Alright with David Broza

The seasoned singer-songwriter is one of the star turns at this year’s Tamar Festival.

If you have been in this country long enough, you should by now have gotten used to such seemingly placatory expressions as “Smoch allai” or “Yihyeh tov” – “Trust me” and “It will be alright,” respectively. At first one tends to relax and get the sense that you are in good hands. But when things turn sour, as they often seem to do, aforesaid assurances notwithstanding, one gets the undeniable feeling that one may have been led down the proverbial garden path, straight into the arms of a faux panacea, and, in fact, there is no one to trust, and things will not be alright.
Try telling that to David Broza and you probably won’t get much change out of him. The seasoned singer-songwriter is one of the star turns at this year’s Tamar Festival, which will take place in the environs of the Dead Sea September 25-28. His show is the festival curtain-raiser, a sunrise slot at the top of Masada which promises visually and aurally pleasing aesthetics galore. Broza will be backed by a four-piece band, with keyboardist-vocalist Rami Kleinstein guesting.
And there’s plenty more in the way of frontline musical entertainment on offer over the four days. The cast list includes the likes of rocker Beri Sakharoff, religious singer-songwriter Ishay Ribo with Mediterranean-style rock singer Shai Tzabari dropping by, while the Heichal Masada venue, at the foothills of the desert outcrop, will host the lip-smacking Desert Queens three-parter (September 26). The all-female program features Marina Maximilian with her solo Piano Mode show, and Rita, who will perform numbers from her latest album, Nissim Shekufim (Transparent Miracles), while veteran American singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega will join forces with the Ra’anana Symphonette in the festival’s first offshore spot. Add other musical A-listers, such as Sarit Hadad, Yehuda Poliker, Hatikva 6 and Balkan Beat Box, and you have yourself one high-quality, high-powered program.
Broza’s show is something of a retrospective, and the audience will be able to waft away on waves of nostalgia as the indefatigable guitarist-singer churns out some of his best-known numbers from across his 40-years-and-counting career.
The eponymous show song, which came out in 1977, and was part of the left-field satirical show Sihot Salon (Small Talk), starring writer and lyricist Yehonatan Geffen, was quite a starter for Broza’s professional life.
“I was with Yehonatan Geffen, in my first year as a professional artist, joining in his show, Sihot Salon,” he recalls. Broza was all of 22 years old, and they were heady times for the peace camp. “It was right around when [late Egyptian president] Anwar Sadat came to Israel for the first time. Playing “Yihyeh Tov” was my moment, when I felt I was contributing something to the show.”
Geffen’s lyrics reference that momentous turn of events in the regional peace momentum. “When the show was over, I kept the song as part of me,” Broza continues. “It became part of me for the next 40 years. Who would have known?” he laughs.
Mind you, it’s not as if Broza has just been regurgitating the Geffen lines and his own score ad infinitum in the intervening years. The singer-songwriter has put out no less than 36 albums in that time and probably spends as much time at airports and in the air as he does on stage.
“I perform around 10 days a month in Israel,” he tells me shortly after he landed from yet another Stateside working trip. “I’m going to Warsaw, to perform, for a few days and then I’ll be back in Israel again. My wife lives in New York, and has her business there, so that’s my second home.”
Four decades on, is Broza still hopeful about the chances of peace in the Middle East?
“You could call me an unapologetic optimist,” he laughs.
Naturally, “Yihyeh Tov” has undergone some changes over the years. “There have been many versions and many additions, because Yehonatan Geffen kept on writing more and more verses. I would use them and drop them. We have dozens of unsung verses that were once sung.” But he always keeps the source version on standby.
As the Middle Eastern peace process continues to stall, the wish for a brighter future here remains intact.
“The original still works. It’s not like things have changed to the degree that the song is not relevant anymore, unfortunately,” he notes.
That is the closest Broza gets to negativity.
“Forty years later, you could say I’m sober but hopeful,” he states. “I think we all mature, like wine matures, a guitar matures, books mature – actually, readers mature; books don’t change.”
It thus follows that every time Broza performs his older material, such as “Bedouin Love Song,” “Ha’Isha She’Itee” (The Woman With Me) or “Yihyeh Tov,” he brings more of his life experience to the live rendition fray.
“Recorded music, of course, stays the same. But when you are performing, you are bringing your integrity in real time. It’s about you, now.”
Should be alright at Masada.
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