Israeli folk star David Broza returns to Tucson on Oct. 30 for a solo performance — with a few special guests — at the Fox Tucson Theatre. With a career spanning almost four decades, Broza’s eclectic musicianship ranges from flamenco rhythms to lightning fast guitar picking to his own rock-and-roll sound. He’s collaborated with musicians from all over the world.
His latest album is a collaboration that hits close to home, but also has global reach. He recorded “East Jerusalem/West Jerusalem” with Palestinian and Israeli musicians at a recording studio in the Shuafat Refugee Camp in East Jerusalem. It was produced by American Grammy winners Steve Earle and Steve Greenberg and most of the lyrics are in English, although several songs are translated into Hebrew and Arabic as well. It includes both covers and original material of diverse musical styles, primarily focusing on themes of peace and coexistence.
“Peace Ain’t Nothing but a Word” is a great example. Broza describes it as hip-hop, but it’s much more layered than that. He and Earle wrote the lyrics in English, which were translated to Hebrew and Arabic. Palestinian hip-hop duo G-Town and Israeli rapper Shaanan Streett of Hadag Nachash join Broza on vocals.
“The reason I recorded in English on this album was to reach out to as many people as possible, straight from Israel. If you sing all of this in Hebrew, chances are there wouldn’t be a way of communicating what all of this is about,” Broza told the AJP.
The album also features the Jerusalem Youth Chorus, made up of Palestinian and Israeli high school students, on tracks such as a slow-tempo cover of Elvis Costello’s “(What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.”
“I choose not to judge people by their nationality or creed. I don’t listen to their background. I listen to what the foreground says, which is their voice and their music,” Broza says. He seeks to tap into the power of music to span the divisions that separate people. “My main challenge is to disregard the rest of the world’s perception of enemies and lovers. I’m one who believes in making the bridge work, and stepping out and crossing it, without falling apart.”
A documentary on the making of “East Jerusalem/West Jerusalem” debuts on Oct. 15 at the Woodstock Film Festival in New York. And in another collaborative move, Broza is crowdfunding the film via Indiegogo (http://igg.me/at/davidbrozaejwj movie/x/8538488).
At his Tucson concert, Broza plans to perform songs from “East Jerusalem/West Jerusalem” as well as some of his more familiar pieces. “I take the audience on a musical journey of my life.” Broza will mainly play solo, with just his acoustic guitar. “My guitar and vocals are my trademark, whether I play in the Sydney Opera House, Carnegie Hall, or in a more intimate setting. It’s a very wholesome performance and I’m very happy with it. I’ve been performing [this way] for close to 40 years.”
Broza looks forward to performing with Arizona Poet Laureate Alberto Rios, who will join him on stage for “Chileno Boys,” a poem by Rios that Broza set to music 20 years ago. “They’re good friends,” says Billie Kozolchyk, who is chairing the concert on behalf of the Weintraub Israel Center. “This is unique. Here is David, from Israel, and he wrote a song based on a poem by a poet who grew up in Nogales.”
Cantor Janece Cohen will lead the Tucson Jewish Youth Choir and the Tucson Hebrew Academy choir as they join Broza to sing his popular peace anthem, “Yihyeh Tov” (“Things Will Get Better”), written after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s visit to Israel in 1977, with lyrics by Israeli poet Yehonatan Geffen.
After all these years, Broza still has a message of peace to share with the world. This summer, as Israel was in the throes of Operation Protective Edge, Broza says, “For me, as a performer, there was little left to do but go down to the affected area near the border [with Gaza] and play for the civilians who were still maintaining the kibbutzim and moshavim and their businesses.
“Unlike hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes, these are manmade disasters, which you think are stoppable,” he said. “But I guess man’s temper is more of a tempest than nature’s tempest. You learn that these moments come and they wear themselves out, and then you come into the healing process. Hopefully the healing process will start soon.”
The Arizona Jewish Post is a media sponsor for the concert on Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. at the Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress St. Tickets are $25-$54 and $10 for students. Contact the Weintraub Israel Center at [email protected] or 577-9393.
Nancy Ben-Asher Ozeri is a feature writer and editor living in Tucson. She can be reached at [email protected].