Some people want to fill the world with Yiddish love songs.
Rokhl Kafrissen is one of those people.
The columnist and playwright recently created a translation of the Jimmy Buffet song whose title Spotify helpfully truncates into the family-newspaper-friendly “Why Don’t We Get Drunk.”
Now, a video of the resulting “Kum Tsu Mir” performed by a klezmer trio has been released by the New York-based Congress for Jewish Culture.
Not coincidentally, the margarita-filled musical world of Jimmy Buffet recently crossed over into the Yiddish-inflected world of Jewish New York, with the recent opening of the Margaritaville Resort Times Square — which, in an only-in-New-York real estate twist, now hosts the historic Garment Center Congregation.
Buffett’s 1973 song seems an unlikely basis for a Yiddish ballad. It begins:
I really do appreciate the fact you’re sittin’ here
Your voice sounds so wonderful
But yer face don’t look too clear
So bar maid bring a pitcher, another round o’ brew
Honey, why don’t we get drunk and…
Kafrissen’s translation took a very American song and translated it into a work of, and about, specifically Jewish culture.
This is in contrast to the approach taken by recent translators into Yiddish of such American songs as Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released,” and Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” songs whose original authors fairly could be said to have a Yiddishe neshume (Guthrie’s mother-in-law, remember, was a Yiddish poet).
“Instead of a man propositioning a woman at a bar, I rewrote it from a woman’s point of view,” Kafrissen said. “She’s impatiently watching her husband make kiddush before the Shabbat meal.”
The song begins:
S’iz shabes do
Oy s’iz gut
Dayn kol klingt mole-kheyn
Kidesh makhste vunderlekh
Un dayn ponim
Nokh a glezl
Mashke, vayn, tsi bir
Ober loz oys di moytsi
Kum tsu mir
Loz oys di moytsi, kum tsu mir
Which translates as:
It’s Shabbos here
It sure is good
Your voice is full of charm
The way you make kiddush is wonderful
And your face is
Shining so bright
One more glass
Whisky, wine or beer
But let’s skip the motsi
Come to me
Credit the music to Jimmy Buffet. But a hearty yasher koach to Rokhl Kafrissen for a worthwhile addition to the not-all-that-big library of Yiddish love songs about specifically Jewish congress.