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David Broza to perform at the Red Sea Jazz Festival

CM 25/04/2021

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While he had some notable professional achievements beforehand, and had already mixed it with some of the Big Guns in the Israeli pop and rock industry, nothing prepared David Broza for the tidal wave of success that swamped him when he released Ha’isha She’iti (The Woman with Me).Close to four decades on, the evergreen 65-year-old vocalist-guitarist revisits the blockbuster album, which is still one of the biggest sellers in the history of the local music industry, at this weekend’s Red Sea Guitar Festival (April 29-May 1).Broza, who when there aren’t any pandemics around, divides his time between homes in New York and Tel Aviv, although he also tours pretty much incessantly, is back here for only the second time since COVID-19 struck, to play numbers from Ha’isha She’iti in the opener of the festival in Eilat. He will be backed by his long-serving five-member band, with globally lauded Ladino and flamenco singer Yasmin Levy dropping by for a guest spot.Prior to the smash hit album, Broza had achieved a decent amount of radio airplay with an alluring ballad called “Shir Ahava Bedoui” (“Bedouin Love Song”). The number also featured singer Yael Levy, who was the third member of the intriguing Sichot Salon (Living Room Conversations) threesome spearheaded by anti-establishment songwriter, playwright, novelist, poet, satirist and translator Yehonatan Geffen. The show repertoire also included a poignant song called “Yihyeh Tov” (“It Will Be Fine”) with Geffen writing the lyrics to Broza’s score based on the historic visit by Egyptian president Anwar Sadat to Israel, and the peace talks at Camp David between Sadat, prime minister Menachem Begin and US president Jimmy Carter. “Yihyeh Tov” struck a chord with the Israeli public and became Broza’s first major hit. That was quickly followed by a starring role to The Sixteenth Sheep hit children’s record based on Geffen’s eponymous book.So, the 20-something pop-rock artist was not exactly a novice when he released Ha’isha She’iti in 1983, but he was still bowled over by the response, and says he was caught unaware by the success. “I wasn’t at all ready for that. I was looking forward to filling places like [Tel Aviv venue] Tzavta, which has 400 seats. I thought that was tough.”Broza’s public profile quickly shot through the roof, and there were much larger and grander matters awaiting.

“The next day we played Hechal Hatarbut [with a capacity of close to 3,000]. That was an almost inconceivable quantum leap. We played 120 shows in six months. It was crazy.”That professional and personal maelstrom was compounded by the fact that Broza, despite being still only in his mid-20s, had other people to care for at the time.  “I just went with the flow,” he recalls. “You finish a show late and then you have to get up early in the morning. I already had two kids and I’d get up at seven in the morning to be with them. There were no shortcuts there.”For Broza, Ha’isha She’iti was something of a throwback. Born in Haifa, he spent much of his teen years in Spain and England before returning to Israel to do his army service. Even though he attended a British school in Spain, and says he lent his youthful ear almost exclusively in the direction of British and American rock and pop, he still imbibed some of the local culture and sounds. “I didn’t listen to Spanish music when I lived there. I inhaled Spanish air and Spanish culture from the air around me, but I listened to Jimi Hendrix, The Band, Joni Mitchell, Simon & Garfunkel. That was what interested me back then.”Fast forward around 15 years, and Broza finds himself delving deep into Spanish culture, performing Hebrew versions of works by a roll call of feted men and women of letters, and music, such as singer-songwriters Joan Manuel Serrat, Evangelina Sobredo Galanes and Jose Manuel Ortega Heredia, not to mention iconic poet and playwright Federico García Lorca, who was killed in the Spanish Civil War, in 1936. Once again, Geffen played a leading role in the end product. “Yehonatan wrote the Hebrew lyrics, even though he didn’t know a word of Spanish,” Broza laughs. “I translated every word, and explained all the cultural and other nuances, and he, in his regular genius way, came up with the fantastic Hebrew lines.”OVER THE last 40-plus years, Broza has released numerous albums in Spanish, Hebrew and English and says it all comes naturally to him. “I assimilated myself into the American culture and into the Spanish culture. As an artist, it is important for me to absorb the language, its musicality and culture.” That, he says, has proven itself at street level too. “I perform for all kinds of audiences. I am not talking about playing in major cities like Madrid or Barcelona. I mean small towns in Spain, or in small towns in the United States where they don’t have any connection with Israel.”Broza feels that his ability to communicate with his listeners verbally, and his own eclectic cultural baggage, support his live artistic offerings. “You know, when I play for an audience and I can communicate with them, so when I sing songs like “Shir Ahava Bedoui” or “Yihyeh Tov,” or “Ha’isha She’iti,” there is a cultural significance for them, and they relax and enjoy themselves. And I’ll do songs written by, say, [20th-century American poet] Elizabeth Bishop and then by Yehonatan Geffen, [contemporary American poet] Matthew Graham and then a song by [Eric] Clapton. The audience gets a whole cultural basket from me, full of good things, and which is very different from the country music or pop music they usually get.” It is a little beyond the mainstream pale but, Broza says, it pays dividends all around. “It’s not easy to market something like that but, as soon as one audience enjoys it, the message gets out by word of mouth, and the next audience is ready for me.”Broza has never shirked from testing the boundaries on musical, political or sociopolitical levels. He is generally identified with the left-wing peace camp – his grandfather founded the Neveh Shalom village which hosts a broad sweep of educational and cultural activities for Palestinians and Jews – but has appeared at numerous settlements in the West Bank. I also accompanied him on one exhausting day back in 2006, at the height of the Second Lebanon War, when Broza hopped from one bomb shelter to another on kibbutzim and other communities close to our northern border, playing for small groups of local residents. He played at around 10 places that day, and always gave his intimate gathering his all with shows that lasted around an hour each. That was quite a stint.Now, a decade-and-a-half on, Broza is coming over for only here from New York the second time in the past year and a bit to give his Eilat audience a taste of his biggest-selling album, and where he is at musically and personally right now.He says he is also delighted to star in the curtain raiser of this year’s Red Sea Guitar Festival, and has not exactly been lounging around in his New York apartment waiting for the pandemic dust to settle. “I have had a big year. In the middle of all the COVID stuff, I managed to record my first all-instrumental album, En Casa Limón, last August. It got great reviews in Spain, Mexico and Brazil.”It was ideal timing for this week’s festival too. “I was so pleased when they asked me to open the festival. But, you know, I never saw myself as a guitarist, even with all the things I have done until now. No one would ask me to play solo guitar for them in their band. I never presented myself as a guitarist. Now, after the new album, I totally feel like a guitarist,”Anyone who has ever attended a Broza gig, and witnessed his quicksilver flamenco guitar work, for instance, might be surprised by that late discovery. But Broza says he has always gone with his own flow and tried to stay true to his own credo. “I walk the walk and I talk the talk,” he declares. “I always try to do my best.”No doubt that will be more than enough for the patrons down in Eilat.
Source: Jerusalem Post

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