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A 2-for-1 That's Won Hearts Worldwide

February 15, 2007 By:
Dr. Marsha Bryan Edelman, JE Feature
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Chava Alberstein

When Chava Alberstein and David Broza share the stage of Verizon Hall on Thursday night, March 1, their partnership will be a first for the Philadelphia area, which has hosted both artists individually in the past.

This special double feature will allow audiences to see how much the two have in common, as well as the unique talents that make each of them a star in his or her own right.

The Kimmel Center is billing the program as a "World Pop Mix" -- an apt description for a twosome who have traveled the world and regularly perform in a variety of languages. The concert, which will feature each artist separately as well as combined at the conclusion for a joint appearance, will include music in Hebrew, Spanish, Yiddish and English.

Alberstein's first public performance featured songs in French, Spanish and English, but the Polish-born singer started life as a Yiddish speaker, and has continuously interspersed recordings in her mameloshen with her work in Hebrew.

Her first several (36!) albums featured traditional Yiddish folk songs and Israeli favorites, but she found her voice as a composer in 1989, and has lent her talents to new music in both languages. Alberstein's credentials as a preservationist for the Yiddish language were reinforced with the success of her 1998 collection, "The Well" (produced in collaboration with the Klezmatics), "Yiddish Songs" (1999) and "Foreign Letters" (2001), and last year's "Lemale," the first of her Yiddish albums to be released in Israel, won rave reviews.

So did "End of the Holiday" (2003), a Hebrew-language collection (with lyrics by her husband, Nadav Levitan) that focuses on internal problems facing Israel in the face of changing political and social realities.

After a career of more than 40 years, Alberstein's résumé includes a long list of superlatives. She's been called "the most important female musician in Israel's history" by Yediot Acharonot, and was hailed as "an icon of Hebrew folk music" with a "constantly evolving artistic persona" by Tel Aviv University, which awarded her an honorary doctoral degree in 2005.

In combination with her high musical standards and social consciousness, Alberstein's name is mentioned in the same breath with such other figures as Joan Baez and Leonard Cohen, but with a much more sumptuous voice.

Reviewers describing David Broza's performances also invoke images of Leonard Cohen -- and Bruce Springsteen. The eclectic mix in his music, described as "urban folk-rock," seems natural for someone born in Israel, raised in England and Spain, and who lived and performed in the United States for a decade before returning to Israel six years ago.

Broza planned a career in graphic design, and rejected an early offer of a recording contract, but played his guitar in local cafes to earn extra money. A tape he made to promote his live performances "fell into the wrong hands," and he modestly explains that "somehow, one of the songs became a No. 1 hit in Israel."

He was a star at 21, and a superstar at 27, but at the height of his Israeli popularity, Broza took his flamenco-influenced guitar, his folk-rock melodies, his smart and sensitive poetry, and his gravelly but clear voice, and headed West.

Broza's 1989 American debut album, "Away From Home," was praised by The New York Times as one of the best pop albums of the year, and his 1994 "Time of Trains" earned him renown all over the world, but Broza's heart remained in the East.

Among successive recordings in English and Spanish, he continued to release albums in Hebrew, and his performances benefited from a kind of "worldliness."

Alberstein and Broza have strong followings in America, but remain favorites at home in Israel, too. Despite having lived abroad for most of the prior decade, Broza's 2002 Hebrew-language collection, "All or Nothing," went gold within a week (as did its Spanish-language edition). His humorously titled 2004 double album, "The Best of David Broza (So Far)," hinted that more was to come.

Alberstein's audiences have been more than ready for a long time. The busy singer has been concertizing and recording extensively, but had not given live performances in Israel for the past seven years until last month.

The announcement that she would return to stages across Israel was greeted with a ticket-buying frenzy: Seats for all 16 concerts were sold out quickly.

The group PhillyIsraelim, which is co-presenting the event, is counting on the duo's special appeal to the roughly 30,000 Israelis who make their home in the Delaware Valley.

Tickets for the March 1 concert -- with the Jewish Exponent as a sponsor -- are available at: www.PhillyIsraelim.com or www.kimmelcenter. org.

Dr. Marsha Bryan Edelman is a professor of music at Gratz College.

 

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