Next week on March 11, we will be introducing folks in NYC to a major new talent from Israel named Ester Rada. In the meantime, we got some interesting bits on the unique artist in the interview below. Read up!
Giant Step: Your heritage is that of a very unique Ethiopian-Jewish people. How does this background and being raised in an Orthodox tradition affect who you are today?
Ester Rada: I was born in Israel, and my family raised me in a religious house and tradition, as this was what they were used to from Ethiopia. When my parents moved to Israel they were “put” in Kiryat Arba, a very religious city. We moved from there when I was 10 years old, due to the security issues there.
GS: Coming up in one of the rougher neighborhoods in Tel Aviv, what it was like growing up?
ER: I was actually growing up near Tel Aviv, in Netanya, and it was a big change for me. Coming from a more religious village, you can call it the country side, to a bigger city, was a big move for me. I also became secular and not as religious as we used to be. But this change was blessing, and I started to know what freedom is like. In the neighborhood I had good friends.
GS: Your sound evokes qualities similar to Erykah, Jill Scott, Janelle Monae. Are these intentional influences? Who would you say are your influences?
ER: I am influenced by a lot of artists. Of course the ones you named, and also religious Jewish music from my early days, as well as Ethiopian and Amharic music such as Mahmoud Ahmed, Mulat Astatke, Muluken Melesse, Israeli music, jazz and soul legends such as Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Marlena Shaw, and contemporary music such as Corrine Bailey Rae, Nneka, Keziah Jones, India Arie and more.
GS: How did you discover western music? Was there something in particular that drew you to it?
ER: I got to know western music in Netanya, when I moved there. Everybody in my neighborhood used to listen to rap and hip hop, and pop music. I got to know it from my older brother when he used to listen to all the classics: 2Pac, Snoop, Stevie Wonder, etc.
GS: How does it feel to be performing in the states for the first time? Especially knowing Giant Step’s history of breaking epic acts like Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, and Janelle Monae.
ER: It feels amazing! I am very excited to come and perform there for the first time, and very happy Giant Step is involved. Even though I am coming only with my acoustic version (me and a guitar), I’m sure people will get the idea and bring me next time with my full band, which includes guitar, bass, keys, drums and a full brass section with sax, trumpet and trombone.
GS: We know that you’re an actress – how does that play into your live show, if at all? What can folks expect when watching you perform?
ER: When I’m on stage I never act. This is the real me you see. When you watch a series or a movie I play in, then you can see me act. On stage I let the mask off, and you get the real deal!
GS: What more can we look forward to as far as Ester Rada music goes? When’s it coming?
ER: I am working on finishing my debut album, and I hope it will be finished this spring. Working hard to make it happen! Have some interesting collabs with some really great producers and composers.
Ester Rada’s Exclusive US Debut
Monday, March 11
Tickets: $10 (advance)
167 Orchard St
New York, NY