Latest update on 12/05/2014

Artist: Mishka Ziganoff
Author: traditional
Label: Arhoolie
Year: 1919

Means Coals in Yiddish. Mishka was a gypsy accordionist born in Odessa who emigrated to New York where he had a restaurant. Recorded in New York and reissued on comp Klezmer Music - Early Yiddish Instrumental Music - The First Recordings 1908-1927. Hear it and immediately recognize the first lines of Bella Ciao, the famous anthem of Italian partizans in their fight against fascism during WW II. 1919 of course came almost one WW earlier, which doesn't necessarily means Bella Ciao originated in Russia. While the song was already popular among female workers in the rice fields of Padua in the early 1900s. Also, as there were at least as many Italian immigrants to the US as Russian Jews, it may just as well be the other way around: that the Jews were inspired by the Italian melody. Third theory: a Romanian origin for the melody.



Abe Schwartz Jewish Orch. [as Koilen for Columbia]


Gus Goldstein [oldest vocal version; a song about a sack o' coals crediting Abe Schwartz for the lyrics; he was the leader of the Jewish Orchestra]


Brigada Giustizia E Liberta [partizans in the Appenines; while it appears there haven't been made any wartime recording of Bella Ciao in the partizan version, they apparantly were among the core brigades spreading the word and probably the first to use a final stanza praising a red flag]


Giovanna Daffini [as Bella Ciao in the rice fields version; field recording by Gianni Bosio and Roberto Leydi; here Bella Ciao (Goodbye Beauty) has to be interpreted as "Goodbye youth, goodbye beauty vanishing in these harsh working conditions"]


Yves Montand [as Bella Ciao in the partizan version]


Milva [idem]


Zupfgeigenhansel [idem; in German]


Kollektief Internationale Nieuwe Scène [idem on their album De Herkuls]


Thomas Fersen [idem, French version]


Modena City Ramblers [idem with Goran Bregovic]


Rocco Granata [idem]


Chumbawamba [a Bella Ciao with lyrics commemorating an anti-globalist killed during a G8 conference in Genova]


Sing For The Climate [as Do It Now]

The Bella Ciao/Koylen melody is also used in an Italian children song (La Ballada Della Bevanda Saporifera) and in a 1934 love song by ex carabinieri Rinaldo Salvadori serenading his girlfriend from Marseille. The partizan version made it all over the world in Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Berberic, Turkish, Kurdish, Hungarian, Romanian, Polish, Bulgarian, Croatian, Greek, Latin, Rheto Romanian, Gallician, Catalan, Breton, Basque, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, Icelandic, Chinese, Korean and Esperanto.


If you noticed blunt omissions, mis-interpretations or even out-and-out errors, please let us know by contacting us:

Arnold Rypens
Rozenlaan 65
B-2840 Reet (Rumst)


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