When Israeli singer Ester Rada performs on July 1 at the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center in West Orange, she will combine influences ranging from folk songs of her Ethiopian heritage to the jazz versatility of Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone, to the reggae beat of Bob Marley, and the lyrical compositions of Stevie Wonder.
Rada is the first performer in OSPAC’s “Roots and Ribs Festival,” a series of multi-cultural musical events planned for the summer.
She is the daughter of Ethiopian immigrants who grew up in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba. Rada began performing at the age of six as a member of a choir led by Israeli singer-songwriter Shlomo Gronich.
“But at the age of 10, I discovered MTV, and it changed my life,” she told NJ Jewish News in an e-mail interview. “Before that all I knew was religious, Israeli, and Ethiopian music.”
Rada, who now lives in Tel Aviv, has been called “Israel’s first lady of soul.”
“I believe in God,” she wrote in her e-mail. “I believe in love. I believe we are all great and we are all one. My message is to all people, to love everyone as yourself.”
Asked her views about the controversial settlements on the West Bank, including the one where she was raised, Rada wrote that “people should not fight for a piece of land. We lost too many good people.
“I don’t like politics,” she said. “I believe in music and love. I don’t believe in borders. I believe everyone should live wherever they want and [the land] belongs to everyone.”