By M.V.Ramakrishnan

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ochi Chorniye!

On October 20, when I posted my random reflections on the discovery of water on the moon, I had no idea that from the very next day onwards the whole world would reverberate with exciting fresh news and reports on the same topic!  

I need some time to review and respond to the voluminous onflowing information.  Meanwhile, when looking for some data about the Luna moonshots from Russian sources online in this connection,  I found myself humming the famous song Ochi Chorniye (Dark Eyes), so let me just talk about it today!

Although this is a Russian gypsy song,  it was actually derived from a poem written by a 19th century Ukrainian-Russian writer called Evhen Grebinka;  and its fascinating tune had actually been composed by a German musician called Florian Hermann as a waltz.  It isn't very clear how such poetry originally set to alien art music had got transformed subsequently as an authentic Russian traditional folk song!  

Endowed with extreme flexibility, this beautiful blend of fine melody and fast rhythm has been rendered by master vocalists and instrumentalists in Europe, America and elsewhere in different musical idioms as divergent as opera,  jazz and classical piano.     

There are several websites where you can hear the song online.  But it may be a good idea to begin with Sophie Milman's jazzy but clearly-rendered version on YouTube.  hearing it several times while glancing at the lyrics simultaneously.  When these become familiar,  you can proceed to hear other related versions, in styles ranging from gypsy to jazz  --  vocal or purely instrumental,  ranging from trumpet to balalaika.  

I've done the following transliteration and translation in consultation with my lifelong friend S. Rangarajan (alias RJ) who had lived in Moscow for several years and now lives near Washington, DC.   They're as close to the Russian sounds and meaning as we can get.   
Ochi chorniye,  ochi zhgoochiye,
Ochi strastniye i prikrassniye!
Kak lyublyoo ya vass! 
Kak bayoos ya vass!
Znat uvidyel vass
Yav nyedobriy chass!

     Dark eyes, burning eyes,
     Passionate and beautiful eyes!
     How I love you!
     How I fear you!
     Oh, I had met you
     At an unkind hour!

Ochi chorniye,  ochi plamyenny!
I manyat anyee fstranny dahlniye,
Gdye tsareet lyubov,
Gdye tsareet pakoi,
Gdye stradanya nyet,
Gdye vrazhdy zapryet! 

     Dark eyes, fiery eyes!
     They lead me to a far-away land,
     Where there's love,
     Where there's peace,
     Where there's no suffering,
     Where enmity is forbidden!

Nyef strichal bi vas, nye stradahl bi tak,
Ya bi prozhil zhizgn oolibayuchiss!
Vi zgubili mnya,  ochi chorniye,
Oonyisli na vyek mayo schastye!

     If I hadn't met you, I wouldn't suffer so,
     I'd be spending my life cheerfully!
     Oh you've wrecked me, dark eyes,
     You've ruined my joy for ever!

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