Eight days of song in East Jerusalem
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Eight days of song in East Jerusalem

Peace activist and musician David Broza releases the cover title of his latest album

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

It’s a banner week for musician David Broza, as he releases the lead song of his latest album, “East Jerusalem/West Jerusalem.” Recorded with rap artist Wyclef Jean in New York, it represents the world of peace activism that’s been vital to Broza for many years.

Most of the album was actually recorded in a studio in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where Broza and his crew of fellow musicians — including Israelis, visiting Americans, and a few Palestinian musicians — joined him, making the entire album in just eight days.

As far as the lead track, it centers Broza’s attempt to bridge the two sides of the city, that continues to baffle so many.

“I’ve been hanging out in a studio in Sheikh Jarrah, in East Jerusalem, for around 14 years, and I wanted something that would reflect a special vibe,” said Broza during a recent phone interview. “I’m usually alone with my Palestinian friends, but this time I was determined to get my Israeli friends to join me.”

And they did, spending eight days and eight nights at the studio, staying at a local hotel and eating all their meals in the environs of Arab East Jerusalem.

“I told them to bring their wives and their families. I just wanted them to trust me with this, that it would be unforgettable,” said Broza. “And it was.”

In the studio with singer songwriter David Broza (Courtesy David Broza)
In the studio with singer-songwriter David Broza (photo credit: Courtesy David Broza)

The band completed the entire studio album in that eight-day span, as well as filming the experience for a documentary that is to be released in a few months.

The 14 tracks of the album were produced by Steve Earle, mostly in English with some words in Hebrew and Arabic, and primarily featuring original songs by Broza. There are also, ironically, covers of songs by Elvis Costello, Pink Floyd and Cat Stevens, despite the Israeli boycotts advocated by Costello and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters.

In fact, that’s why he included them in the album.

“It was so profound and real and so surreal at the same time,” said Broza. “What we’re conditioned to is so wrong and fearful and mistrusting. We always feel we’re at war, but there’re a lot of wonderful, positive people and great things can — and do — happen. Most people are just never exposed to that.”

As for Wyclef Jean, the two musicians met nearly a decade ago, occasionally jamming together and using each other’s work in the course of their own productions.

“I really like his thinking and writing,” said Broza. “He’s very much an impulsive musician. You can call him at 10 p.m., and by midnight you already have a song.”

That’s exactly what happened with “East Jerusalem/West Jerusalem,” which Jean completed one night and was later recorded in a New York studio with Broza — one of the few songs from the album that missed the Sheikh Jarrah treatment.

“It’s one of the most focused albums I’ve ever made,” claimed Broza. “Each song is a live performance, all recorded in one take, all live, no fixing at all.”

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