David Broza, an Israeli pop star and Wisam Murad, founder of the Palestinian contemporary music ensemble, Sabreen, will deliver unprecedented performances of a song they co-wrote, In My Heart (B’Libi–hear it), on Galey Tzahal, Israeli Army Radio and Voice of Palestine (Israeli, Palestinian to sing for peace on air). The broadcast will take place this Sunday at 10:10 AM Israel time (12:10 AM Pacific Standard Time (PST)). Click here for the Galey Tzahal audio stream. Broza will perform the song in Hebrew on Palestine radio and Murad will perform the song in Arabic on Israel radio.
Not only is it unlikely this has ever been done on radio in either country, I don’t think it’s ever been done in a concert hall in either place either (though I could be wrong about that–and please correct me if I am).
The NBC Nightly News (video link–beware…MSN Video doesn’t play well with others…I couldn’t get it to play using Firefox) featured a riveting story on the song on last night’s broadcast. MSNBC provides a text version of the story which quotes Murad on the broader implications for peace inherent in the song: "If we love the land, if we believe in history, we can create good future for us." The NBC News clip indicates there is a music video of B’Libi. If any Israeli readers visit here, please help me get a link to the video!
Galey Tzahal deserves special praise for embracing the initiative as another Israeli station was first approached to participate and declined. According to Haaretz, Galey Tzahal DJ Razi Barkai presented the station’s manager Avi Bnaya with the initiative, and Bnaya approved it. "I agreed to play the song because I believe that in the new general atmosphere that has been created, music and lyrics can connect between hearts and people, mainly young people."
In Broza’s interview to publicize the performance, he stated that:
he and the Murads were hoping that airing "In My Heart" would narrow the divide between their societies.
"If Said and I could sit when chaos, bombs and havoc were all around us and could write about love, then others can. After all the pain and anger, something sweet can come out."
Amen to that.
David Broza is an interesting figure within the Israeli music scene. Although born in Israel, he grew up in Spain and absorbed a European musical sensibilty. When he first crashed the Israeli pop scene in 1979 with the smash hit peace song, Yihye Tov, (this 1982 version is by Yasmine, an ensemble including my brother and I), he was a brash young singer who wrote songs that delivered less than they promised. Yihye Tov’s title, tone and melody derived from Paul Simon’s wonderful, An American Tune. The former was an infinitely simple, touching and slightly syrupy pop song that embraced the values of the peace movement.
He eventually moved to the U.S. and began an English language music career. Over the years, Broza’s musicianship and songwriting have matured and become more nuanced and sophisticated. He now performs and records albums in Spanish, Hebrew and English and is a musician of the world.
I’ve now completed the translation of the Hebrew lyrics (except for a single word which I’m having trouble hearing and understanding clearly on the song file). If anyone can send me the Hebrew lyrics or provide a link, I’d be grateful. Also, I do not know Arabic so if anyone can translate the Arabic lyrics for me I’d be doubly grateful:
Adam ["a man"] is a man
Time is a mere moment
[In which] he builds his world
And it blooms in his garden
In my heart
In my body
In my spirit
In my bosom
Is our land
The salt and the sea
The light and the truth
Drunk or sober
In my eyes, my tears ["emotions"]
You are my love
The more I study the lyrics in trying to translate them, the more I realize the utter simplicty and profundity of them. The style is a bit like Zelda’s (an early 20th century Israeli poet) stripped down language or perhaps like one of Leonard Cohen’s dirges or Samuel Beckett. These are stark words, full of pain, full of suffering and full of love of country. Many are calling B’Libi a "peace song." But strictly speaking this is not so. You will not see the word shalom in the Hebrew lyrics. That’s because the song is not about peace. It is about land, place, community and nation. The song posits that both peoples are rooted deeply in their native soils and traditions. It seems to say that once both sides can acknowledge this then peace will flow from this understanding. But peace cannot flower where one nation denies the rights and aspirations of the other.
Alluding to Adam in the first line provides the song with an elemental Biblical reference which also includes an allusion to the Garden of Eden and by inference, the tree of the knowledge of good & evil. What the songwriters are saying is: "this land of ours is our garden just as Eden was Adam’s. We only have it for the short time we are here. Let us treasure and share it so that others who follow us will not have to die."
If you read the lyrics you can easily imagine an Israeli settler or Hamas militant writing precisely the same words if they were to write a song. After all, what is more important to militants on both sides than land and blood? This ability to project the deepest emotions of both sides of the conflict is what makes B’Libi so powerful. It makes you realize that both peoples feel equally intensely about their respective countries and they also feel many of the same emotions. And if this is so, can reconciliation be far behind? No, the song tells us. We love the same things and in the same way. We are both human. There is yet hope for healing.
I studied at the Hebrew University in 1979-80. The campus student body was conservative and campus politics generally favored the Likud. Tzahya HaNegbi, son of arch right wing politician Geula Cohen and eventually Sharon cabinet minister in his own right, was student body president. That year, on Yom Student, the campus hosted a concert at which Broza was the featured performer. He sang one of his other hits, Bedouin Love Song. What was radical about his performance was that he performed one of the verses in Arabic. You cannot imagine what the sound of Arabic sung by an Israeli Jew on a right wing campus was like. It was electrifying (for those of us doves in the audience), but it was also slightly transgressive since we all knew how many students detested what Broza was doing. Broza was testing the limits of his audience, while broadening the discourse. A brave thing to do in a society not known for embracing ideas outside the political mainstream.
With this project to perform B’Libi on Palestine and Israel radio, Broza is again breaking new cultural and political ground. What the Mideast needs now is love sweet love, just the kind that Broza and Murad represent in their music.
In researching this post, I visited the Sabreen website, which hosted two mp3 files of their work. It is amazingly vital music and thankfully retains much of the traditional instrumentation of Arab music ensembles. Hear In the Silence of the Night.