Ester RadaIn March, WOMADelaide celebrates its 20th festival in Adelaide’s Botanic Park. Dozens of countries including Israel will be represented, showcasing talent from around the world.

Thirty year old Ester Rada from Israel will perform. Ester’s music reflects her Ethiopian heritage and Israeli upbringing and at the same time draws on American soul icons like Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin.  She sings in a mix of English, Amharic, and Hebrew.

Even with three languages to choose from, Ester will sometimes sing in gibberish. ‘It is the music I love, not so much the words.’ Ester says. ‘However, when I sing in Hebrew, I connect with my country. When I sing in Amharic, I connect with my parents, grandparents and family.’

Ester was born a year after her parents arrived in Israel as part of the mass Ethiopian immigration. She grew up listening to religious music, joined a choir at the age of 7, and discovered her passion for music. Her parents loved music and there usually was some playing at home. Often, it was traditional Ethiopian music on a masinko, a single-stringed bowed instrument.

Living in a very religious neighborhood, also meant she was exposed to the sound of traditional prayers coming from synagogues, Shabbat tables and festival gatherings.

During her teenage years, she rebelled against her Ethiopian heritage and culture going as far as to ask her mother not to speak to her in Amharic. Ester’s life at home was different from the life outside and, like many immigrant children, she was confused.

Today Ester serves as a positive role model for young Ethiopians in Israel. When she recorded “Nanu Ney,” it was the first time an Ethiopian song played widely on Israeli radio.

Ester considers herself a citizen of the world but still calls Israel home where she spends time with her family and friends when she’s not touring the world.

WOMADelaide is part of the the World Music Festival taking place around the world. With all the BDS activists against Israel, it is heartwarming to see that the WOMAD organization has not let politics affect good music. For this the Israeli and Jewish communities in Adelaide, Australia, and around the world salute and thank you.

 

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