Like most guitarists, Israeli singer and songwriter David Broza has a strong connection with his instrument.
“There’s nowhere I go without the guitar,” Broza, who’s been playing guitar since he was 12, said. “It’s a nylon string Spanish guitar and it serves me in every way an instrument can serve, in times of pain, in times of happiness, in times of boredom. In public and in private, my life is always around the guitar,” Broza said.
His fascination with the guitar is one reason why One Million Guitars, a philanthropic project he co-founded in 2019, means so much him, he said.
The project has so far distributed guitars Broza designed to lower-income students in grades 4 to 6 in 43 U.S. states and in Israel. “We give it to the classes and the kids get a two-year course, and if they stick to it, the guitar becomes theirs for life,” he said.
He hopes some of the children will develop a special relationship with the guitar. “Once you have the guitar, truthfully, you can deal with almost anything in life,” he said.
One Million Guitars came out of Broza’s work in east Jerusalem and in Palestinian refugee camps, where he gave music lessons to children.
Broza, who recently performed at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts, is a world-class guitarist who has perfected his own style, a fusion of flamenco-flavoured rhythmic and percussive techniques with some whirlwind fingerpicking.
Broza shot to stardom in Israel, with the release of “Yihye Tov” (“Things Will Get Better”), during the Arab-Israeli peace talks between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1977.
Broza, who has released some 28 albums since, never planned to become a musician. He spent some of his teen years in Spain, where he sold paintings in the Rastro, Madrid’s Sunday flea market. After his Israeli military service, he was considering becoming a graphic artist.
But, then he got an offer to play as a sideman in a show with the Israeli poet Yehonatan Geffen, and he’s never looked back.
“On that show, Yehonatan gave me a poem, so that I could write music to it. I wrote music to it, so it became my first hit, “Yihye Tov.” I wrote another song – he gave me the lyrics – and it became a hit,” Broza said.
“I had beginners’ luck writing songs that became successful, and before I knew it, there was not even a question of what I should do with my life.”
Forty-three years after the release of “Yihye Tov,” Broza is an optimist who believes peace will prevail in the Middle East. “If you ask any Israeli, whether they’re from the right or the left, we all want peace. The question is, are people willing to actually negotiate peace? Even though times seem to be dark, I always believe it’s part of the process. Like the (old bluegrass gospel) song says: the darkest hour is just before the dawn,” he said.
Broza is a peace activist who was mentored by another prominent Israeli peace activist, his grandfather Wellesley Aron, a co-founder of the Arab-Israeli peace village Neve Shalom. “He turned that place into reality, and I dare say it’s probably the most important living and working environment on the issues of co-existence and tolerance and conflict resolution in the world,” Broza said.
He has no patience with the prominent intellectuals and entertainers who boycott Israel for political reasons. “To me, it’s the most cowardly way of dealing with something. You want to deal with something, you have something to say to Israeli people and Palestinian people, go to Israel, perform, use your stage to (convey) your message,” he said.
“No one will say anything. It might cause a few boos and some will say hurrah. To boycott, is that how people resolve a situation? I think you do it by dialogue.”