Cabaret Warsaw: Yiddish and Polish Hits of the 1930s

Mappamundi program of Cabaret music in Polish and Yiddish

Mappamundi's Cabaret Warsaw project began with Professor Beth Holmgren's idea to put out a cd in conjunction with her research into Jewish composers and performers in Warsaw, Poland between the World Wars. It was produced with a grant from Duke University. Mappamundi has been giving concerts of this material over the last few years.

Click to see our Yiddish music videos with English subtitles.

Click to see our Polish language music videos with English subtitles.

From Refoyl Finkel, organizer of the International Association of Yiddish Clubs conference in Boca Raton Florida, November 2014:
Your presentation was a refreshing glimpse at a part of our culture that we tend to ignore, and it was a welcome change from the usual repetitions of "afn pripetshik" and "tumbalalayka". I heard only rave reviews after the concert. Thanks so much!

Jane Peppler speaks at the Library of CongressConcert presentation of Cabaret Warsaw at the library of congress, 2014 (click picture to watch the whole show)

Review by Sharon Horowitz, research librarian at the Library of Congress Judaica Collection:
Recently, the Washington, DC area was treated to two performances by the multi-talented Jane Peppler. At the Tifereth Israel Synagogue, Jane sang Yiddish cabaret songs that were popular between the World Wars, giving historical context and playing the violin. Her performance kept her audience spellbound while they viewed slides that provided phrase-by-phrase English translation of the beautifully sung Yiddish songs. Her repertoire included Yiddish twists on traditional folk songs. The lyrics ran the gamut from hard-luck songs to humorous and irreverent ones. The audience left the performances inspired and humming the tunes. Keyboard accompaniment was provided by Roger Spears, a man of many talents and a fine pianist.

The next day, Jane and Roger performed at the Pickford Theater, Madison Building, Library of Congress. The LC program was a combination of singing and a fascinating report on Jane's three years of research, including travels to many research institutions, in search of the music associated with the Yiddish song lyrics found in printed booklets of Warsaw book dealer Itzik Zhelonek. One would be hard pressed to find a more entertaining and stimulating concert.

Kliknij tutaj po polskie tłumaczenia jidyszowych piosenek teatralnych


songs in Polish and Yiddish from the Jazz AgeCabaret Warsaw: Yiddish and Polish Hits of the 1920s-1930s
Half the songs are in Polish, half are in Yiddish. They were performed and loved in jazz clubs, nightclubs and kleynkunst venues of Warsaw like Morskie Oko and Azazel. Click above to hear any of the songs.

The project has grown to include research into the once-famous and now unknown Yiddish theater songs printed by Icik Zielonek (Itzik Zhelonek), a book and record store owner in Warsaw between the world wars. We have three cds of this music:

Funny and sad Yiddish songs of the Jazz AgeIn Odess: Yiddish Songs from Warsaw Volume 1 (click to preview the songs)

Traditional and modern Yiddish songs of the prewar periodLebedik Yankel: Yiddish Songs from Warsaw Volume 2 (click to preview the songs)

Droll, cosmopolitan Yiddish songs of the Jazz AgeNervez!: Yiddish Songs from Warsaw Volume 3 (click to preview the songs)

Past Cabaret Warsaw concerts

CABARET WARSAW MEETS MRS MACCABEE'S KITCHEN: Mappamundi & friends (Jane Peppler, Beth Holmgren, Ken Bloom, Jim Baird, Aviva Enoch, and Roger Lynn Spears) gave a lighthearted presentation of Yiddish and Polish theater and cabaret songs and some surprises for Hanukkah. December 2014

Jane Peppler won the grand prize at the Mexico City Idisher Idol 2015Jane won the grand prize in the second annual Der Yidisher Idol Yiddish song writing and performance competition in Mexico City.

Yiddish Songs of the Jazz Age concert with Jane PepplerYiddish Songs of the Jazz Age is a program of sometimes nostalgic, sometimes sarcastic Yiddish theater songs from the 1920s and 1930s about whether girls should cut their hair, whether modern guys are "cavaliers" or fatheads, whether it's actually a good thing to have dough. Subtitles will be projected so you can sing along if you like!
The program was presented October 21 2014 at Tifereth Israel Congregation 7701 16th St NW Washington, DC and October 22 at the Library of Congress (see review and video above).

Jewish music performance in Washington DC October 2014, Yiddish Songs of the Jazz AgeYIDDISH SONGS OF THE JAZZ AGE: Jane Peppler & Roger Spears

Yiddish Songs of the Jazz Age was presented at Carolina Preserve, for the Shalom Club, in September 2014 and in conjunction with Sheva Zucker's Yidish in Goles intensive seminar in January 2014.

In March 2014 members of Mappamundi presented Cabaret Warsaw songs on the Murphey School Radio Show.

Concert of Yiddish Theater Music, December 2013, Durham, Chapel Hill, Carrboro NC

Thanks to the folks who came on Thursday, December 19, 2013 to see us (Ken Bloom and Jane Peppler of Mappamundi, pianist Roger Spears and baritone Randy Kloko), present an hour of Yiddish theater music from the kleynkunst venues of Warsaw Poland (with subtitles on the wall so people understood the jokes) at Carolina Meadows, Chapel Hill, NC.

On Saturday, December 21, 2013, those same four musicians plus alto Beth Holmgren and bassist Jim Baird (both of Mappamundi) and pianist Aviva Enoch gave a show of the same music and Polish favorites from the Cabaret Warsaw cd at the Artscenter, 300-G East Main Street, Carrboro.

Concert of Yiddish Theater Music, December 2013, Carrboro ArtsCenter, Chapel Hill NC

World music band Mappamundi has researched and recorded a repertoire of cabaret music, popular songs from Poland, specifically as performed in Warsaw night clubs, theaters and kleynkunst venues, between the World Wars. Half the songs are in Yiddish, half are in Polish; all were written by Jews.

Our programs can be from an hour to two hours in length. Our first recording was funded by a Collaboration Development Grant from Duke University. Here are a couple of the tracks:

"Got out of bed on the wrong side And stumbled through the door. A black cat crossed in front of me and a mirror crashed to the floor. All this happened on Friday, the thirteenth of Friday... For a single day this really seemed the limit... The world may fall apart, but I'm laughing all the time..."

"Oh my dear Sore-Dvoshe, why are you sitting in the street looking at the moon? Wait, I forgot: you're still mad at me, my radiant madonna. Why are you angry at me again? Let's make peace already.." "Yosl, why are you singing me a serenade? Why can't you let a pretty girl sit in the street? Better you should buy me a big piece of chocolate, we'll go walking and I won't be angry any more."

The CD Release concert on Saturday, June 2, 7:30 pm, at Duke's Bryant Center, was just about sold out, and it was lots of fun. Pictures are below. If you know a good place for us to present this program, let us know...

"Take this job and shove it 1930s style" said an audience member. "In dr'erd dos shnayderay" means "To hell with the tailoring business."

Beth writes: As I have been researching a new book on the Warsaw literary cabaret between the world wars, I discovered that most of the melodies and a high percentage of the lyrics for its clever popular songs were produced by assimilated Polish Jews. Jane, who specializes in Yiddish traditional and popular music, recognized that many of these melodies had been "borrowed" from or by Yiddish-language composers.

As we searched for more material together, we unearthed further evidence of a lively, intertwined, competitive bilingual cabaret scene, in which Polish-language venues attracted major talents and wealthier, more sophisticated patrons and Yiddish-language kleynkunst revi-teatrs or little theaters fought to establish themselves in a double rivalry with Polish cabaret and high-culture Yiddish theater.

Polish-language and Yiddish-language popular music overlapped not only in shared melodies, but also in topic and style -- in part because some Polish Jewish artists wrote and performed in both languages, in part because almost all of Warsaw, Gentile and Jewish, was swept up in the capital city modernization - in the experiences and goods of a twentieth-century metropolis. Both Yiddish kleynkunst and Polish cabaret featured shimmies, foxtrots, and tangos; their performers sang about their indulgence in modern pleasures (movies, dances, fashions), city-specific woes (broken water-pipes, crime, urban poverty), and the bumpy path to assimilation. Polish cabaret songs flaunted the vagaries of sex and romance in the big city, including mésalliances between Gentiles and Jews, experienced urbanites and naive immigrants. Kleynkunst songs highlighted the social and psychological transformation of traditional Jews into more secularized, fashion-conscious city dwellers.

The cd is now available -- it's only $9.99 (shipping and handling included) for U.S. purchases!

The Cabaret Warsaw cd is $17.99 (postage paid) for international purchases:

You will receive the 20-page liner notes digital booklet (pdf format) by return email. It includes complete texts in Yiddish and Polish, translations, pictures, and notes on composers and performers.

The cd is also available electronically: Cabaret Warsaw digital download and mp3 preview. Click the link to hear every cut for free - you can download the whole album or any cut you like in the hi-res format of your choice. Those who buy the whole album will receive the pdf file of our liner notes as described above.

Here are the songs recorded (all available to be previewed on the site above):
  1. Ja bez przerwy smieje sie: I just keep laughing (Szer-Schlechter) 1:52
  2. Nu, a daygeh: What, is that my problem? (Burstein) 1:56
  3. Bo to sie zwykle tak zaczyna: That's how it always starts (Ferszko-Front-Schlechter) 4:33
  4. Yosl un Sore-Dvoshe: The sunflower seed tango (Gordon-Broydo) 3:17
  5. Madame Loulou (Waldau-Tom) 3:44
  6. Vaser: Water (Petersburski) 3:15
  7. Stara Piosenka: Old song (Benatzy-Tuwim) 4:07
  8. Nisim, nisim: Miracles, miracles (Broderson-Kon) 2:27
  9. Opium (Gold-Wast) 3:42
  10. Vokh Tyokh Tyokh (Lebedeff) 2:32
  11. An eytsele tsum vaser-treger: Advice for the water-carrier (Broderson-Kon) 2:32
  12. Upic sie warto: Only boozing is worth it (Asanowicz-Hemar) 2:49
  13. Varshe: Warsaw (Rumshinsky-Perlmutter) 2:20
  14. Pokoik na Hozej: Quiet on Hoze street (Daniowski -Tuwim) 2:28
  15. Der Kashtenboym: The chestnut tree (Folman-Perlov) 2:59
  16. Rebeka (Białostocki-Wast) 3:41
  17. Der Dales: Mr. Poverty, Nikodem (Olshanetsky-Starski-Jacobs) 2:52
  18. Beser in troym tsurik: Better go back in the dream (Shayevitsh) 2:59
  19. To Ostatnia Niedziela: The Last Sunday (Petersburski-Friedwald) 4:17
  20. Sex Appeal (Gorska-Wars-Starski-Korn-Teuer) 2:33

The members of Mappamundi are: Beth Holmgren, Jane Peppler, Ken Bloom, Jim Baird. Joining them for this project, pianists Roger Lynn Spears and Aviva Enoch.

Cabaret Warsaw Facebook page

A blog about the project and the songs: Polish Jewish Cabaret

Visit Cabaret Warsaw on Google+

For more information contact Jane Peppler at 919-606-2122 or

Cabaret Warsaw on Google+