“War destroys people’s souls. Most people focus on the physical injuries but the invisible injuries can take a lifetime to heal and affects the lives of generations to come” - Emmanuel Jal
Emmanuel Jal was born in the war-torn country of Sudan. This was around the 1980’s, his birthday is unknown. He was very young when the Second Sudanese Civil War broke out. When this was happening his father had joined the Sudan’s People Liberation Army to fight for rights against the government. His mother was pregnant at the time and later on died from exhaustion when running away from soldiers. Emmanuel decided to join thousands of other children travelling to Ethiopia seeking education and opportunity. Along the way Emmanuel and other children were recruited by the SPLA and taken to military training. SPLA disguised themselves as a school when U.N. came but behind closed doors they were actually training children to fight and become soldiers. He spent many years in Ethiopia with SPLA fighting and training. Many years later the war started in Sudan. SPLA sent all the child soldiers including Emmanuel back to Sudan to fight. The war broke in and out.
Soon the fighting became unbearable so Emmanuel 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, Emmanuel met Emma McCune, a British Aid worker married to senior SPLA commandant Riek Machar. Emmanuel was only 11 years old when Emma insisted that Emmanuel should not be a soldier. At this time McCune adopted Emmanuel and smuggled him to Kenya. In Kenya he attended school in Nairobi. A few months later Emma died in a car accident but her friends Madeliene Bunting and Anna Ledgard helped Emmanuel continue to go to school. After Emma died, her husband Riek Machar didn’t agree that Emmanuel should stay with him. He forced Emmanuel to live in the slums in Kileleshwa. He stayed in Kileleshwa with other refugees while going to school at Aboretum Sixth Form College. He met many hardship while living in the slums.
Eventually Emmanuel came upon hip hop music. He found this to be incredibly powerful both spiritually and politically. While he was going to school in Kenya, Emmanuel started singing to help him ease the pain of his experiences he had. He also became an active participant in the community raising money for refugees and street children. Emmanuel Jal became more involved in music and began to form groups. He produced his first single, “All We Need Is Jesus”. This song became a hit in Kenya and received airplay in the U.K. Emmanuel lacked having a music background and knowledge of it’s history. He felt that hip hop could be an effective way to tell his story and lobby for potential change. Emmanuel Jal produced his first album. Gua, a mix of rap in Arabic, English, Swahili, Dinka and Nuer. The symbolism in unity is expressed in the title, meaning both “peace” in Nuer and “power” in Sudanese Arabic. He began telling his story through powerful lyrics. His powerful words spread the message of what he has been through and what many people are still being through now. His second album, “Ceasefire”, was released in September 2005. This album is a collaboration with a well known Sudanese Muslim musician Abd El Gadir Salim. It brings together opposing sides of the conflict and different music traditions to a common ground of the wish for peace in Sudan.
Today, Emmanuel Jal continues to record music and share his story with the world. He has started many different campaigns that promote education in Africa and support his mission for finding Peace for Sudan. Be apart of his mission and spread awareness!
“Sometimes words are not needed and the simplicity of expressing yourself through an art form is one of the best ways of communication” - Emmanuel Jal
By: Brianna Dedecker, Grade 7, CTK
Research gathered from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emmanuel_Jal