Białystok Remembers: Yiddish Tango

We have the pleasure of inviting you to a concert on the occasion of the 76th anniversary of the Białystok Ghetto uprising:

Olga Avigail and Tango Attack: Yiddish Tango

August 16th, 6 PM
Fama club, 5 Legionowa Street
free entry

As the tango craze swept through Eastern Europe, pre-war Warsaw bore witness to the birth of the dance form’s most eclectic permutation—Yiddish Tango. A testament to the growing tide of internationalism, Yiddish Tango melds the traditions of Slavic, Jewish, and Argentine culture. The roots of Yiddish Tango, however, lie in the creative exchange that took place in the theaters, cabarets, and cinemas of Poland. Musicians, songwriters, and composers steeped in both the classical and klezmer traditions found liberty in the expression of popular Polish music.

Singing popular Polish songs half in Yiddish and half in Polish became common in those days. It was upon her discovery of one such song, Białostocki’s Rebecca, that Olga Avigail first embarked upon her journey towards Yiddish Tango. She writes, “ . . . I was fascinated by how the music reflects the complexity of Polish-Jewish coexistence.”

The tango “Rebecca,” which uses Hasidic motifs, is among the most beloved and frequently recorded prewar songs still known by every Pole today. It’s a story of Rebeka, a young Jewish woman from the shtetl, who owns a tobacco shop. She’s falling in love with a Polish nobleman from a big city. She imagines marrying him, but he goes away and later returns with a Polish fiancé.

The Yiddish version of this song presents a different perspective; modest Rivkeleh rejects the marriage proposal of a wealthy Polish aristocrat in order to stay loyal to her family and religion. The Yiddish version of the famous “Rebecca” was likely recorded by Tadeusz Faliszewski, but the record didn’t survive, only the photo of the cover.

Olga decided to make the first record of this song since World War II, and that is how the Yiddish Tango from Warsaw project was born.

The multilingual repertoire of this project includes songs in Polish, Yiddish and Hebrew, encompassing along with tango such popular styles of pre-war Warsaw as foxtrot, waltz and songs alla orientale (reflecting the European image of the Orient).


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