Israel’s Rising Ethiopian Music Star on Life as a ‘Black Jew in a Land of White People’ (VIDEO)
Israeli singer Ester Rada discussed her musical journey and Ethiopian roots in a recent BBC profile coinciding with the release of her new album Life Happens.
Born in Kiryat Arba, Rada said growing up as the daughter of Ethiopian immigrants was sometimes confusing as “a black Jew in a land of white people.” Her family, she said, has a “very Ethiopian mentality,” but as a child she distanced herself from it seeking to identify only as an Israeli.
“I didn’t really want to speak the language or hear the music because I was very confused. I said to my mom, ‘don’t talk to me in that language. If you want to speak to me, talk to me in Hebrew,'” she said.
As she got older, she discovered a new found appreciation for her heritage. She told the BBC, “Just when I grew up did I decide to listen to the music again and I fell in love.”
Rada’s debut album, which features songs in English and Amharic, draws inspiration from her Ethiopian roots but her musical education came from other places as well.
“When I was a child there was the religious music in the synagogue and [on] the holidays, and at home I had Ethiopian music,” she said. “And when I moved to Netanya, I discovered MTV and then I got my music from MTV.”
Rada said she doesn’t see herself as an icon. “I don’t want to take responsibility of playing a role for anybody,” she said. “I do the best I can for me and if people will get inspired by it, it will make me happy but, that’s it.”
Watch the music video for Rada’s lead single, Life Happens, below: