Israeli music icon David Broza
Israeli music icon David Broza

David Broza bringing music, message of peace to S.F.

For the past 40 years, Israeli folk-rock singer-songwriter David Broza has been an advocate for peace, even when it proved unpopular. His hit song “Yihye Tov” (roughly translated as “Things Will Be Good”), written upon the occasion of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s first trip to the Jewish state, has become an Israeli anthem since it hit the airwaves in 1977.

Broza continues to talk about coexistence among Israelis and Palestinians at his annual sunrise concerts at Masada, where he has performed alongside musicians such as Jackson Browne. He also explored the issue on his 2014 “East Jerusalem/West Jerusalem” album and a documentary film of the same name, which recounted how Jewish and Palestinian musicians recorded that album in a small studio on the Arabic side of the city.

The Haifa-born Broza will bring his unity message, and guitar, to San Francisco on Dec. 19. Joining Broza at the Regency Ballroom performance will be Palestinian musician Ali Paris and his quartet.

“We’re just celebrating the times by getting together and playing good music,” the affable, enthusiastic Broza said in a telephone interview last month from his apartment in the Tribeca section of Manhattan.

Broza, 62, has decades of hits to choose from when he performs. Many of his songs touch on themes of love, longing and a desire for peace. The lyrics are in English, Hebrew and Spanish and range from country-tinged rock (“Chileno Boys”) to upbeat ballads (“Haifa”) to intimate confessionals (“Time of Trains”).

Broza, a founder of the dovish political organization Peace Now, was greatly influenced by the work of his grandfather, Wellesley Aron, a founder of the Zionist youth movement Habonim as well as the Israeli-Arab peace village Neve Shalom.

His music borrows heavily from the flamenco-style fingerpicking he learned in Spain after his father moved their family to Madrid for business when Broza was 12. It was the late 1960s, when the country was under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco; the Brozas stayed longer in that country than they had intended after David’s father lost his savings in a failed deal.

David eventually returned to Israel for his military service, and was inspired by its multicultural ethos.

Among the instruments that will be featured at the concert is the qanun, an Arabic stringed instrument that looks like the inside of a piano and is plucked like a guitar, played by Paris.

“It’s got a ringing tone like a dulcimer but from ancient Arab music, which really dates back way before the lute,” Broza said.

Broza has enjoyed a number of significant music collaborations during his career. The renowned American singer-songwriter Steve Earle co-produced Broza’s “East Jerusalem/West Jerusalem” album.

Texas music icon Townes Van Zandt, a country-folk songwriter, left Broza a shoebox of unreleased poems and lyrics in 1994. Broza set those texts to music to create an album titled “Night Dawn: The Unpublished Poetry of Townes Van Zandt.”

“At the time, I was living in the States and was really working the circuits: small clubs, back roads, getting to know America,” he said.

Broza first came to prominence after his performance at the Nuweiba Pop Festival in October 1978 — a mere month after the signing of the Camp David Accords. An estimated 10,000 attendees erected a Woodstock-like tent city at the small beach town of Nuweiba on the Sinai Peninsula for the occasion.

Broza, who had just turned 23 at the time, recalled playing his hit, “Bedouin Love Song,” with Bedouins from a nearby village.

With his wife, fashion designer Nili Lotan, Broza now splits his time between the United States and his home in Tel Aviv. He also tours relentlessly, performing with American, Palestinian and Israeli musicians and with children in refugee camps.

“I do believe that there will be a more stabilized life between Israel and Palestinians, and a more sober understanding of what is needed to create a more safe society,” he said, “[but] that’s a matter of time.”

Music can help, he added. “When people try to play together, they have to play in harmony.”

David Broza and Friends, 8 p.m. Dec. 19 at the Regency Ballroom, 1300 Van Ness Ave., S.F.

A version of this piece first appeared in the Jewish Journal. 

Avishay Artsy

L.A. Jewish Journal