There’s a question that always occupies my mind when it comes to artists, their origin and the music they create. Is it important to note the origin of an artist, or should an artist be judged only by his music? Every artist has a social and cultural function. They impact the environment surrounding them through their art.
Ester Rada is Ethiopian and I say it because beyond the fact that Esther Rada is a rare singer in the Israeli music scene, she reached a new peak in Israeli music. Rada’s music represents her origin, her biography and an entire culture. She is creating music and bringing it to new horizons.
Ester Rada – Life Happens
Ethiopian music connected with Rada’s impeccable groove and style, infused by African-American music in North America – jazz, rhythm n’ blues, funk, blues and fusion, along with African-American influence from Central America – Reggae, ska and calypso.
She takes all of these styles and puts them together back in their old homeland, their countries of origin, the Continent and its history – to Africa. She takes the music that her ancestors brought from Africa to Israel and America, connecting everything together and creating a mix of trendy, fresh and fun sounds.
Reda was born in Kiryat Arba to parents that immigrated a year earlier with her older brother to Israel. In 1994, when she was 9, her family moved to live in Netanya. As a child, she sang and participated in the “Sheba choir” led by the musician Shlomo Gronich. Later on she joined the Israeli Defense Force and served as a singer in a military band.
Rada shared in past interviews that as a child and a teenager her color was always an issue for her so she would not listen to Amharic music and asked her parents not to speak to her in that language. As she matured and felt more comfortable with herself, combined with the education given to her by her mother, she began to take pride in who and what she was. Her song in Amharic “Nanu Nay”, reached number seven in the weekly parade of “Galgalatz” (the biggest radio station in Israel) and is the first song in Amharic to reach this achievement.
Rada’s path towards her musical career included some challenges based on traditional notions of musical performance (in some Orthodox communities men do not attend concerts preformed by women). She eventually understood that god gave her a gift and that the proper way to be thankful is to keep on using that gift non-stop.
What did you sing as a child?
“A lot of music from “outside”.”
What do you mean, songs from the radio?
“What radio? We were in Kiryat Arba. We did not hear radio. I sang songs that I learned in Bnei Akiva (a religious youth movement in Israel), religious songs. Do not ask me to sing them now, but I remember that there was a lot of soul in them. I love singing religious songs of any kind. Poetry that was not meant for singing, I can’t explain it … singing from the soul is always bigger for the sake of it. There is nothing more exciting to me then singing or hearing a melody that came from this religious place. “
In March 2015 Ester Rada released a tribute to one of her biggest influences and role models, the Queen of Soul Nina Simone. The EP “I wish” features four renewed and updated versions of songs by Simon. Rada serves the creation of Simon with groove and freshness. The EP includes an impressive performance with beautiful clips with the spirit of its times, it’s actually a tribute to the TV show clips from the 60s and 70s such as Simon herself did.
Since the release of her album, which was a huge success, the main goal was to bring the experience of music to the stage. Accompanied by a band of seven musicians, Rada did a global tour, crossing continents and performing on the stages of jazz festivals, international festivals like Glastonbury and SXSW and even being the opening act for Alicia Keys!
“What’s the likelihood that an Ethiopian-born Israeli singer would have internalized old-school American soul, funk and jazz to the point where she could pass for a star in any of those styles? Ester Rada is exactly that. “— New York Music Daily
“She is amazing!” — Alicia Keys