

Narisher bokher, vos darfstu fregn,
A shteyn ken vaksn, vaksn on regn,
Libe ken brenen un nit oyfhern, [or nisht]
A hartz ken benken, veynen on trern.

Singable English translation:

Hear my tale of a certain young man
Stayed up all night til he thought of a plan
He wanted a girl who would be his delight
A girl who was pretty, witty and bright

Tell me, my pretty one, tell if you know
What needs no rain and yet it can grow
Tell what can blossom, bloom through the years
Tell what can yearn, cry without tears

Oh foolish boy, now surely you know
A stone needs no rain, and yet it can grow
True love can blossom, bloom through the years
And a heart when it yearns, cries without tears


[I use multiple sources for my song transcriptions, sometimes choosing among the different versions, sometimes indicating various options for the words & translations.]

Sources: Rise Up Singing page 26
NFTY Shiron page 20 (NFTY=National Federation of Temple Youth)
NFTY Shiron chordster page 72
Yiddish Songbook pages 200-1
Manginot pages 14-5
International Jewish Songbook page 94-5
New Jewish Songbook page 113

The above translation is in Rise Up Singing, NFTY Shiron, & NFTY Shiron Chordster.

Yiddish Songbook & International Jewish Songbook have unsingable translations, see below.

Manginot & New Jewish Song Book have singable translations that I don't like as much so didn't type up.

Per International Jewish Songbook: "This very popular song was first published in the United States in 1940. It has been recorded by many Yiddish singers since that time. Lyrics other than the ones presented here have also appeared. [Note: I J S only has Yiddish lyrics in it, plus an unsingable English translation]. These however are the most often used lyrics."

Chords from Rise Up Singing: Am - - E / F - E Am / - - Dm Am / Dm E - Am /

Chords from NFTY Shiron Chordster: Am - - E7 / - - - Am / - - - - / Dm - E7 Am /

Shpil = play; freylekh zol zayn=let it be lively (per Rise Up Singing)

A balalaika is a stringed instrument related to the guitar and banjo.

Translation from Yiddish Songbook:
(not singable, but seems to be fairly close to literal translation)
There stands a youth who's deep in thought,
Who thinks and thinks the whole night through
About whom to love without causing shame,
About whom to love without bringing shame.

Tumbala tumbala tumbalalaika
Tumbala tumbala tumbalalaika
Tumbalalaika, play balalaika
Tumbalalaika, let joy prevail.

Maiden, maiden, I want to ask you
What can grow, grow without rain?
What can burn and not burn out?
What can yearn and cry without tears?

Silly fellow, why need you ask,
A stone can grow, grow without rain
Love can burn and not burn out,
A heart can yearn and cry without tears.

Translation from International Jewish Songbook: All night long a young man worries which girl to marry without embarrassing another one. "Young lady, can you tell me what grows without rain, what yearns without tears, what can burn forever?" "Silly lad, a stone can grow without rain, a heart can yearn without tears, and love can burn forever."

- R.S.

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