Ester Rada has a powerful soul voice and a dramatic, eclectic style that reflects her history. Born outside Hebron in 1985, a year after her parents had arrived from Africa as part of Israel’s mass immigration of Ethiopian Jews, she grew up listening to western soul as well as Ethiopian music, and her influences include Nina Simone and Mulatu Astatké. No wonder her debut constantly changes musical direction: there’s bombastic R&B, along with slinky soul balladry and a dash of reggae. But what makes Rada’s songs distinctive is how they switch from western-influenced vocals to brassy instrumental passages that use the modal structures of Ethio-jazz. The best tracks include the gutsy reggae of Sorries and the jangling funk of Nanu Ney, but more African influences would be welcome.

ESTER RADA - Etiopia/Israel