I recently attend a concert by the unparalleled Israeli musician, David Broza. First and foremost, any guitarist who has never heard of or heard David Broza play guitar needs to check him out ASAP. There are absolutely no words to describe his passionate and spiritual virtuosity. As with all great music, there was much to reflect on both within and beyond the music.
1. Living in Multiple Worlds. Broza shared that, while he was born in Haifa, his family quickly moved to Tel Aviv, and then, from ages 12-18, to Madrid, Spain. It was in Spain that Broza fell in love with the guitar and with Spanish/Flamenco music in particular. David Broza wouldn’t exist as he does today without this rich immersion in another country and culture at such a formative time in his life.
I was recently reading a blog post by a colleague in the world of Jewish day schools. Ken Gordon and I share a mutual appreciation for the work of Cynthia Ozick, and one work in particular: Cannibal Galaxy. In Ken’s post he shares a quote that really resonates with me:
“In reality, it was all America, the children America, the teachers America, the very walls of the chair factory [the school is housed in a converted factory] America.”
I’ve definitely taken this quote out of context but I think it speaks to what I experienced while listening to David Broza last night. Here in the States there’s a real danger in becoming so thoroughly American that we become exclusively American, without the perspective, insight, or influence of other cultures and societies. This is a much larger point, but I believe there’s profound merit in having opportunities like those that Broza did… living abroad, immersing in other languages, and other cultures. For Jews living in America, Israel is not the only place we can turn to, but it is uniquely qualified to provide this perspective with a Jewish twist.
2. The power of the individual. Broza, a guitar, a stool, a hand towel, and a bottle of water. Not even a guitar tuner. It was a good reminder that sometimes you don’t need the kitchen sink, or even a percussionist. There’s power in the individual. When we go solo and unplug we create intimacy and vulnerability.
3. Collaboration. Even as there is power in the individual Broza continually revisited the theme of collaboration. Many of his songs are set to poems that he didn’t write. Some of his most poignant stories involved long standing collaborations or isolated and unimaginable collaborations. So long as we remain open to collaboration or actively seek it out, our art, work, lives are enriched.
4. The song is never finished. In spite of my love for Led Zeppelin, the song actually doesn’t remain the same. Songs, even once recorded, are never fully realized. With each performance and each iteration they have the opportunity to take on new life and meaning. The artist changes, the listener changes, the context changes as well. Broza closed with one of his most beloved songs, Yihye Tov (“It will be okay”). He first wrote the song in 1977 in response to political developments between Egypt and Israel that promised a more peaceful Middle East. Since then, whenever current events dictate it, he and Yonatan Geffen (who wrote the lyrics) add a new verse. Music, like life, is an imperfect, unfinished, and evolving art form.