Beth Israel synagogue in Izmir. Courtesy of Lori Sen.

There are many variants of this song, two of which we present here. Both versions come from I.J. Levy’s invaluable collection, Chants Judeo Espagnols (now, sadly, out of print), Book 3. “A la Una Naci Yo” comes from Izmir (formerly Smyrna), a port city on the west coast of Turkey, where a remnant of a once-thriving Sephardic community still lives. “A la Una Yo Nací” is from Sarajevo, once known as “Chiko Yerushalayim,” according to our friend and mentor, Flory Jagoda, who was born in there in 1923.

Susan, vocals; Tina, viola da gamba; Howard, guitar; Brian, riq.

A la una yo nací At one I was born;
A las dos m’engrandeci; At two I grew up;
A las tres tome amante; At three I took a lover;
A las kuatro me kazi: At four I married:
Alma, vida i korazón. Soul, life, and heart.
Dime ninya donde viyenes: Tell me, little girl, where do you come from?
Ke te kero konocer; I want to get acquainted.
Si tu no tiyenes amante, If you have no lover,
Yo te hare defender, I will defend you,
Alma, vida,i korazón. Soul, life, and heart.
Yendome para la gera, Going off to war,
Dos bezos al aire di; I three kisses into the air;
El uno es para mi madre; One is for my mother,
I el otro para ti; And the other is for you.
Alma, vida i korazón. Soul, life, and heart.