Tzena, Tzena, Tzena
"Tzena, Tzena, Tzena" is a song, originally written in 1941, in Hebrew by Issachar Miron (a.k.a. Stefan Michrovsky), a Polish emigrant to what was then the British Mandate of Palestine (now Israel), and Jehiel Hagges (Yechiel Chagiz).
History and development
Miron, born in 1919, left Poland at the age of 19, thus avoiding the Holocaust. In 1941, while serving in the Jewish Brigade of the British forces, he composed the melody for lyrics written by Chagiz. The song became popular in Palestine and was played on the Kol Yisrael radio service.
Julius Grossman, who did not know who composed the song, wrote the so-called third part of "Tzena" circa November 1946. Gordon Jenkins made an arrangement of the song for the Weavers, who sang it with Jenkins' orchestra as backing. The Jenkins/Weavers version, released by Decca Records under catalog number 27077, was one side of a two-sided hit, reaching #2 on the Billboard magazine charts while the flip side, "Goodnight Irene," reached #1.
Cromwell Music Inc., a subsidiary of Richmond/TRO, claimed the rights to the song, and had licensed the Decca release. They alleged the music to have been composed by a person named Spencer Ross, though in reality this was a fictitious persona constructed to hide the melody's true authorship. Mills Music, Inc., Miron's publisher, sued Cromwell (TRO) and won. The presiding judge also dismissed Cromwell's claim that the melody was based on a traditional folk song and was thus in the public domain.
In the '80s, Israeli folk star Ran Eliran recorded the song along with 14 more songs by Miron to make an album together, Sing to Me Eretz Yisrael.
The original English lyrics, written by Mitchell Parish, was greatly altered in the version recorded by the Weavers. Other charting versions were recorded by Vic Damone and Mitch Miller's Orchestra. A humorous version, entitled "Tzena, Tzena, Tzena, Tzena" was recorded by the Smothers Brothers on their 1961 debut album, The Smothers Brothers at the Purple Onion. The newest version was released in October, 2012 by Bruce Berger, also known as RebbeSoul. The arrangement is highly rhythmic, contemporary, and upbeat. Guitarist Chet Atkins also recorded the song—without lyrics—on his 1960 album The Other Chet Atkins.
צאנה צאנה צאנה צאנה הבנות וראינה חיילים במושבה
אל נא אל נא אל נא אל נא אל נא תתחבאנה מבן חייל איש צבא
Tzena, tzena, tzena, tzena ha-banot u-r’ena ħayalim ba-mosheva
Al na, Al na, Al na, Al na, al na titħab’ena Mi-ben ħayil, ish tzava
Go out, go out, go out girls and see soldiers in the moshava (farming community).
Do not, do not, do not hide yourself away from a virtuous man [a pun on the word for "soldier"], an army man.
- Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 1 - Play A Simple Melody: American pop music in the early fifties. [Part 1]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries.
- Legal opinion on authorship at the Wayback Machine (archived July 21, 2010)
- Ari Y. Kelman: Hear Israel. When the Weavers recorded the popular Israeli folk song ‘Tzena Tzena’ in 1950, they did more than legitimize a strain of musical culture; they introduced Israel to a generation of young Americans. Tablet Magazine, January 7, 2011