Campy Music Video Debuts History Informed Yiddish Translation of Halloween Classic, “I Put a Spell on You”.
Mikhl Yashinsky, together with The Workers Circle, have given all of us ghouls and golems a chance to rejoice this spooky season: “Kh’ti dir a kishef up,” a brand-new Yiddish translation of the Halloween camp classic “I Put a Spell on You.” The song was translated and is performed in a colorful, fantastical music video by Yashinsky, a Detroit-born, Manhattan-based writer, actor, and Yiddishist, in costume as the Yiddish-speaking witch Bobe Yakhne.
The video may be watched here:
Avrom Goldfaden, the “father of Yiddish theatre” created the character of Bobe
Yakhne, a wicked and wily witch hailing from the Romanian town of Botoșani, in
his 1877 operetta Di kishef-makherin (The Sorceress). The National Yiddish
Theatre Folksbiene revived the operetta in 2017 and in a New York Times “Critic’s
Pick” production in 2019, conducted by Zalmen Mlotek and directed by Motl
Didner. In both productions, Yashinsky played the title role, giving Bobe Yakhne a
“keen, if malevolent, psychology,” according to the Times. Bobe Yakhne has now
become Yashinsky’s drag alter ego, and he takes up her rags again in this latest
release, having given out his first Halloween video featuring the character last
year. That was a music video of a Soviet-era song written for the Bobe Yakhne,
“Ikh bin di bobe yakhne” (“I Am the Bobe Yakhne”), not included in the Folksbiene
production but revived by Yashinsky in that clip (www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDigHIaueu8).
The music video for the Yiddish “I Put a Spell on You” is the latest episode of
Yiddishist and actor Yashinsky’s web series for The Workers Circle, a progressive
organization fostering Jewish cultural engagement, Yiddish language learning,
multigenerational education, and social justice activism. The series, #YiddishAlive
offers Yashinsky’s own original Yiddish takes on different holidays and seasons
and phenomena of daily life, all with an off-beat and whimsical flair — fully
subtitled, and each with a vocabulary set at the end as an aid to Yiddish students
and the merely curious.
The latest, “I Put a Spell on You — in Yiddish,” is Yashinsky’s tribute to Halloween,
Yiddish operetta, and legends of the Jewish occult. In a rich Yiddish idiom,
Yashinsky infuses the song with references to supernatural figures of Ashkenazic
lore, including the dybbuk and Ashmeday, King of Demons, and laces the
performance with Bobe Yakhne’s signature cackle and even a lyric deriving from
the 1877 operetta. “I Put A Spell On You” is originally by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins,
with additional lyrics by Marc Shaiman sung by Bette Midler in the 1993 film
Hocus Pocus. Klezmer clarinetist and composer D. Zisl Slepovitch produced the
new Yiddish track. The music video, directed and edited by Yashinsky, finds Bobe
Yakhne shimmying about a moonlit yard as she stirs a cauldron with her demonic
assistant, conjures a fire, roasts a ghost-shaped marshmallow over it, and consults
a disco crystal ball. Fall under her spell this Halloween. But as she warns, watch
out for that dybbuk.