Israeli Mega Pop Star, David Broza

November 25, 2011, Judd

When I spoke to David Broza, he was in the midst of ‘sitting shiva’ (Jewish seven days of mourning) with his family in Tel Aviv. His father recently passed away after a long illness. But Broza, one of Israel’s most famous musicians, was considerate enough to break away from his family to talk to me.

When he’s not in the midst of an exhaustive world-tour, the Haifa-born Broza spends all his free time with his loved ones. But the trilingual songwriter knows he has an April date to play in San Diego, and the Jewish community wants to know more about this singer who has been called “The Bruce Springsteen of Israel” by some critics.

Broza is a modern-day minstrel; many of his songs are poetic metaphors open to interpretation. His mother introduced Broza to the work of artists like Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger when he was child, and the influence shows. What sets him apart, however, is his international flavor: his music effortlessly switches between Hebrew, Spanish and English.

Living in Madrid the last three years, Broza is now exposing his folk-flamenco-classical-jazz-rock to an adoring Spanish audience. He’s a superstar in Israel, although he spent his teenage years in Spain. With more than 20 albums to his name, including his English-language release, Away From Home (hailed by the New York Times as one of 1989′s best pop albums), Broza has also enjoyed a rapidly growing fan base in the U.S. He lived in the States for six years, including a stint in New York, where he devoured American poetry in Manhattan’s libraries. Recently, Broza’s biggest artistic challenge has been immersing himself in the poetry of Spain.

Fans who have seen Broza play in concert often say that he doesn’t play his guitar – he makes love to it. Sting was so impressed by his guitar playing and unique finger positioning that he asked him to open for him during a 1995 tour. But Broza never studied guitar, never learned a harmony from a melody. “I was self-taught,” he says. “I learned how to play by ear.” Released in 1978, Broza’s first album (David Broza) was inspired by Israeli poets Yehonatan Geffen, Natan Alterman and Motti Baharav. Broza says in the CD liner notes to his 2002 release, Painted Postcard, the lyrics to his debut album were “set to my own concoction of the mixed influences of music I had grown up listening to.”

For most of his recording career, Broza has studied the poets of the United States and Israel. Broza has even added the famous British Romantic poet Percy Shelley to his songwriting repertoire. He has relied on these poems to serve as lyrical paintings, set to an enchanting melody and played with an unonhodox and mesmerizing guitar style.

On Painted Postcard, one of three albums Broza released last year (and his first to contain both English and Hebrew songs), the singer relies on the words of poets such as Elizabeth Bishop to reconstruct themes that every listener can relate to, such as loss and love. An unknowing American listener wouldn’t realize that English is not Broza’s first language. Still, an Israeli who has listened to him for the past 25 years would be amazed to hear Bishop’s poem, “The Alt of Losing” sung by Broza in a raspy country- western voice accompanied by a subtle guitar twang.

Despite his success on three continents, his family remains priority number one. “I am still sacrificing – leaving my family in Israel was very hard, as was learning a new culture,” he says in perfect English. “If I am not making sacrifices, then where is the challenge’”

Like most artists, Broza’s craft is a labor of love. He says he has no hobbies. “When I’m home, I’m home,” he says. “I like just being with my family. Yes, the touring is exhausting sometimes, but I love it.”

David Broza has been called "the Bruce Springsteen of Israel" by some critics. Whatever you call him, he's a brilliant guitarist and a passionate singer.

Broza’s affiniry for peace-oriented humanitarian projects is a logical byproduct of his family history; his grandfather helped create an Israeli-Palestinian settlement in Haifa called Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, which Broza remains involved with. Broza has also aided Givat Haviva, an educational program that joins Arab and Jewish youth.

Despite the last two-plus years of heart-breaking violence, these humanitarian projects are still going strong. “The problems only harden my determination and will to make them succeed,” he says. Broza believes the media don’t report enough on the positive side of Israeli-Palestinian relations; the media focus only on violence and negativity.

Broza is proud of his Israeli heritage, though he’s a fiercely independent artist. He doesn’t want to be viewed as an Israeli ambassador. He admits being flattered when compared to Springsteen, Leonard Cohen and even U2′s Bono. But he says, “I’ve never thought of my profession as being something that would elevate me as a status symbol in society. I am just blessed to be able to support my family making music.”

Judd Handler is a freelance writer and wellness/lifestyle coach in Encinitas, California. He surfs uncrowded, fun reef breaks; plays instrumental alternate-tuning guitar; goes hiking in the backcountry; and is amazed on a daily basis by just being alive.