Menachem Mendel

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Yo Ya

Today we picked up our son from camp and I got to not only meet his friends and counselors, but also to spend some time with old camp friends. During lunch the kids were singing and dancing and one of the songs which they danced to was Yo-Ya. It was written in the early 1970’s and I have heard it many times over the years. Besides the importance of Poogy/Kaveret for the history of Israeli music and that this song and the dance are lots of fun, the way that the song incorporates quotations from biblical and rabbinic literature is a great lesson in the creation of modern popular culture that incorporates classical sources.

Hebrew lyrics from here and the English from here.

מילים: אלון אולארצ’יק ודני סנדרסון
לחן: דני סנדרסון ויצחק קלפטר

קיבלתי עונש קצת מוגזם
שפטו אותי למוות.
ישבתי על כסא חשמל
נפרדתי מהפרייבט.

לו יכולתי לפחות
להחליף ת’כיסאות,
כי אומרים בדרך כלל
משנה מקום משנה מזל.

יו יה
אני שואל
יו יה
אתם עונים
יו יה
האם זה פייר?
יו יה
אתם לא יודעים.

אח שלי אסף בולים
לכן עבד בדואר.
היה מחלק ת’מכתבים
קיבל אפילו תואר.
יום אחד פקח הבחין
שאסף גם מכתבים,
מהג’וב מיד פוטר
כי יש סוף לכל דבר.

יו יה…

היה לי דוד כזה בטלן
שהתעצל לנוח.
היה הולך לנמלה
חוזר בלי מצב רוח.

לו היה פחות טיפש
אז ודאי ידע שיש
גם תוספת לפתגם:
ראה דרכיה וחכם.

יו יה…

בן דוד שלי רצה לשחות
כדי לצוף קבוע
למד שחיה בהתכתבות
אצל מציל ידוע.

כשנכנס סוף סוף לים,
תוך שניות הוא נעלם.
שניים קפצו אליו מיד
טובעים השניים מן האחד.

יו יה…

Yo-Ya, trans. Daniel Rice (I added some more annotations. MM)
—–
Lyrics and Music: Danny Sanderson and Alon Olearczyk
Performed by Kaveret (“Beehive”) a/k/a Poogy

I received a somewhat exaggerated punishment,
They sentenced me to death.
I sat on the electric chair,
I left my private transport.
If only I could
Switch chairs,
Because they say, usually:
“He who changes his place changes his luck” [Babylonian Talmud, Rosh HaShannah 16b. See here.]

Chorus:
Yo-ya, I ask
Yo-ya, you answer
Hey, yo-ya, is it fair?
Hey, yo-ya, you don’t know.

My brother collected stamps,
So he worked in the post office.
He distributed the letters,
He even got a degree in it.
One day his supervisor noticed
He was also collecting the letters.
He was fired from his job immediately,
Because “To every thing/mailman there is an end.” [Pun]

I had an uncle so lazy
That he was too lazy to rest.
He would go to the ants [Proverbs 6:6 — “Go to the ant, O sluggard…”]
And return disspirited.
If only he were less foolish,
Then he certainly would know
That the proverb has an addition:
“Consider her ways, and be wise.” [“…she prepares her food in summer, etc.”]

Chorus

A cousin of mine wanted to swim,
In order to float on a regular basis.
He learned swimming by correspondence,
With a well-known lifeguard.
When he finally entered the water,
Within seconds he disappeared.
Two people jumped in after him right away:
“Two are better/drown from one.” [Pun based on Eccl. 4:9]

Chorus

4 Responses to “Yo Ya”

  1. 1
    Shalom (R.Ph.):

    “Poogy” was an on-stage character played by Meir Fenigstein, the drummer from Kaveret (he’s the guy with the funny voice). Lots of Americans used to refer to the band itself as Poogy, but this is incorrect.

  2. 2
    Menachem Mendel:

    According to the Wikipedia article that I linked to they chose to use the name Poogy when they toured outside of Israel.

  3. 3
    jdub:

    I bought a CD in Israel last year, it was called Poogy ba’Pita, and it had both names, Kaveret and Poogy, so I’m going with MM.

  4. 4
    Menachem Mendel:

    Shalom is correct that in Israel they were known as Kaveret and that Poogy was a stage character, but outside of Israel they apparently went by the name Poogy.

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