Early Yiddish theater song. "Freilech Chassid" (Freylekh khasid; Happy Hasid). Words and music: Abraham Goldfaden (Avrom Goldfadn). Performed by Ben Bonus with orchestra directed by Simón Tenovsky. From Londisc lp RL 28000, Sing Main Folk . . ., Buenos Aires, n.d. (YIVO)

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Broder, Berl

(ca. 1817–1868), early composer and performer of Yiddish popular songs. Born in Podkamen, three miles from Brody in Austrian Galicia, Berl Broder (also Broder-Margulies) began his public career as a folksinger in 1857, when he gave up his job in the pig bristle business and took up entertaining at inns, with two former synagogue choirboys as members of his troupe. The original repertory was sad, the melodies too, and consisted of the individual monologues of a poor shepherd, night watchman, shingler, drayman, moneylender, wanderer, cantor, matchmaker, Hebrew-school teacher, preacher, or water carrier. Once the routine caught on, each monologue-in-song was performed in appropriate costume, followed by a little dance. “I, poor so-and-so” became the universally popular signature of the Broder Singers, semiprofessional entertainers who wandered through Eastern Europe over the following decades.

Although Broder’s sole publication was the chapbook-format Shirey zimro: Draysik herlikhe lider in reyn yidish loshn (Songs for Singing: Thirty Exquisite Songs in Pure Yiddish; Pressburg, ca. 1860; 2nd ed., 1864), which contains the lyrics to 30 of his songs, his influence was felt far and wide. (Copies of this rare book can be found in the YIVO and Widener libraries.) For one thing, the appearance on the scene of a native talent, unencumbered by Jewish learning, pedigree, or ideology, who performed original Yiddish songs other than at weddings and the festival of Purim, was something entirely new. More importantly, Broder demonstrated the power of Yiddish to render individual, mundane experience. Typically, the speaker in each song—be it the shepherd all alone with his flock night and day, the shingler on his precarious perch, or “Berl Broder” himself—is a lone and lonely toiler. Within this closed circle of personal sorrow, the folksinger tells each story in the language and with the realia peculiar to his work.

From these modest beginnings there emerged a new class of popular songwriters and entertainers—Mikhl Gordon, Velvl Zbarzher (Benjamin Wolf Ehrenkranz), Elyokem Tsunzer—who would soon give rise to the Yiddish theater.

Suggested Reading

Berl Margulies, Dray doyres: Lider fun Berl Broder (Margoles), felitonen fun Yam Hatsioyni (Yitskhok Margoles), poemen un lider fun Ber Margoles, ed. Ber Margulies (New York, 1957), pp. 7–32; Dov Sadan, “Zamare Brod ve-yerushatam,” in Avne miftan: Masot ‘al sofre yidish, vol. 1, pp. 9–17 (Tel Aviv, 1961/62); Nokhem Shtif, Di eltere yidishe literatur: Literarishe khrestomatye (Kiev, 1929).