The Peddlers “Коробейники” – Balalaika Lesson 2

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This was the very first song I learned on balalaika.

When I was 10 or 11, I told my mom that I wanted to learn to play guitar. She said there was a group at her work that played folk instruments and the teacher of the group would teach me to play guitar. Next day I begged a friend of mine to come with me to meet that teacher because I was to shy to go on my own. I remember vividly how we walked in the room and I saw all these instruments: balalaikas, domras, guitars, basses. There were three or four people in the room talking and strumming quietly. The older man looked at us seriously and said with a hint of disappointment: “You are here to learn guitars, aren’t you?” We nodded, but then all of a sudden I was so smitten by the balalaika that he was holding that I said I wouldn’t mind learning balalaika instead. The teacher perked up and handed me one and my journey began.

So, lets relax, tune our balalaikas and start our journey.

The most famous Russian song is the people’s transcription of Nikolai Nekrasov’s poem “The Peddlers” (1861). Some versions do not differ much from the author’s text. Sung to the tune of transformed Hungarian dance “Csardas.”

The poem was written deliberately for the common people. Nekrasov would mail it around the country as a small red book with the price indicated on the back – 3 kopeikas per book (1 kopeika would go to a wholeseller and 2 kopeikas to a peddler), and it was very cheap. In 1863 the printing of the Nekrasov’s “red books” was banned by the censor.

There is a number of authors’ songs and arrangements (Y. F. Prigozhin, A. Cherniavsky, 1898; A. Dagmar, 1903; V.S. Różycki, 1905) – but it appears that the arrangement of Yakov Prigozhin is the modern canonical melody of the song, going back to the “Czardas”. This song was included in the repertoire of Anastasia Vyaltseva, Varya Panina, Nadezhda Plevitskaya and Lydia Ruslanova.


Слова Николая Некрасова

«Ой, полна, полна коробушка,
Есть и ситцы и парча.
Пожалей, моя зазнобушка,
Молодецкого плеча!

Выди, выди в рожь высокую!
Там до ночки погожу,
А завижу черноокую –
Все товары разложу.

Цены сам платил немалые,
Не торгуйся, не скупись:
Подставляй-ка губы алые,
Ближе к милому садись!»

Вот уж пала ночь туманная,
Ждет удалый молодец.
Чу, идет! — пришла желанная,
Продает товар купец.

Катя бережно торгуется,
Все боится передать.
Парень с девицей целуется,
Просит цену набавлять.

Знает только ночь глубокая,
Как поладили они.
Расступись ты, рожь высокая,
Тайну свято сохрани!

Сиреневый туман: Песенник: Любимые песни и романсы для голоса и гитары. – СПб.: Композитор, 2006.

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