The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #7975 Message #3975803
Posted By: Joe Offer
09-Feb-19 - 09:55 PM
Thread Name: Origins: Tzena, Tzena, Tzena (Weavers, et al.)
Subject: RE: Origins: Tzena, Tzena, Tzena (Weavers, et al.)
Behind the Song, by Pete Seeger.
Sing Out! Magazine, Summer 1998, Vol 43, #1
A NEW - PEACEFUL - LEASE ON LIFE FOR A SONG A Trilingual Version Of "Tzena Tzena" In English, Hebrew and, Arabic
The song "Tzena Tzena Tzena Tzena" was written during World War II by composer Issachar Miron, age 19 at the time, and his friend, Yehiel Haggiz, age 30. They were serving together in Palestinian Jewish battalions of the British Army. Their song was whistled and sung, becoming popular from El-Alamein to the Normandy beachhead, and to camps of Holocaust survivors.
The original Hebrew lyrics were "Come out, come out, girls, see the soldier boys in the village. Don't be, don't be - don't be shy! Let's sing and dance, all of us together." It became a worldwide multi-million seller in the '50s, sung by the Weavers and many other leading groups and soloists, reaching the top of the charts. But as tensions and the recurring wars between Jews and Arabs escalated, "Tzena Tzena" seemed to some of us in the U.S.A. some kind of victory song. Many singers, including Ronnie Gilbert and myself, thought that what was needed now is a peace song, not a victory song.
However, it's a great tune; makes a fine three-part round. Its climax - one word, Tzena, with a handclap - is easy for an audience to join in on. So a few years ago, composer Miron and I started talking about new words that would project our quest for peace.
The key, we found, was in the English lyrics made up in 1950 by Gordon Jenkins, the popular bandleader who arranged it for the Weavers and recorded it for Decca: "Tzena, Tzena, join the celebration / There'll be people there from every nation." In truth, the Hebrew words by themselves had never projected a battle cry. The lyrics simply invited girls to sing and to dance. After World War II, children who danced and sang "Tzena Tzena" in villages changed the world "soldiers" - khayalim - to "friends" - khaverim. Following those kids' lead, this new version uses the word "friends," restoring the original intention and message of the song - peace and love.
Miron approached his friend Salman Natour, a leading poet of Arabic, and Namour wrote Arabic lyrics: Zeina (ZAY-na), meaning beautiful. In the English version, the word Tzena became the name of a girl. Incidentally, the Hebrew word, meaning "come out," should be pronounced Tsenna.
The new version has been recorded by Clearwater's Walkabout Chorus with additional musicians, all across the ethnic spectrum, including whites, blacks, Arabs, Jews, Indians and more. My old syncopated banjo introduction joins Arabic instruments and the ubiquitous Israeli accordion. It should be on a Rounder CD later this year, under the auspices of Seeds of Peace, an extraordinary summer camp in Maine that annually brings together young people from seven nations of the Middle East. They participate in sports, they sing, dance, discuss, and return home with an interesting problem; How can I explain to my folks and my friends that some of my best buddies are supposed to be my enemies?
Also, it looks like the song, in pursuit of mutual tolerance, will be sung at the big 50th Anniversary of Israel event, June 7 in New York City's Central Park. Maybe eventually it will be a true victory song in the sense that world peace, prevailing over senseless hatred, will be the real victory for the human race. Then war, like cannibalism, will be something children read about in history books.
The songs needs at least three people to do it right. They sing first in one language, then in another, then a third. Then the round starts. First in one language, then, eight measures later, it picks up a second language; then, eight measures later, three languages simultaneously. Finally, the last 16 bars (in harmony) have the whole crowd coming in with a thunderous handclap and singing one word over and over.
Who knows? "Tzena Tzena" may eventually get sung in Bosnian and Serbian, or Hindi and Urdu, Quechua and Spanish. Music can leap barriers.