Liberal Arts Blog — “Ochi Chernye” (Dark Eyes), Louis Armstrong, Sindo Garay, Django Reinhardt, Les Yeux Noirs, Pomplamoose

Liberal Arts Blog — Thursday is Joy of Music Day

Today’s Topic — “Ochi Chernye” (Dark Eyes), Louis Armstrong, Sindo Garay, Django Reinhardt, Les Yeux Noirs, Pomplamoose

On the suggestion of a new Russian friend, I’m adding a new song to my repertoire — “Ochi Chernye” (Dark Eyes). The first link he sent me was in Cyrillic which I can not read. But when he transliterated it and I did a little poking around the web, I found a link to a performance by Louis Armstrong! The original Russian lyrics date back to 1843, but Armstrong seems to have come up with his own. With respect to the melody, I came across the claim that the real composer was a Cuban “trova” singer of “boleros” by the name of Sindo Garay (1867–1968). I have been unable to verify this. Perhaps it is an ancient Russian or gypsy or even Jewish folk tune. Django Reinhardt, the jazz guitarist did a fabulous instrumental version. But my favorite version may be the joint production of Youtube stars Pomplamoose and the French band “Les Yeux Noirs.” Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.


LYRICS — Original Russian and English

1. Oci cjornye, oci strastnye — black eyes, passionate eyes

2 Oci zhgoojie, i prekrasnye — burning and beautiful eyes

3. Kak ljubju ja vas kak boyus ja vas — how I love you, how I fear you

4. Znat uvidel vas, ja v nedobryj chas! It seems I met you in an unlucky hour

LYRICS — Louis Armstrong — this is what he sings, this is the not the “lyrics” you find if you google “Dark Eyes Louis Armstrong lyrics.” Check it out. Oh Chechunya, My sweet Chechunya

Oh Chechunya, My sweet Chechunya

Honey California really wants ya

Lookee here Chunee where’s Caledonia

Mamama Chunya, Be mine

Louis Armstrong Ochi Chernyie (Dark eyes)

THE LOUIS ARMSTRONG — RUSSIAN CONNECTION — the Karnofsky family (New Orleans)

1. Armstrong would wear a Star of David around his neck all his life in gratitude for the love shown to him by a family of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants (the Karnofskys) which in effect adopted him from age 7 to 11 in New Orleans.

2. They fed him, employed him, and funded the purchase of his first cornet.

3. “I was only seven years old but I could easily see the ungodly treatment that the white folks were handing the poor Jewish family whom I worked for.”

NB: Did Armstrong learn “Ochi Chernye” from the Karnofskys?


1. Django Reinhardt was a Romani-Franco-Belgian guitarist, perhaps the greatest European jazz musician of all time, despite the loss of two fingers on his left hand in a horrific accident. His instrumental version of “Dark Eyes” is pretty darned good. (See first link below.)

2. Another version of the song that I highly recommend is a joint performance by “Les Yeux Noir,” a French band specializing in Romani, Yiddish, and Klezmer music that gets its name from the song and the American husband-and-wife musical duo “Pomplamoose.”

3. “Pomplamoose’s presence is primarily from videos on YouTube, with few live performances. They have gathered over 1.1 million subscribers and over 200 million viewers on their YouTube channel as of August 2020.”

Django Reinhardt | Dark Eyes

Les Yeux Noirs (Dark Eyes) | Django Reinhardt | Pomplamoose ft. The Vignes Rooftop Revival



Yevgeny Grebyonka

Satchmo and the Jewish Family | 64 Parishes

9 Things You May Not Know About Louis Armstrong

The Jews Who Adopted Louis Armstrong — Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Louis Armstrong

Les Yeux Noirs

Django Reinhardt

APPENDIX: Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People — Past Posts in This Series

This is the list of songs with which, now masked and distanced, I greet tourists from around the world at the North Bridge in Concord or wherever I else I happened to meet them — eg. waiting in line at grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, or the Department of Motor Vehicles. I feel strongly that the core humanities curriculum of every school in the world should consist of the most beloved songs of the world’s peoples. Music unites.

The opportunity cost of any other texts is infinite. Why not give every 18 year old the keys to hearts of seven billion people? I am not sure this is the perfect list. But I have spent 10 years testing the hypothesis. And the results are not scientific but they are pretty convincing. Proposals welcome.

4/9/20 — Nkosi — South African National Anthem

4/16/20 — Sweet Mother — unofficial national Anthem of Nigeria

4/23/20 — Jambo — the Swahili equivalent — Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda

4/30/20 — Sakura — Japan — the cherry blossom song

5/7/20 — Arirang — Korea (North and South)

5/14/20 — Chuang Qian Ming Yue Guang” — China — Li Bai — Gong Linna

5/21/20 — Ode to Joy — German — Beethoven/Schiller

5/28/20 — La Marseillaise — French — France plus many more french-speaking nations

6/4/20 — Volare — Italian — Domenico Modugno

6/11/20 — Arrorro and Cielito Lindo — Spanish speakers

6/18/20 — La Garota de Ipanema — Brazil and other Portuguese speakers

6/22/20 — Gayatri Mantra — Hindus

7/2/20 — Pokarekare Ana — Maori — New Zealand

7/9/20 — Aseda Yede Ma Onyame — Ghana

7/16/20 — “Al Fatihah” — most sacred Islamic prayer (Arabic)

7/23/20 — “Tavaszi Szel” — Hungarian Folk Song

7/30/20 — “Modeh Ani” — the Jewish Waking Up Prayer

8/6/20 — “Stolat, Stolat” — Polish Birthday Song

8/20/20 — “Lang Zal Ze Leven” — Dutch Birthday Song

8/27/20 — “Oh Danny Boy” — Ireland

9/3/20 — “Mul Mantra” — most sacred Sikh prayer

9/10/20 — “Warwindar Friska” — Swedish song of spring

9/17/20 — “Desteapta-te Romane!” — Romanian national anthem

9/24/20 — “Kad Ja Podjoh Na Bembasu” — Bosnian folk song of lost love

10/1/20 — “Waltzing Matilda” — Australia

10/8/20 — “Calon Lan” — Wales

10/15/20 -”Ngoromera” — Zimbabwe — Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi

10/22/20 — “Holka Modrooka” — Czech Republic

10/29/20 — “Tis Dikaiosinis” — Mikiis Theodorakis — Greece

11/5/20 — “Finlandia” Sibelius — Finland

11/12/20 — “Karoun, Karoun, Karoon” — Armenia

11/19/20 — “Hubava si, Moya Goro” — Bulgaria

11/26/20 — “Kuda, Kuda, Kuda” — Russia, Tchaikovsky, Lensky’s Aria

12/3/20 — “Ochie Chernye” — Russian Folk Tune, “Dark Eyes”

12/10/20 — “Mara Bebus” — Iran, “Last Kiss”

Here is a link to the last three years of posts organized by theme:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive


Time to share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to music. Or the coolest thing you learned in your life related to music. Say your favorite song or songs. Or your favorite tips for breathing, posture, or relaxation. Or some insight into the history of music….Or just something random about music… like a joke about drummers. jazz, rock….or share an episode or chapter in your musical autobiography.

This is your chance to make some one else’s day. And perhaps to cement in your memory something important you would otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than you otherwise would about


Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.

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John Muresianu

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.