Monday, February 9, 2009

Wolf Krakowski & "Buddy, Have a Smoke With Me"

Wolf Krakowski is one of my heavy rotation guys. His albums are equally steeped in Yiddish folk and in gritty American roots rock. What's not to love? So I was delighted when I got an email from him recently about a great fan video that was put together by a guy named Kenitsa in Russia for Wolf's song "Kum, Gib-zhe Khaver A Roykher Ton" ("Buddy, Have a Smoke With Me") from his CD "Goyrl: Destiny." "Have a Smoke" is a Russian patriotic song circa the Second World War and Kenitsa did a great job assembling some vintage WWII photo's to build the video. So why is a Yiddish musician playing a Russian song? There's a story there...but first the video.

"Давай закурим" Wolf Krakowski

Now the story. According to Wolf, Davaj Zakurim Cigarette Package"The song's original title is "Davaj Zakurim" [by Russian songwriters Ilya Frenkl and Modest Tabachnikov] which translates as "Let's Smoke," a brand name for a cigarette that is still being manufactured -- with a graphic of a Russian soldier on the package. There are several free downloads of Russian versions from Russian mP3 sites [such as "Our Victory Day By Day"]. I'm not sure (but I think it makes sense) that the cigarette brand itself came about -probably soon after the War - after the song. In other words, the song says: "Buddy, Have a Smoke with Me," and it's popularity spawned a brand called (what else?) "Buddy, Have A Smoke With Me."

There were a lot of Jews in the Red Army and of course among the Partisans, so it was only natural for a real good song to be translated. You might say I have an affinity for this song. My father was a =plutovny= a rank between a sergeant and a lieutenant in Wanda Wasilewska's Brigade, -- Jewish Poles who fought under Rokossovski, the Russian Eisenhower.

[Yiddish translator Shmerke ] Kaczerginski had a lot to do with smuggling much of the contents of the YIVO (library/archive) from Vilna/Vilnius to New York - under the eyes of the Nazis. He collected, translated and wrote songs, too. I have recorded some of his songs; last March, I re-recorded "Friling" (Springtime) for Rough Guide to Klezmer Revolution. To me (and I admit I am biased) this is the world's greatest loves song - ever. It was written for his wife, who was captured and murdered by the Nazis. We only know her name was Barbara Kaufman and she hailed from Krakow. Kaczerginski moved to Brazil after the war and went down in a plane crash 1954 while on a book tour."
Hat tip to YouTube user Kenitsa for posting the video. For more info on Krakowski see my previous blog post or his website,

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