Israeli folk singer/guitarist superstar David Broza takes the stage this weekend, drawing a fresh setlist from the 28 albums under his belt.
When David Broza takes the stage on May 25 to kick off the 2013 Bryn Mawr Twilight Concerts series, those in attendance are sure to hear new material. It’s not that he is touring in support of a recently released album (although he does have a new single, “Dreaming” (“Holem”); it’s just that, with 28 albums to his credit since beginning his career in the 1970s, only Deadhead-level Broza fans will be familiar with every song he will be performing.
The comparison is an apt one: Like the Grateful Dead used to do, Broza changes his set list with each show, so no two performances are ever the same. When asked what people can expect as they take their seats at the Gazebo, Broza says simply, “I will be taking people on a journey through my career.”
His career began with the song that catapulted him into instant celebrity, “Yihye Tov” (“It Will Be Good”). The song, written with the poet Yonatan Geffen in response to the 1977 peace negotiations with Egypt, was immediately adopted as the unofficial anthem of the Israeli peace movement. Broza has been one of the most critically and commercially successful musicians in Israel ever since — his 1983 album, Haisha She’iti, is still the biggest-selling album in Israeli history. He has also found success in Spain and the United States — two other countries where he has lived for extended periods of time. His accolades include a Spanish Oscar nomination for Best Original Music Score for the 2006 film, Candida, and inclusion on The New York Times Best Pop Albums of 1989 list for his English-language debut, Away from Home.
Despite its taking place over Memorial Day weekend, Twilight Series mahoff David Broida predicts that the concert will be one of, if not the, best-attended shows in the series’ seven-year history. “I never worry about holiday weekends,” Broida says. Besides, he didn’t have much choice. “I’ve been trying to get David Broza to play for the last 10 to 15 years — he was always unavailable. So, if he’s in the Northeast, then I work with the dates available for him.”
While it was a challenge for Broida to nail down Broza’s availability, he had an easier time with the opening act, Main Line Reform Temple Rabbi Ethan Franzel. The Parsippany, N.J., native’s father was a rabbi and a cantor, so his youth was spent immersed in Jewish music. “Today, I get to incorporate music into my work — songs, prayers and chants,” Franzel says. “In addition, I have my own, secular music that I write and perform.”
True to his self-described singer-songwriter style, Franzel has written all new songs for his set with his fellow performer, Ross M. Levy. “It didn’t feel right to do the liturgical stuff; this is a concert,” he explains. “That left only one option: the secular music I create.”
Broza, who creates his songs by marrying his music to lyrics drawn from poets like Byron, Shelley, Whitman and Federico García Lorca, is probably most familiar to American audiences through his live performances. His annual sunrise concerts at Masada have been must-sees since 1993, with one chronicled in the hourlong video, “David Broza: Sunrise at Masada.” It showcases his 2007 concert, which features him playing with guests like Jackson Browne and Shawn Colvin in the fortress’s 1,500 seat amphitheater, and has been a staple on PBS stations in recent years. His annual Dec. 24th concert at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, “The David Broza Not Exactly Christmas Show,” has sold out the past 18 years.
Broza is well aware that he is renowned for his stagecraft and Spanish-influenced virtuosity with the guitar, which he frequently highlights by performing solo, as he will be doing in Bryn Mawr. He matter-of-factly states, “There is nobody I know of who can take the stage like this — maybe four or five people. I take the stage like no one else, one man and a guitar, and I do that as well as I possibly can.”
To watch his joyful intensity onstage, using his guitar in styles that range from flamenco to folk, Middle Eastern to Southwestern, effortlessly alternating between songs in Hebrew, Spanish and English, is to understand that Broza is getting as much out of the experience as his audience. He refers to the concert experience, which he has 150 to 200 times a year around the world, as “my little potion of ecstasy.” Playing in front of and feeding off of the crowd, he says, “drives the endorphins and adrenalin in my body and revitalizes every element of my soul.”
Broza dedicates his offstage life to reaching people as well. He and his sister, Talia, are both heavily involved with the Israel Sports Center for the Disabled in Ramat Gan. The center, which was founded by Broza’s father, the British-born Arthur Broza, focuses on physical and social rehabilitation for children with neuromuscular issues. He is quick to say that his sister does most of the heavy lifting. “She is the pragmatic one,” he emphasizes. “She takes on issues, and she makes sure the donations keep coming in.”
Broza has worked at the center since he was 7 years old, and continues to be a prodigious fundraiser for it, as well as for the Nalaga’at Center, the Tel Aviv nonprofit organization that supports deaf and blind people through projects like the center’s theater troupe, made up entirely of deaf, blind and deaf/blind actors, and by employing them in the center’s “dining in the dark” restaurant, Pitch Black. And then there is his involvement in Peace Now, which he helped found, and in Neve Shalom, the joint Jewish/Arab “oasis of peace” co-founded by his grandfather, Wellesley Aron, an influential figure in Palestine and the establishment of Israel.
Between the concerts and attendant personal appearances, and his substantial commitments to these organizations, it is a fair question to wonder how Broza makes time for it all. “I don’t play golf, let’s put it that way,” he responds half jokingly — only half, because his next sentence is, “Although golf would improve my networking.”
Broza’s giving nature will be on display in Bryn Mawr when, in lieu of a round at Merion, he will instead be the guest of honor at a post-concert reception at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute. According to Sharona Durry, the head of the Mid-Atlantic chapter of Bnai Zion, which is organizing the event, proceeds from the reception will go toward the nonprofit group’s Ahava Village, a safe place for children in high-risk home situations which is located in Kiryat Bialik. Broza, who is known for never saying no to a good cause if he can help it, had even more incentive to lend his support to the event: Ahava Village is located right next to his birthplace of Haifa.
May 25 at 7 p.m.
The Bryn Mawr Gazebo
9 S. Bryn Mawr Ave., Bryn Mawr