Review: Emmanuel Jal Ceasefire



Back in July, I posted about a rising international Hip Hop star named Emmanuel Jal. Originally from Sudan, Jal was a child soldier who was smuggled out of his war torn home country in a suitcase. Needless to say, this young man has been through a lot.

Now, he is getting some long deserved recognition. Already mentioned on NPR, BBC, in magazines like XLR8R and having performed at Live 8, Emmanuel Jal's debut Ceasefire is a strong entry into the Western music scene. The album, in reality, is Jal's duet with Abdel Gadir Salim, another Sudanese musician. The collaboration is supposed to represent the coming together of two Sudanese men, a Christian and a Muslim and show how they can sort out thier differences peacefully.

The music mixes the sounds of Sudan with funky bass lines (reminiscent of Kwaito) and Middle Eastern drum beats. There is also no set language, as Jal raps in English, Swahili, Arabic, Dinka and Nuer (the last two are both Sudanese dialects). But you don't have to speak any of these languages to understand the messages Jal is trying to get across.

Songs like “Elengwen” and “Gua” speak to the specific crisis that is occurring in Sudan right now. Jal begs his listeners to stop the fighting and strive for peace; that the only differences between the people fighting are beliefs. The song “Nyambol” advocates education for women. “Asabi” is Jal's own story and how he survived his difficult childhood. Interspersed between these songs are pieces of traditional music, performed by Abdel Gadir Salim. Some examples are “Lemon Bara” and “Gamearina”, two beautiful songs that incorporate the traditional sounds of Sudan, balancing the album's modern style of Hip Hop. It is interesting to hear, because it is, in a way, a musical reminder of where Emmanuel Jal got his start. You can find the translated lyrics to Ceasefire here.

While Emmanuel Jal is being hailed Africa's hot new rapper, it's sadly not likely that his tracks will get much play on Hot 97 or at H2O. The audience who he is being marketed to are intellectuals, activists and the people who are more likely to buy Kronos Quartet and Putumayo CDs than Jay-Z or Fiddy. Which is a shame really. Maybe if more mainstream rappers took Jal's lead, we'd actually have mainstream hip hop activism. Not just Kanye telling us not to buy conflict free diamonds.

You can find Ceasefire at Amazon or most local retail shops.