Jewish, the Musical

The idea for "Jewish, the Musical" took definitive shape around 2016 when I was working on translating Yiddish and Hebrew songs into English. I saw, and still see, great potential in some of them, including "Hava Nagila," "Tumbalalaika," and "Hevenu Shalom Aleichem." The potential to create hits was clear at least to me, but when a song is in Hebrew—a language spoken by fewer than 10 million people worldwide—it limits that whole perspective and hinders the potential. In order to become a global hit nowadays, the song must be in English, with rare exceptions like "Hava Nagila" or "Banana Boat (Day-O)", for example, but that can be explained by ingenious melodies that the songs are based on. That's already a lot, that's like 95% of the success, but not all. You have to have at least good lyrics, better brilliant ones and only one or two people in the history of the world could create such brilliant lyrics. One of them is alive and I was unbelievably lucky to connect with her. Her name is Olga Anikina

So I started identifying such jewels and tried to do translations myself. Unfortunately, I had neither the patience nor the talent for translating lyrics, and I started to look for someone to help me, someone I could hire. That failed as well. I was pretty lost and desperate when suddenly I stumbled upon some translations that stopped me in wonder—who was this genius who wrote these beautiful adaptations of Jewish songs?

It happened to be Olga Anikina, a Russian writer, poet, and translator of poetry—including lyrics. Since Russian is my mother tongue, I immediately recognized that I was looking at masterpieces and contacted her through social media. She agreed to collaborate with me on this project that I called "Jewish Songs for All." It was part of a comprehensive project named "Song is Back," aimed at preserving and reviving precious tunes (they had to be in the public domain, of course) and turning them into songs that could potentially become hits. Olga's texts were truly poetic jewels and masterpieces on the level of Shakespearean sonnets.

That's how it all began, and Olga started delivering her first lyrics at the beginning of 2017. She already had a few ready to go and even found a few drafts later after I approached her with my request and offered adequate compensation. She considered it very generous, as it was the first time in her life someone hired her to make money from writing instead of her day job (she's a cardiologist in St. Petersburg, Russia).

During our six-year collaboration, Olga has translated and/or adapted into the Russian language the original Yiddish and Hebrew lyrics of over 35 most important  Jewish songs and we recorded our first demos thanks to the talent of Elechka, a Moscow, Russia-based singer. I would merely supply a melody or list a few dozen melodies for Olga to choose from, the beautiful tunes I know would live long after us but still must be supported with great lyrics that only Anikina could write and she delivered. That's why I'm indefinitely grateful to her and hope we'll continue this project that to me personally is a mission to preserve, reinforce, promote, and further develop all the best things that Jewish identity and culture are associated with.  

Here are a few examples of the songs that I asked Olga to translate and now we have these songs in Russian, available not only to 0.5 and 9 million Yiddish and Hebrew speakers (respectively), but also to 260 million Russian-speaking listeners. To me personally, it's not just a culture preservation and renaissance mission, it is, though it happened unintentionally, a great method to combat hatred, especially antisemitism. 

That was my main drive, and she delivered. I would say that 80% of the lyrics I acquired from Olga can be considered masterpieces by the highest standards of poetry and writing. Her lyrics will be taught in universities; I just know it. I'm fortunate to have found her so early in her career that she agreed to work with me on reviving these beautiful songs.


Hudson Kin
Developer of "Jewish, the Musical" 

Some of the Jewish songs already were adapted into English by "Jewish Songs for All" project