Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Auntie Chaya and the mysterious package from Shanghai

Seems like I've been reading about Chinese topics lately, especially on certain blogs,
which got me into a Chinese mood. Unfortunately, Chinese culture is completely foreign to me - so the best I can do is offer this little song...

It is a funny little tune with a mottled history. Originally, there was a song in 1920's Odessa which had a bunch of verses like:

Good morning Auntie Chaya,
There's a package for you from Shanghai [ Shanghai rhymes with Chaya in Russian]

It then went on saying good morning to a bunch of people with very Jewish names, making up a rhyme to finish each couplet.

Then, in the late 1960's a couple of famous Soviet underground musicians improvised on this song. They added music from an old foxtrot called "Josef", and came up with a story about a guy named Yozif (actually based on a real relative of theirs), who is suffering from painful corns and for some reason is really on the outs with Auntie Chaya.

They also elaborated on the refrain by adding a couple of lines to the end. The meaning is somewhat mysterious.

Good morning Auntie Chaya,
There's a package for you from Shanghai,
And in this package are three Chinamen,
Three Chinamen painting eggs.

So what's this about Chinamen painting eggs? Perhaps it is just a nonsense rhyme. Perhaps it is a euphemism for another expression - "eggs" in Russian, as in Yiddish, can also mean "testicles", and there is an expression to "scratch your testicles", meaning to sit around idly.Or perhaps it is actually referring to the ancient Chinese art of egg painting, called Eglomise in French.

Anyway, here is the song. Enjoy...


Blogger The back of the hill said...


It's also cool that almost all the men are wearing shirts and ties.

February 22, 2011 1:27 PM  
Anonymous Nechama said...

Among other interesting choices of words and phrases, I believe he meat the "stepping on the favorite corn" as a euphemism for a friend's unnecessary treading on something personal and familiar....or am I over thinking this one? Regardless, as I have said before - this is a great cult song by a unique and interesting performer. By the way, this song is also on my "treadmill" iPod...I like the tempo and it makes me smile.

February 22, 2011 5:28 PM  

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