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Emmanuel Jal

DESCRIPTION: Emmanuel Jal is a former child soldier turned internationally recognised hip-hop artist from South Sudan whose life is the subject of an award winning film.


ACTIVITY PERIOD: Early 2000's - Current



RECORD COMPANIES / LABELS (Current & Past): Sonic360

OFFICIAL WEB SITE: http://www.emmanueljal.org/


Emmanuel Jal is a South Sudanese musician and former child soldier. As well as a world recognized hip-hop artist, Jal is also a humanitarian advocate for social justice and human rights. He broadcasts his message of peace and equality through his music and through various NGOs he has founded and involved himself with.

Jal was Born from a Nuer family in the village of Tonj, Warrap State in Southern Sudan, and when he was a young child the Second Sudanese Civil War broke out. His father joined the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and when he was about seven years old his mother was killed by soldiers loyal to the government. He then decided to join the thousands of children traveling to Ethiopia who had been told that they could be educated there.
However, many of the children, Jal included, were recruited by the SPLA and taken to military training camps in the bush in Etwas disguised as a school in front of international aid agencies and UN representatives, but behind closed doors the children were training to fight. Jal spent several years fighting with the SPLA in Ethiopia, until war broke in and out, there too and the child soldiers were forced back into Sudan by the fighting and joined the SPLA's efforts to fight the government in the town of Juba.

When the fighting became unbearable Jal and some other children decided to run away. They were on the move for three months, with many dying on the way, until they reached the town of Waat, which was the headquarters of a small group that had separated themselves from the main SPLA. In Waat, Jal met Emma McCune, a British aid worker married to a senior SPLA commandant. With the help of a British aid worker, Emma McCune, Jal escaped into Kenya. But even that came with hardships as he lived for years in the slums. But Jal eventually stumbled upon hip-hop and discovered the genre harboured incredible power, both spiritual and political. While studying in Kenya. Jal started singing to ease the pain of what he had experienced. He also became very active in the community, raising money for local street children and refugees. With the encouragement of those around him like Gatkuoth Jal who has also went through the same experiece, Jal became increasingly involved in music and formed several groups.

His first single, "All We Need Is Jesus", was a hit in Kenya and received airplay in the UK.
Through his music, Jal counts on the unity of the citizens to overcome ethnic and religious division and motivate the youth in Sudan. After escaping to Kenya, he fell in love with hip hop in the way that it identified issues being faced by the neighborhood, which he was able to identify with in a unique manner. Although he lacked any music background or knowledge of its history, he felt that hip hop could provide the easiest and most effective vehicle to express his story and lobby for political change.

He went on to produce his first album, Gua, a mix of rap in Arabic, English, Swahili, Dinka and Nuer. The symbolism of unity is expressed in the title, meaning both "peace" in Nuer and "power" in Sudanese Arabic. His lyrics illustrate the desires of the Sudanese people to return to a peaceful, independent homeland. Although the only hip hop Jal had ever listened to was American, while he was in Kenya, the beat to "Gua" is not the usual American hip hop, but rather is strongly African. The title track, also called "Gua", was a number one hit in Kenya and featured on The Rough Guide to the Music of Sudan and Help: A Day in the Life, bringing together some of Britain's best known on a CD in aid of children in conflict zones (produced by War Child).
His next single, "War Child", mixes rap with soul to produce a world music vibe. He begins with telling his story through powerful lyrics; "I'm a war child / I believe I've survived for a reason / To tell my story, to touch lives." He continues the song with the narrative of his life and the pain inflicted upon him. "Written in English, Jal's second language, the new album [War-Child] may lack the poetic gymnastics of hip-hop's more fluent stars, but the plainness of the words - half-spoken, half-chanted over a mix of hip-hop and African-flavored choruses - keeps the focus on the story." His powerful words spread the message of what he has been through, and what many are still living with now.

His unique brand of hip hop, layered with African beats, has led him to be considered one of the rising stars in the world music scene. Prior to Jal, rapping in Southern Sudan was primarily in the local language of Nuer and artists used sticks and clapping hands in place of instruments.
His second album, Ceasefire, was released in September 2005 and includes a re-recording of "Gua". This album is a collaboration with the well known Sudanese Muslim musician Abd El Gadir Salim and brings together opposing sides of the conflict, and different music traditions, to a common ground of the wish for peace in Sudan. The collaboration represents a vision for the future, as two Sudanese men, a Christian and a Muslim, unify and pave the way to overcome differences peacefully. Both musicians endured unimaginable adversity to become important figures, not only in music, but in the future of a country. They accentuate the differences between them and their musical styles, as a symbol of co-existence. The album preaches in four languages, encompasses every type of music in one, in an effort to transform the sound of hope into musical form. Ceasefire is not only the sound of two men collaborating on a musical project, but more symbolically, two halves of a divided nation learning to trust each other. This album's version of "Gua" was played on the American television series ER at the very end of the Season 12 episode "There Are No Angels Here" (aired on May 4, 2006).
Among other places he performed at the Live 8 Concert in Cornwall in the summer of 2005. He was awarded a 2005 American Gospel Music Award for best international artist.

Jal's third album, Warchild, was released by Sonic360 Records in the UK on May 12, 2008. Jal, along with an all-star line-up featuring Amy Winehouse, Eddy Grant, Will Smith and others, performed songs at Nelson Mandela's 90th Birthday concert at London's Hyde Park on June 27, 2008.

Criticized for being steered into the mainstream and entering a conformist territory of hip-hop, Emmanuel says ""I'm not turning away from the world-music audience which has supported me," Jal says. "There's still an African influence in my music. I don't try to sound American. I rap like an African, because that's what I am. In the song 'Warchild,' I say I survived for a reason: to tell my story. I believe that. I feel a responsibility to do these songs and tell the world what is happening in my country."

Emmanuel Jal's newest album, See Me Mama, was released on August 7, 2012, via Jal's label, Gatwitch Records. See Me Mama was distributed by Universal Music Canada.

Source: Wikipedia


Music Video for War Child

Trailer for the award winning film 'War Child' based on the life story of Emmanuel Jal


Parent Category Page Links: Music Artists / Outfits - South Sudan

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