Ester Rada Releases “Nanu Ney,” the First Amharic Song on Israeli Pop Radio
On October 19, 2014, Ester Rada, an Ethiopian-Israeli actress and singer-songwriter, released “Nanu Ney.” The song was a major success and became the first Amharic song played on Israeli pop radio. (Traditional Amharic songs were played on Amharic stations, whose audience was mostly older Ethiopian-Israelis.)
Ester Rada was born in Kiryat Arba, Israel, on March 7, 1985. Her parents were from a small village near Gondar in Ethiopia and immigrated to Israel during Operation Moses in 1984. Rada’s parents divorced when she was three years old, and she rarely saw her father afterwards. Growing up in Kiryat Arba, a very religious settlement outside of Hebron, Rada was exposed only to religious music and the traditional Ethiopian music her mother listened to at home. When Rada was eleven, her family moved to Netanya, a much more secular city. There, her older brother introduced her to African-American musicians, including Lauryn Hill, Nina Simone, and Stevie Wonder, and bought Rada her first guitar.
For her mandatory military service, Rada served as a singer in the Israel Defense Forces Command Troupe. During this time, she was encouraged to try out for her first acting role in Halahaka (The Troup), a musical about an IDF singing troupe. Despite not having gone to acting school, Rada went on to appear in many Israeli movies and television shows. Her first role was as Adisa in the television show Deus, in 2008. Over the next decade she appeared in television shows including Special Ops (2012) and The Ambassador’s Wife (2016), as well as the movies Kirot [The Assassin Next Door] (2009) and The Kindergarten Teacher (2014).
In addition to her career in acting, Rada is an accomplished Ethio-jazz and soul singer-songwriter. In 2012 she performed her own music for the first time at the InDNegev Music Festival. She released her debut EP, Life Happens, in 2013. The following year, on October 19, 2014, Rada released the song “Nanu Ney” in Amharic. It became the first Amharic song played on Israeli pop radio.
Rada has performed at locations around the world, including Glastonbury, Small World Music Festival, and Lotus Fest. She was nominated for an MTV Europe music award for Best Israeli Act. She lives in Jaffa with her husband, Gili Yalo, and their child.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Ester Rada Releases “Nanu Ney,” the First Amharic Song on Israeli Pop Radio." (Viewed on March 24, 2023) <https://jwa.org/thisweek/oct/19/2014/ester-rada-releases-nanu-ney-first-amharic-song-israeli-pop-radio>.