Monday, February 13, 2012

t'nu li rock 'n roll

I like a lot of Israeli pop music. My two favorite bands from the 1980s are Benzeen and T-Slam (בנזין and תיסלם for Hebrew readers), though neither of these bands has what one would call an extensive body of recorded work. If I am not mistaken, Each of these groups put out two studio albums before breaking up. Other bands did a lot more, but just didn't appeal to me nearly as much. I'm thinking specifically of Mashina (משינה). I have more than half a dozen albums of theirs, and I know there are others I don't have. But their flavor of ska-influenced rock isn't really my favorite.

Anyway, one of my favorite tracks, by T-Slam is "תנו לי רוקנרול" ("Gimme Rock 'N Roll," pronounced "T'nu Rock 'N Roll"). See the video:

There's something funny about a song denigrating disco while relying on a heavy disco beat.

A couple of decades ago, in preparation for a summertime party on a lake, I made a special mix tape that had nothing but this song played over and over. I gave it to the host to play, without explaining it. First track didn't phase people. Neither did the second. But gradually people started realizing that they were hearing the same song over and over. By the end of the tape I had a whole lawn full of people -- most of whom are not Jewish and have no experience with Hebrew -- singing along to the chorus (or at least the first two lines of it): "T'nu li, t'nu li rock 'n roll / T'nu li t'nu li rock 'n roll."

I remember when I first got this album I was puzzling over the lyrics to the last verse:
הושבת אותי בחדר

אתמול עד מאוחר
לשמוע אנדוניבי
של אנשי הכפר
The first two lines were easy to figure out: "She sat me in a room / Yesterday until late." But I couldn't figure out the last two lines. It took a friend at work (who knows Hebrew better than I do) to figure it out. The last two lines are supposed to mean "To listen to 'In the Navy' / By the Village People." But what made it interesting is that they transliterated "In The Navy" and Hebraicized the pronunciation to "Indo Navy," but "The Village People" was translated to "Anshei Hak'far" which means, literally, "the People of the Village."

Funny thing, on their compilation album, there is an English version of this song, but the translation is loose, due in part to the need to rhyme and keep rhythm and in part to the nontranslatability of idioms.  

No comments:

Post a Comment