The biggest music star in Israel with 25 x # 1s to his name, and collaborations with the likes of Jackson Browne, Wyclef Jean, Steve Earle and Shawn Colvin – singer and songwriter David Broza is a superstar. Called “the Israeli Bruce Springsteen” by his international fans.
He is also not someone who believes that music and politics should not mix. Or perhaps more accurately; music and activism. David is a fighter. For peace. He actively brings Israelis and Palestinians together.
David is vehemently opposed to a recent call for a cultural boycott of Israel, in a letter signed by more than 100 artists. Israel imposed a recent ban on foreign travellers who have supported calls for sanctions and boycotts. The letter states that those who signed it will not “play music, accept awards, attend exhibitions, festivals or conferences, until Israel respects international law and ends its colonial oppression of the Palestinians”.
It was said that the 61-year-old, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, did more for the peace process in the Middle East” in eight days than Secretary of Sate John Kerry did in two years”, referring to David’s amazing project which began in 2013. Bringing together Israeli and Palestinian musicians for 8 days and nights to work side-by-side in an East Jerusalem recording studio. The result is the new documentary and companion album, “East Jerusalem West Jerusalem”. The documentary is currently screening on Netflix. Artists who participated included Palestinian/Israeli singer Mira Awad, the West Bank rap duo G-Town and Palestinian rapper Muhammad Mughrabi.
A collection of thirteen songs that blends cultures, languages and styles into a powerful statement about collaboration and coexistence. The hit album, produced by Americana legend Steve Earle, features a stirring duet with Wyclef Jean. David Broza’s aspirations for “East Jerusalem West Jerusalem”, reflect the lessons learned during its unprecedented creation—and from a lifetime dedicated to peace and greater human understanding.
“Things Will Be Better”
Broza’s best-known song, “Yihye Tov (Things Will Get Better)”, was written in 1977, during the Arab-Israeli peace talks between Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin. It has become the anthem of the Israeli peace movement. The song’s lyrics, roughly translated as “Things Will Be Better” struck at the heart of the issue – that people all over the world want peace. Now with a string of multi-platinum albums behind him, David Broza still strives to hone this message.
David is the grandson of Wellesley Aron, founder of the Jewish youth movement Habonim, and helped establish the Neve Shalom, Oasis of Peace project to promote conflict resolution in 1978. David recently spoke to The Observer about the way forward in peace process: “We need to communicate if we are not to leave it to the voices of doubters, of prejudice and hatred.” Amen to that.
David is in the UK for a very special show in London this week (27th April) where he’ll bring on stage some special guests, including Mira Awad, an Israeli-Palestinian artist. He will also introduce the debut of Palestinian hip-hop artist from the Shuafat refugee camp, Muhammad Mughrabi. David’s band from Tel Aviv will be with him.
He sings in English, Hebrew and Spanish. As a guitarist, David is acclaimed for his “whirlwind finger picking to Flamenco” styles, percussion and rhythms, to a signature rock and roll sound. His music reflects a fusion of the three countries in which he was raised: Israel, Spain and England. He has a new “Best Of” compilation album which will be launched at the Union Chapel show in London’s Islington; “The Set List”, which celebrates his 40-year career, during which time he has worked with Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and many more.
The album features “Night Dawn” the title track of an album which Broza wrote and recorded featuring the poetry of Texas alt-country legend Townes Van Zandt. The two met only twice before Van Zandt’s death twenty years ago. Broza was astonished when he learned that Van Zandt had left a shoe box full of unpublished poetry with a request that Broza set the poems to music. “The Set List” also includes “The Long Road” featuring Irish singer Maura O’Connell. The song, written by Cliff Eberhardt, was recorded in 1998, but it and the ensuing album were shelved after Broza sustained serious injuries following a car crash.
- Here, David Broza pens an exclusive piece for Music Republic Magazine, as an insight into his life and career, and his unwavering and burning desire for peace on his native soil and for mankind as a whole. In his own words:
David Broza: The Story:
“It’s been a journey of forty years of performing, writing music, producing albums and many creative adventures. As a young person, my aspiration was to develop my skills and exploration in painting. I still have that very vivid memory of my feverish mind seeking new imageries to be transferred onto a canvas or paper. That was to be my destiny. But as I was completing my mandatory military service in Israel, I had no immediate plans. My ultimate goal was to be accepted to the Rhode Island School of Design. However, being in dire need for some income, I was open to take any job, and I was offered a chance to sing on the Israeli renegade poet Yehonatan Geffen’s show.
It reminded me of the Lenny Bruce routine. I came on board and started to perform regularly. Yehonatan would read his poetry, speak his mind out about politics, arouse the audience, tease the politicians and then have me sweeten the situation with song.
“There was never a question in my mind whether I should take part in social and political activism”.
On November 19th, 1977, we witnessed the mind-boggling arrival of Egypt’s president, Anwar Sadat to Israel. It was incredibly exciting. Yehonatan wrote an emotional, political and romantically-driven poem to commemorate the moment. He handed it to me and ordered me to compose a melody to it. I couldn’t say NO, but had never done this before. I was given two days to complete it, so it would be ‘fresh’ and relevant and could be incorporated into the show. This became my first song: “Yihye Tov” (Things Will Be Better)”. I performed it, and within a few weeks recorded it. The song became a major hit, an iconic anthem of the times. I have been singing it for almost 40 years.
Almost immediately after the song was released, I began receiving invitations to join the manifestations in support of the new peace process with Egypt. We were sending a message of support to the Likud government, lead by PM Menachem Begin. Organised by a group of outspoken activists, the “Peace Now” movement was formed. This was so important. There was never a question in my mind whether I should take part in social and political activism. After all, I wasn’t running for politics.
I was the ‘plebe’ who had a voice and wanted to be heard, along with hundreds of thousands of others. Our efforts worked! Menachem Begin got the support he needed and went on to sign the Peace Agreement with Egypt. As for me; I started writing music to lyrics and poems Yehonatan wrote for me, and to poems I found in his books, which led me to other writers with whom I would collaborate along the way.
Throughout the years, I have dedicated my time and music to social causes where I feel I can contribute. I think it’s the role we have to play as citizens in every country and not just in Israel. I have dedicated my activities to the handicapped in Israel, especially in support of a great sports club for children and people with cerebral palsy. Another cause important to me is helping the underprivileged kids in East Jerusalem and the Shuafat refugee camp. My commitment to promoting the Peace process has not receded. Over the last twenty years, I have been working closely with Palestinian musicians and activists in East Jerusalem and the surrounding area. It’s been a slow process, but we have built a degree of trust, and most importantly, friendships.
It has been a beautiful and challenging lesson for me. Our circles are growing and the work is slowly but surely spreading. Hopefully the ground will soon be laid for the politicians to take the steps in the right direction. And we will all sing and rejoice. Until that moment comes, I’ll continue to make music and plan for new ways to engage in peace building.
My most recent album, “The Set List”, features some songs from the “East Jerusalem West Jerusalem” album. Since “The Set List” is a compilation, there are many songs that are featured in my shows, and will be performed on April 27th at the Union Chapel. I will have a special guest, Mira Awad, an Israeli-Palestinian artist. I will also introduce the debut of a Palestinian hip-hop artist from the Shuafat refugee camp, Muhammad Mughrabi. My band from Tel Aviv will join me at the show.
Everyone I work with has come to embrace the power that music has, and the role it plays in our society. I can attest to the fact that now, after so many years, cynicism has slowly moved to the sidelines and honest eagerness to cross the lines and work together has become the new reality”.
David Broza, April 2017
Additional writing: Simon Redley
Website: davidbroza.net Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/DavidBroza Twitter : https://twitter.com/davidbroza