Music: Broza’s Beduin boogie

The Israel Museum hosts a stellar musical roster in the Art Garden.

David Broza (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
David Broza
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Israel Museum’s jubilee festivities are in joyous full flow, with one event following closely on the heels on another. After all, it’s not every day you get to mark your first half century.
Next up is a star-studded musical lineup with five big gun shows lined up for July 27 to August 4, to take place at the Jerusalem institution’s Art Garden. The summer roster includes a rare show by seminal Israeli rock band Mashina, which is also marking a landmark anniversary after 30 years in the business. Other mouth-watering entertainment slots include an intriguing confluence between internationally acclaimed singer Achinoam Nini (aka Noa), veteran pop singer Rita, and stellar contra tenor David Deor’s pas de deux with leading klezmer artists from around the world.
The musical shebang will close in grand and voluminous style on August 4 when globe-trotting singer- guitarist David Broza joins forces with the Mediterranean Andalusian Orchestra Ashkelon, singer Mira Awad and the Jerusalem Youth Chorus, which incorporates Israeli and Palestinian youngsters.
The repertoire of the show is largely based on material that will appear on Broza’s upcoming CD Sipur Ahava Andalusi (Andalusian Love Story), on which he collaborates with the orchestra. Anyone of a certain vintage who remembers the Israeli pop scene of the late 1970s won’t have to work too hard to make the connection between the album title and Broza’s hit single of yesteryear “Shir Ahava Bedoui” (Bedouin Love Song). The first single from the album is already gaining a fair amount of airplay on radio stations around the country. It is a new version of the 1977 number, with the orchestra providing heavyweight backing and taking the melody on a delightful zigzag through various Arabic musical domains and back to the original theme.
The orchestra’s endeavors at the Israel Museum will be overseen by the ensemble’s conductor, musical director and principal arranger, 32-year-old Tom Cohen. Relative youth notwithstanding, Cohen has been wielding his baton in the direction of the orchestra members for more than six years. He says it was clear to him from the outset that the world was the orchestra’s oyster and that the troupe’s musical boundaries needed stretching.
“Back then, the Andalusian Orchestra aimed at a limited audience, for connoisseurs,” says Cohen. “They were mostly national religious and ultra-Orthodox from a North African background. Part of my vision, besides nurturing and developing the orchestra, was to open the orchestra up and to turn it into an Israeli body and make it a quality home for Eastern classical music, and what you might call world music, although I’m not keen on that term. You could call it classical music that is not Western, that is not, for example, Mozart.” Once ensconced in his musical director’s seat, Cohen set about pushing hard at the ensemble’s cultural envelope. The star of the August 4 Israel Museum show was high on the young conductor’s wish list.
“One of the first things I did after becoming the musical director was to pick up the phone and call David Broza,” Cohen recalls. “I think our country really needs to take in all these things, and David is a sort of bridge [between different musical and cultural worlds]. He is very Israeli and, on the other hand, he is also very Spanish, and American. I also saw in his music all sorts of things that connect with North African styles and music.” Broza is, indeed, a cosmopolitan creature. He was born in Haifa, spent much of his adolescence in Spain and Britain, and has been working extensively in the US for many years. Broza was happy to join forces with Cohen and the ensemble, and they started working on fusing some of Broza’s songs with the orchestra’s musical sensibilities. Dozens of concerts up and down the country have ensued, and the new single is the harbinger of the full-blown album, which is due out around Rosh Hashana. It will incorporate Cohen’s tantalizing arrangements of Broza’s numbers of yesteryear with some new material thrown into the CD mix. “I took David’s songs and wrote new arrangements for them,” Cohen continues. “And there are all kinds of quotes from legendary composers from Egypt, Algeria and other parts of the Arab world, such as Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab , Egypt’s greatest composer. We also have Algerian and Moroccan music on the album.”
Broza became a major player on the Israeli music scene in the 1980s with the release of Ha’isha She’iti (The Woman with Me). Broza wrote the music, and the lyrics were taken from Spanish poems. Material from the megahit 1983 record is included on the new CD but seasoned with non-Western excerpts. “We take “Hanahar Shel Sevilia” (The River of Seville, from Ha’isha She’iti ), and we add a passage by Abdul Kadde Shau, an Algerian composer,” explains Cohen. “In some places we have flamenco and Arabic music which is all natural for David Broza.”
It has been an enduring and endearing joint venture. “We thought the whole thing would run to about five or six shows and that would be that,” says Cohen. “As you can see, it’s still very much alive. We’ve performed all over the country, in all kinds of strange places, and the audiences are always very enthusiastic.”
Now Broza, Cohen et al are taking the show to one of the grandest venues in the country. “We are really looking forward to performing at the Israel Museum,” says Cohen, “with David and Mira Awad and with the Palestinian and Israeli singers. David is wonderful to work with. He loves playing music, and as soon as the music moves him he throws himself wholeheartedly into the work. I think you can feel his love in the music.”
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