Glamorous and exotic, Ester Rada was born in Israel of Ethiopian heritage. She spent her mandatory army service singing in a military band, then forged an amazing hybrid out of Afropop and the contemporary music happening in Tel Aviv’s ultra-hip clubs. What emerged was a soul singer influenced as much by Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin as by Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill. Ester released her debut EP in 2013 and became an overnight sensation, soon gaining wide acclaim on a tour of North America and Europe – including a celebrated appearance at England’s renowned Glastonbury Festival and the opportunity to open for Alicia Keys in Israel. Often called a retro-soul singer in the manner of Janelle Monae, the velvet-voiced Ester combines torch jazz, funk, and even reggae with enough touches of so-called “Ethio-jazz” to give her a unique and compelling sound.
Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.