Yiddish ‘Song of the Week’ Has Detroit Connection

Itka Factorovich Sol (left), pictured with her younger sister Channa-Leya “Lizzie” Factorovich in the City of Chernigov, Ukraine, ca. 1910. Courtesy of Steve Balkin.

“It was as if I brought my Bubbe back from the beyond,” writes Steve Balkin. “My bubbie, Itka Factorovich Sol, who migrated to the USA from the Ukraine in 1912, has been chosen by the An-Sky Jewish Folklore Research Project in New York for the Yiddish Song of Week on their website-blog for her singing the song: “Shtey ikh mir in ayn vinkele” (Standing in the corner all alone). “The melody is Yiddish-Russian but the words sound like the blues.”

The An-sky Jewish Folklore Research Project collaborates with researchers internationally and works to research and revitalize the practice of traditional Jewish arts. The Project was founded as part of the Center for Traditional Music and Dance’s An-sky Institute for Jewish Culture.

“I recorded her in 1958 in Detroit where we lived when I was 12 years old,” he adds. “I used a tape recorder I received as a birthday present.”

Steve’s bubbie, Itka Factorovich Sol (shortened from Zolotnitsky) was from Chernigov, Ukraine. “She spoke Russian and Yiddish, and a little English,” Steve says. “Since my mother worked, she spent a lot of time raising me. She kept a kosher house, sang a lot of lullabies, and was a great baker and cook. I still have the taste of her taiglach on my tongue.”

The song he submitted is a Yiddish song about a drunk who has a conversation with the moon and beats his wife. In this song, the singer refers to the “monopol.” The liquor store in Russia under the Czar was referred to as the “monopol” because the Czarist regime had full control over it.

You can read the English translation of the lyrics and hear the song at this site.

Update: Singer-Composer Jeremiah Lockwood, inspired by Itka Factorovich Sol (Zolotnitsky), has done a folk rock cover of the song Steve’s bubbie sang as Yiddish Song of the Week for the An-Sky Yiddish Folklore Research Project. Jeremiah has worked for years as the front man and composer for The Sway Machinery, a blues/world beat/Cantorial music ensemble.


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