Magazine

Ester Rada

Ester Rada

A natural artist who composes her own songs, acts and also paints, Ester Rada currently married to Gili Yalu, the singer in the Israeli reggae band - Zvuloon Dub System, was born in Kiryat Arba, in a highly religious Ethiopian Jewish family. When she was 9 years old, the family moved to Netanya, where she studied at acting school and Youth Theater. She also performed at Shva Choir that collaborated with Shlomo Gronich. She served in the IDF as a solo singer in a military troupe.

Blessed with a soaring, immensely powerful and velvety voice, Rada´s soulful compositions take funky R&B grooves and add light jazzy Ethiopian flairs (such as occasionally including a masinko player). The songs also speak to the influences she names such as Nina Simone, Erykah Badu and Billie Holiday.

When asked to describe her musical style, she said, “I don’t think I have a word to define it. It is a mix of what I heard when I was a child, Ethiopian music, Israeli, Religious Jewish and American music.”

Although Rada did not study music, her musical talents were evident at an early age, and by the time she was 6 years old, she was already in a choir. At 15 she got her first guitar and at 18 she joined the Israeli army choir. Rada notes that singing in the army was not entirely a freeing experience.

“There is an official set list in army, they’re very strict, they look at the lyrics, make sure it’s OK.” But that moment marked a crossroads, she affirms: “That’s when I decided music was what I wanted to do my whole life.”

Interestingly, for her own songs, she composes her songs in English; “For no reason. It just sounds better,” she exclaims. “I liked several singers and copied them, but when I wrote my own stuff, what came out, came out! I did not think about how it would sound, I just sing.” Also she say’s because that is what she mainly listened to over the years. Besides, she adds with a smile, “rock and roll sounds better in English.” She also sings in Hebrew and Amharic, the national language of Ethiopia.

Rada feels a strong connection to her parents, who emigrated from Ethiopia just a year before she was born. She said, “I am their dream come true,” then adds with conviction, “I have to continue to fulfill their dreams.”

At the time, she was looking forward to celebrating Passover in Israel with them and her husband, Gil Yalu, a vocalist in an Israeli reggae band. She enjoys Passover because “it celebrates freedom, something I believe in.”

Ester’s spirituality and optimism is ever-present in her music. She sings, literally, with all her soul. When Rada takes the stage, it is impossible to remove your attention. The willowy singer pours all her energy into the syllable of each song, while adding an occasional Ethio-dance shoulder shake.

“When I sing,” she said, “I feel like I’m in heaven.”

She has a special message for those attending her concerts: “Forget about the bad things that happen in your life and for one hour, let love surround you.” It’s all about sharing good things through the music, such as “love and freedom,” she declares, much like the message of the “Life Happens” title track:

Why you closing the door?
I don’t know what you’re waiting for!
Life happens!

In the beginning of 2013 Ester Rada released EP her self-written solo EP produced by Kutiman (Thru-You) and Sabbo (Soulico) named "Life Happens” with four of her songs.

Rada performed in New York where, according to one review, she created an intimate connection with the audience with her “unsurpassed energy, powerful voice and engaging storytelling.” Her sound is influenced by the esthetics of both classical and new soul.

The album was positively received by critics. The critics describe her music as "cross-cultural sound that is a deep reflection of the Israeli born Ethiopian's heritage" and "graceful composition of Ethio-Jazz, funk, soul and r&b, with mixed undertones of black grooves".

Already boasting international performances throughout Israel, Australia, U.S., Switzerland, and Germany, Ester Rada is confirmed to take on 3 major festivals in Europe for June-September 2013, dates in New York in March and here in Canada.