By Avigayil Kadesh
He’s a singer, a cantante and a zamar. Whether in his native Israel, Madrid or New York, David Broza speaks the language – and more importantly, sings it.
“My fixation, since I was 22 years old, was to be able to identify my Israeli music and produce it in Hebrew, Spanish or English, to communicate with local audiences everywhere,” Broza says during a phone interview from New York, where he recently married his longtime girlfriend, fashion designer Nili Lotan.
It was at age 22 that Broza surprised himself, and everyone else, by becoming an overnight sensation in Israel with his first song, "Yihye Tov" (“It Will be Good”), written with Israeli poet Yonatan Geffen on the eve of the 1977 peace negotiations with Egypt.
Since then, he’s recorded 23 albums in three languages, mostly using others’ poems set to his original music.
“I’m not an ethnic musician,” the Haifa-born balladeer stresses. “I’m an average Israeli, not an immigrant of any uprooted background. But I have perfected my means of communication by having immersed myself in American and Spanish culture, and I can say whatever I want to say.”
His versatility may best be exemplified by his 2010 album, “Night Dawn: The Unpublished Poetry of Townes Van Zandt.” The Texas crooner had shared the stage with Broza in 1994, died in 1997 and bequeathed all his unpublished poetry to the Israeli. The birth of this album took 12 long years. “It’s one of my finest productions,” says Broza. “It’s an homage to Townes Van Zandt, who is considered by many as the greatest American songwriter.”
“Israel is a very cool place,” says Broza, who has always considered his primary residence to be Tel Aviv, a city he claims not to have adequate words to describe. “After everything I’ve seen, I’m a loud voice in support of what Israel has to offer. I’m also a critic, and that means I want to improve something I love and care about.”
He’s also involved in Israeli charitable organizations such as Nalaga’at Center, Israel’s unique deaf-blind theater troupe, where he’s working to create and fundraise for a circus for the deaf and blind. And since the age of seven, he says, Broza has been active in the Israel Sports Center for the Disabled in Ramat Gan, which his father helped found.
“This is my other passion. I really believe I can help, and it gives me a great thrill to find good people dedicated to improving facilities offered to the handicapped,” Broza says. “We are very innovative with that in Israel.”
Year of awakening
After recording four albums in New York, Broza was critically injured in a 1998 car crash and was told he might never play guitar again. “It was a year of awakening for me,” he says.
One year to the day of the accident, his paralyzed arm regained feeling. “I decided during my recovery to go back to Spain, where I had lived from age 12 to 18. I got a record deal there and started recording in Spanish, so my career kept moving.”
Three years and three albums later, Broza was ready to return to Israel. His children gradually joined him. Moran 31, is a Michelin chef in Tel Aviv. Ramon, 30, formerly worked for CNN and MTV and now is a production manager at Mayumana, an Israeli non-profit organization for creative education. Adam, 21, is described by his dad as “an academic and super-talented young man.”
Broza still performs across the globe with both his Spanish flamenco band and his American jazz group, the Broza Five. “I’m trying to get to places where there’s not a chance Israeli music will ever be played,” he says. “I aspire to play in all cultural centers of the world, because I’ve kind of mastered everything I meant to master. Now I’m producing music how I want, when I want.”
Taking a chance online
This summer, he released his first Israeli album in nine years, “Safa Shlishit” ("Third Language"). It was a radical departure in two ways: Its 15 cuts feature Broza’s own lyrics, not those of a poet, and it was produced entirely via the Internet site Kickstarter.
“I got a lot of flak for that as an established artist,” he admits. “I don’t think people understood that in today’s world it’s not a matter of status but of reality. You can buy a Picasso on the Internet and you also can finance an album on the Internet. You just have to accept that.” Advance sales paid for the project and then some, making “Safa Shlishit” (third language) one of the top five music projects thus far produced in this modern milieu.
“It was a major success in the sense that I am a very down-to-earth singer-songwriter and not a techie, yet I went for the highest technology to do this project and I succeeded,” says Broza, “despite the fact that it’s an album in Hebrew by an older artist, so it’s against all odds. It just shows you that you need to have a focus. I’ve had hard times, but always kept my focus. It’s like a martial art. Always remember where your strengths are and don’t go where you are weaker, or you will fall.”
Broza reveals that he will soon launch a new project, David and the Lion’s Den, which aims to bring Israeli musicians to record in East Jerusalem. “It will incorporate some of my buddies with whom I have worked for years, with songs I’ve written in English and covers of other artists’ songs,” he says. “I’m hoping it may inspire some people to do more co-productions on the artistic level.”