Israeli singer/songwriter and activist mixes modern pop with Spanish music. David Broza comes to Byron to share his unique experience of Jerusalem, his music, and his belief in a peaceful future.
You have had a rich cultural heritage: born in Israel, raised and educated in England and Spain. How did your parentage and your upbringing influence your musical development?
This is a very profound question as I never stop asking how it all affected me. The transition from Israel to Spain at 12 years of age was rough. It was my being so young that meant I adjusted. We were a very close family. I have one sister a year younger than me and we pretty much got along at all times. I think that the exposure to a new culture such as Spain was major. Until today, I feel as though Spain is my second home.
How did it shape your view of the world?
It gave me the tools with which I can pretty much feel at home anywhere away from home. A universal and international identity.
Did you decide to become a musician, or was it something that evolved?
Becoming a professional musician was a coincidence. I was a painter from the age of six. However, at 22, just after being released from three years’ military service; I needed a job. I was offered to be a sideman in a fine and popular show of Israel’s top poet Yehonatan Geffen. Within a couple of weeks he suggested I write music to a lyric of his. Yihye Tov was my first composition. I was very lucky and never looked back.
Your grandfather co-founded the Arab-Israeli peace settlement. Can you tell me a little about him and his vision and how you continue his legacy?
My grandfather Wellesley Aron was an English-born renegade. He was the founder of the Jewish youth movement, Habonim. He was Israel’s first president Haim Weitzman’s political secretary. He also founded and commanded the Jewish Brigade in the British Army and fought Rommel and broke the siege of Tobruk, thus saving the Australian Desert Rats. In his later years he was convinced that by educating youth in schools towards tolerance and coexistence, the future could be promising and perhaps peace would prevail. So he co-founded the Israeli Palestinian village of Neve Shalom – Wahat Al Salaam. He was my teacher and a great exemplary figure for me to follow and perhaps help in continuing his legacy.
What does it mean to be a peace activist? What are the significant challenges of being a peace activist in the Middle East?
I don’t know that I am a peace activist. I am always concerned primarily about the state of the social environment in Israel. It is a complex country with great ideology that is being challenged on a daily basis. There are so many migrants in Israel and every group has a unique way of understanding and interpreting. So I try to help bring a better understand and vision to all who are part of this society. They may be Moroccan, Tunisian, French, English, Russian, Ethiopian etc. I also have much vested in improving the life conditions of the handicapped, so I work with the left and right of the political spectrum. I don’t boycott anyone, but challenge info and help find answers.
You have been called a post-modern Leonard Cohen, compared to Bruce Springsteen and Jackson Brown. Tell me how you approach your music: What stories you want to tell, how you want the audience to feel… Is this what modern folk does best now – tells complex stories?
I come from jazz and folk rock as well as rock’n’roll. I am primarily an entertainer. I want people to enjoy music and stories. My style of playing is eclectic and full of influences from rock’n’roll to Spanish and folk playing. It’s passionate. I want the audience to feel the love I have for the music I play and to be transported via my songs.
How has the work of American writers influenced your work? Who are the writers that you find the most exciting?
I have been influenced by Jimmi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, Johnny Cash, Simon and Garfunkel, Neil Young… It’s a long list, from the raunchy guitar to the sweet-sounding Spanish guitar.
Tell me about the East West tour: Why have you included a film screening along with the concert and what does this add to the concert’s narrative? Does it help explain the beauty, the sadness, the hope and the hardship of a place like Jerusalem, somewhere that most of us here find so difficult to fathom?
The film and the show are two very separate entities. The film exposes and evokes the feeling of the work I’ve been doing all these years even before I came to E. Jerusalem. I am happy to present both. However, my solo show is the main event. I think the film evokes some thoughts on the accessibility to the thoughts of some of the participants, whether Israeli or Palestinian. This is rare.
In your experience living in the Middle East, what is it that has surprised and inspired you most about the human spirit?
I believe in human spirit. Even with all the hardship we face.
Is peace there really possible, do you think? What would need to happen?
For a real change to come, we need a very strong-minded leadership. It is quite complex but possible.
What should people expect for your show in Byron?
The show in Byron will be fun. I shall play my Hebrew hits along with stories and songs from my Spanish albums as well as some of my English albums. It’s a fun show.
Byron Theatre Sunday 20 November.
East Jerusalem West Jerusalem film premiere at 5pm including a Q&A with David.
Live concert at 7.30pm. For tickets go to byroncentre.com.au.