Broza’s songs of peace

Israeli singer David Broza performing during his last Australian tour in 2012. Photo: AJN file/Peter Haskin

POPULAR singer-songwriter David Broza is known around the world as Israel’s answer to Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen.

As his legions of fans know, Broza is also a peace activist whose song Together, co-written with Ramsey McLean, was the theme song for the UNICEF 50th anniversary celebration in almost 150 countries.

Yet the Tel Aviv-based performer, who is back in Australia this month for his East West Tour with concerts in Melbourne, Sydney and Byron Bay, does not consider his music to be overtly political.

“I think music is all about passion, sensitivity and love and disappointment,” 61-year-old Broza says by phone from Israel.

“The only reason there would be any connectivity to politics is because our life in Israel is so interwoven with politics. Israel is not a country where you can shrug off political or social issues – every issue here affects your life deeply.”

Interestingly, Broza, also a talented painter, nearly followed an entirely different career path. Born in Haifa but educated in England and later Spain, he found himself selling his paintings in a Madrid market at the age of 17 with plans of working as a graphic artist.

It was only when Broza returned to his homeland and was drafted into the Israeli army that his true passion for music began to take precedence.

“I literally left my easel, packed my things and have dedicated my life to music since then,” he says.

Discovered while singing and playing guitar in Israeli cafes, Broza was soon signed up with a record company. His 1977 hit song Yihye Tov (Things Will Be Better) launched him to local superstar status, with the tune becoming the unofficial national anthem of the peace process.

Since then, Broza has released a remarkable 30 albums, with his music recorded in Hebrew, English and Spanish. In 2013, he brought Israeli and Palestinian musicians together to work in the Jerusalem recording studio of renowned Palestinian band Sabreen. The resulting documentary and album, East Jerusalem West Jerusalem, was acclaimed around the world.

“What I indulge in is really interaction with issues rather than standing and protesting,” he says. “I take a very gradual and deep stand with how we create an environment we can all live in. For that, you have to work with everybody, with all sides – those who are sceptical and those who are very enthusiastic. We all have to live on this land and in this world together.”

Interestingly, Broza is a grandson of the late Wellesley Aron, who co-founded the global youth movement Habonim in the 1920s in London before helping to establish in Israel, many decades later, the Arab-Israeli peace settlement Neve Shalom – Wahat as-Salam (Oasis of Peace).

“My grandfather was probably the biggest influence on my life in finding a way to connect my professional side to my proactive side,” Broza reflects.

“From a very young age, when he started Habonim in London in the 1920s, to his final days in Israel in the village he established, this was a man who became a beacon in my life. I was very close to him, and since he passed away I always try to carry his spirit with everything I do.”

As for being dubbed “the Israeli Bruce Springsteen”, Broza laughingly reveals it’s a comparison that somewhat mystifies him. Yet it’s one he can’t help but see as quite a compliment.

“I suppose it’s easy for people to find ways to compare, to put a label on an artist in another market and appeal to an audience who would otherwise not be too familiar with them,” he says.

“I suppose there is a similarity in our intent and our intensity and passion, but we’re a totally different breed.”

Has Broza met The Boss? “I haven’t,” he says. “I’ve known several of his musicians, and some day maybe we’ll cross paths.”

Happily married to celebrated Israeli fashion designer Nili Lotan, Broza – a father to grown-up children – also works out regularly. Keeping fit is vital, he believes, to sustaining his busy schedule.
“I work out every day. I do Pilates, tai chi, weights, cardiovascular work – everything. You have to maintain your body, not only your spirit,” he says.

And having performed extensively around the world and with many other legendary musicians, including Van Morrison, Paul Simon and Bob Dylan, Broza particularly enjoys singing up a storm for Australian audiences.

“I think Australia is incredible,” he says. “I love the people, I love the audiences, and it’s been for me a revelation every time I come.

“I travel the world and do a lot of touring in the United States, South America and Europe – and Australia always seems to be the distant cousin of these cultures. Arriving on the other side of the globe, and finding a familiar culture and yet a vitality is always exciting. I just wish it was closer!” he adds with a laugh.

At his Byron Bay concert on November 20, Broza will host the Australian premiere of his latest film, East Jerusalem West Jerusalem before a live concert.

In Melbourne, David Broza will perform at TBI’s Herman Sanger Centre, 76 Alma Rd, St Kilda, on November 16-17 at 8pm. Bookings: www.tbi.org.au/broza.

In Sydney, David Broza will perform at the Bondi Pavilion, Queen Elizabeth Drive, Bondi Beach on November 21 at 7.30pm. Bookings: oneentertainment.com.au.

REPORT by Jackie Brygel