A steadily-working singer/songwriter since the late 1970s, David Broza was first offered a record deal as a teenager. He has since made his mark internationally not only as a musician but also as a philanthropist and a UNICEF goodwill ambassador. His long list of musical collaborators over the years includes Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, Wyclef Jean and Yehonatan Geffen.
David Broza is currently on tour with Trio Havana, while also working on the One Million Guitars project. I spoke with Broza about this and more.
Darren Paltrowitz: As the story goes, you were offered a record deal when you were very young but turned it down. When did music become your proper career? When “Yihye Tov” became a hit?
David Broza: I had met a great music A&R executive who worked for CBS Records in Israel. I was still serving in the military. She offered me a record deal. She said I should consider it seriously— I didn’t take the offer seriously. After I finished my three-year military service, I started performing alongside Yehonatan Geffen, Israel’s prominent poet and writer, who could be at times very controversial politically.
On Nov.19, 1977, upon the arrival of Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat to Israel, Yehonatan wrote a poem/lyric and handed it to me demanding that I set music to it. This became my first song and first hit: “Yihye Tov.” CBS Records came back to me and this time, with no questions asked, they got me to sign my first recording contract.
DP: Being over 40 years into your career as a recording artist, is there an accomplishment you are most proud of?
DB: One of the most rewarding accomplishments during my career was the making of the album and documentary film “East Jerusalem West Jerusalem.” The recording took place at a studio in East Jerusalem, which is the Palestinian-dominated side of the city. Working side by side with Israeli and Palestinian musicians and engineers, recording and spending days and nights together was amazing.
Then there were the nightly escapades to a nearby refugee camp, Shua’afat, which is not visited by Israelis at all— not even lawmakers or military. These visits lead to my being invited to embark on a series of visits with kids of the camp aged 5 to 15. I established a music workshop, which would keep them busy for up to three hours at a time. This went in for a few years and gave me a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
DP: You have recorded albums in Hebrew, Spanish and English, all of which successful commercially. Do you always write in the same language when writing lyrics?
DB: Right from the beginning of my career I decided to work with poets for lyrics. I wrote my own lyrics once in a while but mostly collaborated. When I came to the USA for the first time, I started writing music to American poetry and later in Spain to Spanish poetry.
DP: Career aside, you have been working on One Million Guitars. How far along are you with this cause?
DB: The One Million Guitars project has been in the works for 2 years. The first 1,000 guitars were distributed in the USA last February 2019. The principle of the project is to reach out to kids from underprivileged backgrounds across the country and give them a specially designed guitar— easy and fun to play, being a nylon-string Spanish Guitar, which is very unique.
The children are fourth-graders mostly and they attend special courses by 2 organizations: Little Kids Rock and Guitars In The Classroom. When they finish their second year of training they get to keep these guitars forever. We have just started the program in Israel and are already in schools around the country. My mission is to raise funds to enable production and manufacturing and ultimately distribution of one million guitars to children all over the world.
DP: When not busy with your career or non-profit work, where does your free time usually go?
DB: When at home, my free time is dictated to my wife and kids, and of course, friends.
DP: What was the last concert you attended for fun?
DB: I attended the recent and last Radiohead concert in New York. It was amazing! No words can explain how much we enjoyed it.
DP: Do you have a favorite album of 2019?
DB: My favorite 2019 album is by an Israeli singer named Rona Kenan. The album is called “Mot Ha’Tapuz” (The Death Of An Orange). The voice, the melodies and the pacing embody a rich and classic Israeli sound, along with a very contemporary approach on the arrangement side. I love it.
DP: Finally, David, any last words for the kids?
DB: My motto for the kids through One Million Guitars, and inscribed on the back of each guitar, is “I play therefore I am.”
More on David Broza can be found here.