Saturday, January 28, 2017

El Hameshorer - Sailing Ships

When I first heard this song the images that came to my mind were overcrowded boats packed with refugees risking their lives for the hope of a better future. I was stunned to discover that it was actually written by the poet Wladislav Szlengel in 1938. The song is the first single from El Hameshorer's second album "Two Gentlemen in the Snow-The Songs of Wladislav Szlengel".

From the band's bandcamp page:
The poems by Wladislav Szlengel, a Jewish Polish songwriter and poet, were written in the Warsaw Ghetto, while in hiding, and were passed from hand to hand, from bunker to bunker. Many of the Jews in the ghetto read them. Szlengel expressed in his poems the thoughts and feelings of the inhabitants of the ghetto, while he was able to express the lack of justice, human lawlessness and the helplessness of the common man who has lost everything: his friends, his leaders, his culture and his faith. Szlengel was killed in a bunker during the great Warsaw ghetto uprising, in May 1943, when he was in his early 30s. Before his death he was able to smuggle out of the ghetto a notebook with his poems titled "What I Read to the Dead", and miraculously they survived and were published in Poland in 1979. In 1987 the book of his poems was published in Hebrew, translated by Halina Birenbaum. Ahead of the album's release, Boaz Albert, a member of the band "El Hameshorer", wrote Hebrew versions to Szlengel's poems.
This is El Hameshorer's second album, after "El Hameshorer-H.N Bialik"-and album of the national poet's songs, which was released in 2010.

What really spoke to me about this song is how the music conveys a sense of urgency and the feeling that time is running out, as well as a cry for action. I'm used to hearing solemn songs about the Holocaust but El Hameshorer clearly state that they don't want this to be an album just for Holocaust Remembrance Day. As the band said on the radio show Napoleon, sometimes you need strong music that will hit you in the gut, and that's certainly what I felt when I listened to this powerful song. More details about the album can be found here.

Sailing ships towards the distance
For days they sail, like that
During nights and also during the days
Sailing ships full of refugees
From there to here from here to there
Refugee ships are sailing just like that

Knocking on doors in every country and port
Asking for refuge from the gallows
And the world is hiding with a locked bolt
And on the door is a sign: There is no room!
Sailing ships, sailing ships,
Staring at the waves, through the glass
This isn't a ship-this is a coffin
And the blue is like ink for letters
Yes, there is enough ink
You can write a billion letters
And receive, even today
A billion ruthless answers:
There is no room!

And so the ships sail
Above waves above the abyss
Not pirates, not peculiar
Not on a lavish cruise
Of rich passengers
Not heroes, not children of hell
People that belong to no one-souls without a dream
Which humanity spit into the abyss
People for whom there is no room!

And the world spins, spins on the axis
Full of treasures and wonders-a world so rich
The sun caresses it, and the flowers are so beautiful
There's enough land, there are enough spaces
But suddenly it stops-something is heavy for it today
Please get off-there is no room!

Sailing ships
Sailing ships
Sailing ships

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