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David Broza has been one of our top rock stars for a quarter of century, with numerous gold, platinum and multi-platinum albums. Now he stands to make an incremental leap into the realm of international stardom. At the end of this week, Broza will front a mega-production at Masada which could potentially catapult his career even further.
In the wee hours of July 1 and 2 (both at 3 a.m.), he will lead two sunrise concerts alongside bassist Alon Nadel and percussionist Gadi Seri. The other "bit players" include Jackson Browne, one of the best- known rock musicians of the last three decades, and two-time Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter Shawn Colvin. The shows will be taped for PBS and broadcast to some 110 million homes across the US in 2008.
The concert repertoire will feature Broza material in Hebrew, Spanish and English - to date, he has put out four albums in English which did well on the American market. Browne and Colvin will also perform some of Broza's compositions alongside their own songs, and Broza will return the compliment.
But for Broza, this is not just about furthering his own career. There are loftier matters afoot.
"Yes, it is amazing that the shows are happening, and that PBS will be screening them to so many people in the States," he tells The Jerusalem Post, "but this is also a chance to show people out there some of the really good things that exist in this part of the world. We should be letting people know that there is more to life in the Middle East than all the bad stuff they see on CNN and the BBC." That also means putting across a cleaner image. "There's also more to Israel than scantily clad girl soldiers," he adds with something of a wink and nod to the recent controversial foreign ministry PR campaign in Maxim magazine.
Considering his extra-curricular track record, such statements with a political tone are hardly surprising. Last summer Broza spent much of the Second Lebanon War playing in bomb shelters, community centers and army bases across the north of the country, and he recently made some morale boosting forays to Sderot and other towns bordering the Gaza Strip, which has been barraged by Kassam rockets this year.
Broza also boasts some impressive peace-mongering lineage. His grandfather, Wellsley Aaron, founded the Arab-Israeli settlement Neveh Shalom and established the Habonim youth movement. He also helped create the Israeli Sports Center for the Disabled in Ramat Gan. "I have been trying to promulgate my grandfather's work and message, through my music, since I was 16," declares Broza. "It is a very important part of my life, and my work."
In fact, Broza set the Masada show in motion quite some time ago. "I've been in touch with PBS for a while about doing something from Masada. I did a show for them in Chicago a few years ago, with all sorts of things I have done throughout my career. They sat on that for a while until they did the poll."
The "poll" in question is a survey PBS recently ran whereby they sent video clips of 10 pop-rock artists across the States. The public received no information about the musicians, and they were asked to vote for the clip they thought was the best of the bunch. Broza came out on top.
Broza is naturally delighted with the survey results, and for more reasons than one. "Masada is an amazing place. You feel there is some kind of purity to the whole region, and I believe you get an echo there of what you feel in your heart and what you put out. The setting, the show, the sunrise, and the people involved are a great mix that I am sure will tug at the heartstrings of Americans and anyone in the world."
Browne and Colvin certainly enhance the heady musical brew. Colvin is best known for her songs "Diamond in the Rough" (1990) and "Sunny Come Home" (1998), while Browne, an inductee to the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame, is best known for his albums Late For The Sky, The Pretender, and Running On Empty.
"They are both great artists," says Broza, adding that, for him, Browne is a natural artistic and ethical bedfellow. "People like Jackson Browne are not afraid to speak their mind, regardless of the consequences."
Browne has championed numerous causes over the years and has given benefit concerts in support of Amnesty International and anti-nuclear campaigns. He was also a fierce opponent of Reaganism and US policy in Central America in the Eighties. "Guys like Browne are opinion setters and they get their message across through their music. It's a good vehicle to use."
It is a means Broza, too, enlists to good effect.