Forty years ago, during the peace talks between Anwar Sadat and Menahem Begin, David Broza wrote the song that would become one of his best-known hits, “Yihye Tov” (Things Will Be Better). He’s still hopeful.
On the night before Christmas, he and his band will present the annual “Not Exactly Christmas Eve” concert, featuring eclectic offerings of rock and folk music with flamenco touches and poetic lyrics.
This is Broza’s 23rd performance here on Christmas Eve. This night of joyous celebration originated in sadness, and then coincidence: On Nov. 4, 1995, the Israeli singer-songwriter was booked to play at Town Hall. That was the night that Rabin was assassinated. Instead of a concert, there was a vigil at the theater. Then, in order to honor those who bought tickets, a concert appearance was quickly rescheduled on the only date still open on the calendar, Dec. 24. After several years at Town Hall, the show moved to the 92nd Street Y.
This year, he’s dedicating the show to the younger Israeli “incredible musicians” he has been meeting and playing with in New York for the last several years. Broza has asked a young musician friend, Ali Paris, who plays an Arabic instrument called the qanun, to play. He first met Paris — “this brilliant young Palestinian musician with the sweetest voice and amazing musicality” — through musician friends in New York. Paris, who grew up in Ramallah and now lives in Los Angeles, is coming here especially for this show.
Also joining Broza for the first time is Tali Rubinstein, “one of the greatest Israeli masters of the recorder.” His regulars include Jonathan Levy, his musical director, on guitar, Yuval Lion on drums, Shaul Eshet on keyboard and Uri Kleinman on bass.
Broza invites additional guests — both not-yet-known and established musicians — to join him onstage (he hasn’t announced them yet). Sometimes the appearances are spontaneous; one year he invited a juggler he met earlier in the day in the street to perform.
“On the entertainment side, we play music. We don’t run the world. We change our world.”
Broza will be playing some new arrangements of his most well-known hit songs, and he’ll also play, for the first time, “The Golden Ring,” a song to be released on radio on Dec. 24. It’s the first song on his still-untitled new album due out next year. The ring is a wedding ring, and he sings of committing to love, putting aside differences and the paradoxes that may be involved.
About whether the performance is influenced by recent news about Jerusalem, he says, “I’m an entertainer. Being a musician in Israel and having exposed my work in east Jerusalem with Palestinian kids and musicians, I’m very concerned and very involved. That’s personal, a private citizen’s mission. On the entertainment side, we play music. We don’t run the world. We change our world.”
“You’ll see it onstage, with the Israeli musicians and my good friend Ali Paris. How can you not be hopeful?”
Yet the outside world lurks after the stage lights go down. “We don’t forget that outside, things are hard. We have to deal with what is going on in the world.”
Back in Israel, he continues to organize gatherings and jam sessions of musicians of all backgrounds. He’s also committed to improving the well-being of the handicapped and plays for many causes, including an upcoming fundraiser in Los Angeles to support doctors in Israel who are treating Syrian children in northern border towns.
“If you want to make a change, make change — stop thinking that you can sit around and talk about change. So many things have to be approached and addressed.”