Culture

Rebel Warrior to Hip Hop Hero

by Lady Glock

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In war torn Sudan, children grow up fast. And by fast, I do mean learn how to shoot automatic rifles by age 11.

Some of these children have grown up and managed to escape from the brutal lives they were leading. One such case is Emmanuel Jal. A one time child soldier, Jal is now a well known and very popular rapper. And he has a lot to say.

At 25, Jal has been through and seen a lot. He fought with the rebel Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA), starved, watched his friends die from disease, being eaten by wild animals and, well, war. He was sent to Ethiopia but had to return to his home country when civil war broke out there as well. He was finally smuggled to Kenya in the suitcase of a British aid worker, Emma McCune. After McCune's death in a car accident, Jal had to find another form of expression to ease his suffering.

It was then that Jal turned to music. Jal even said in an interview:

“Music came because of an appreciation to God and the dreams I had, so when I write songs to God I can find peace”

Now, Jal is officially part of the Nairobi music scene and his first single “Gwaa” has been on the top of the Kenyan music charts for the past eight months. He raps in English, Swahili, Arabic and two Sudanese dialects (Dinka and Nuer).

Most recently, Jal performed for an awed British audeince at Live 8 Africa Calling. He questions the concept of the concert though:

Nineteen years I have been reliant on aid. How long is Africa going to depend on aid?

His album Ceasefire on which he collaborated with Abdel Gadir Salim, a Muslim Sudanese musician, is going to be released this year. Jal, who is a Christian, calls out on the album for everlasting peace in Sudan, especially since there was a peace deal signed in January.

His performance at Live 8 can be seen here. You can also pre-order Ceasefire.


  • KHOR BIEL GAI

    WOW, I CAN'T BELIEVE JAL WOULD GO THIS FAR, I HAVE A DREAM THAT JAL WILL PERFORMANCE AT THE BET. TV WHEN HE CAME TO AMERICA
    THANK