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David Broza’s heartfelt party peace

The Israeli singer/songwriter and UNICEF goodwill ambassador, who performs live at the Union Chapel this month, explains the healing power of music

14 April, 2017 — By Róisín Gadelrab

David Broza: ‘Music can transcend all situations’

“Every day brings new challenges and more reasons for me to sing the song. I’m glad we’re still around because things haven’t been so great, but it still serves the purpose. I’m lucky that the first song I ever wrote is of such power and meaning but also a musical piece that doesn’t let me down when I sing it.”

Israeli musician David Broza is speaking of Yihye Tov (Things Will Get Better), the song he penned during the Arab-Israeli peace talks between Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin back in 1977. It became an anthem of the Israeli peace movement and remains one of David’s biggest hits.

“I always feel reason to sing it,” he says, speaking from New York on Sunday morning. We all know how difficult things can be and how much tension there is with new regimes and situations and the plight of refugees, and a piece of music is about hope and a better future, not just Israel-Palestine. When I sing in Islington it’s for Islington, when I sing in Paris, it’s for Paris.”

David, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, will play his first major UK concert at the Union Chapel on April 27 in support of best of album The Set List (released last month), and is bringing along some special guests, some of whom worked on his eight-day project East Jerusalem West Jerusalem, which produced an album and documentary of the same name, now on Netflix.

“I’m bringing someone I never thought I’d get out of Israel because I tried many times to get him a visa – [rapper] Mohammad Mughrabi, a young Palestinian guy from the refugee camp,” says David. “Then [singer] Mira Awad, she’s also in the album and film, delightful. I try to tell the story of the journey of the music, so I connect with an audience that doesn’t speak Hebrew or Spanish.”

David, who grew up in England, Israel and Spain has used his eclectic experience of Spanish guitar influences, poetry from the places he has lived in and stories from the people he has met, to create a multi-lingual anthology of songs, working with unlikely partners in the promotion of harmony.
One of the longstanding projects he promotes brings Israelis and Palestinians together over dinner and music.

“Everybody is looking for some kind of remedy or direction,” he says. “I’ve gone through enough that I’m willing to dedicate whatever it takes for music as a platform. I have proof and can attest to the fact even with right-wing settlers it works.

“While we’re there, the reality changes and everybody takes something away with them. It’s a gradual change. They look at each other, some may be zealots from the right, some may be Palestinian activists. They have the opportunity to relax over food, music, there’s camaraderie, no agenda, we’re creating an atmosphere where people can look each other in the eye without any fear and you don’t know how strong this is.

“Because we live in fear, because we don’t know the enemy, we don’t see the other. But at the end of the day we just want to live our life. Those who gather one, two, three times get acquainted with each other and look forward to seeing each other. There’s no animosity. I’m very blessed with a lust for life and I love people. I’m a musician, an entertainer. At the end of the day we end up performing, singing, embracing each other. If you play you’ve got to be in harmony.”

David alternates languages in his recordings. His next, to be recorded in June, will be in Hebrew and is based on poems by Tzruya Lahav, the original violinist in Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band, nicknamed Suki because people couldn’t pronounce her name.

“The theme on this one turned out by sheer coincidence,” he says, after a friend sent him one of Tzruya’s poems. “I don’t know what sparked it, and within two or three hours I had written the music and sent it back. My friend sent it to her, then he sent me another, then another. This went on ping-ponging like that. I did about 20 songs from which I will record 12. I feel a bit left out, she’s run out of poems. I feel like a little boy waiting for candy.”

The album, he says, is not all love songs, adding: “There’s a lot of passion, a lot of love, but there’s something in her use of language that attracts me. It can be deeply critical of love and life and tricky. With all my experience of reading and quoting poetry, she has something fresh.”

David and Tzruya have also co-written a song called The Juggler, based on a true story. He says: “We’ve also written one song which has a social-political message and is about not succumbing to revenge and hate, about picking up your life and building something over destruction.

“We wrote this story of this young man whose brother was killed in a terrorist attack and, instead of becoming vengeful he becomes a healer and spends his life transporting Palestinian patients who are gravely ill and taking them from Gaza to Israeli hospitals on a daily basis then bringing them back. They take 100 patients a day – so remarkable, like Mother Theresa, he’s the humblest of the humble people.

“It’s based on a meeting I had with him and I recorded it and sent it to her, I told her that his vocation on a daily basis was being a juggler so we metaphorically compared his life to that of a juggler.”

The song has become an instant hit in Israel. David adds: “It’s on the most mainstream, in-your-face station – that’s why I think music can transcend all situations, if you mix the right melody, rhythm, vibe and the words are well written, it’s a combination, like food, put in the right herbs and spices and you don’t even ask what it is.

“People react emotionally to art. In the meantime they’re stuck with the melody in their head. It’s a way of healing the vulnerability of all of us, even those who are extreme left or right, they have a vulnerability. If you manage to penetrate the cracks, it sinks in.”

• David Broza and Friends, Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Upper Street, Highbury, N1 2UN. Thursday April 27, 7pm, £40 / £25 students plus booking fee. Under-16s accompanied by an adult. 020 7226 1686, events@unionchapel.org.uk, www.unionchapel.org.uk

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