Distant Cousins find family in music
PBS brings David Broza’s multinational rocking ‘Masada’ to U.S. audience
The concert starts at 3:30 a.m. at the foot of Masada, and as dawn breaks in the east, the outlines of the Dead Sea and the Moav Mountains beyond come into stunning view.
So ends “David Broza at Masada: The Sunrise Concert,” leaving 2,400 jam-packed fans of all ages and ethnicities cheering and accompanying the last song, “Yihye Tov” — It’ll Be All Right.
PBS has caught the spirit and will show this different side of Israel in a 90-minute program airing Dec. 2 on KCET.
Accompanying Broza are legendary rocker Jackson Browne, Grammy winner Shawn Colvin, Arab composer Ebrahim Eid, Israeli vocalist Keren Tennenbaum, and an Israeli-Palestinian school choir.
Broza has been one of his country’s most durable and consistently popular artists for three decades, performing, as he put it, “from the Mideast to the Midwest.” At 52, his vocals, guitar and energy level are as intense as ever.
International critics have acclaimed him, at one time or another, as the Israeli Bruce Springsteen, Leonard Cohen, U2’s Bono, Gordon Lightfoot and Jackson Browne, but in a phone interview Broza observes, “I am none of the above and all of the above.”
Born in Haifa, Broza has lived in England, the United States and Spain, and his repertoire of folk-rock, flamenco and a uniquely Israeli strain reflects his multinational upbringing and tastes.
The international flavor, and such universal themes as love, longing and loss, pervade the concert. From the opening “Night in Masada” (This Is Where the World Starts) in English, Broza turns to “Ramito de Violetas” in Hebrew and Spanish, and, joined by Browne and Colvin, to a Hebrew-English rendition of the signature tune, “Yihyeh Tov.”
Most moving, and perhaps a sign that things “will be all right” after all, is the love song “In My Heart.” It was written jointly by Broza and Ebrahim Eid during the intifada and performed by the two composer-singers. Backing them is the school choir of the integrated Jewish-Arab village of Neve Shalom/Wahatal-Salam.
The historic and physical setting adds to the emotional mystique of the Sunrise Concert, with the performers framed against red columns and searchlights stabbing the sky.
PBS, which is presenting the program as part of its pledge drive, invested $2.2 million in a crew of 60, which shot the show with 10 high-definition cameras and mixed Dolby 1.5 Surround Sound.
Now in its 14th year, the concert drew hip Tel Aviv teenagers, getting down alongside kippah-wearing Jerusalem youngsters, Russian immigrants, Israeli Arabs, and a fair number of middle-aged couples.
PBS first spotted Broza eight years ago, when station WTTW in Chicago approached him about a Chanukah special, but finances and other circumstances delayed production until this year,
Broza counts among his early influences his mother, Sharona Aron, one of Israel’s most popular folk singers in the 1940s and ’50s, and his British father, as well as Jimi Hendrix, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, and the British rock group, The Yardbirds.
He started his own professional career, which now includes 16 gold, platinum and multiplatinum releases, in 1977, when he celebrated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem with a “Song of Hope” (They Shall Learn to Live Together).
The theme of Jewish-Arab coexistence runs through many of Broza’s works, but he is no ideologue. “In one way or another, everyone in Israel is involved in politics, but I do not support any particular political party or doctrine,” he said.
“My grandfather, Wellsley Aron, was one of the founders of Neve Shalom, and I was part of the initial group that organized Shalom Achshav (Peace Now),” he adds. “I also support people with disabilities and anything that promotes education for tolerance.”
With all that, Broza is not a polarizing figure and said he is as welcome performing at a right-wing settlement as in left-wing Haifa.
Though Broza feels thoroughly at home in the American pop scene (and is planning a Christmas Eve concert in New York), he rejects the idea that Israel has become a kind of cultural 51st state.
“We have a tremendously rich cultural diversity in Israel, with some 120 nationalities,” he said. “For example, I have in my small group both a Moroccan and a Russian. But we haven’t amalgamated our different cultures; we are still searching for and creating our identity.”
KCET will air “David Broza at Masada” on Sunday, Dec. 2 at 9:30 p.m., Dec. 7 at 2:30 a.m., and Dec. 9 at 10:30 p.m.