Monday 8 September 2008

Emmanuel Jal

“This next artist came out of the horror of a brutal war, a brutal childhood with a clear voice calling out against violence, hatred and materialism. He's going to have a huge influence in the world way beyond his music. He's still developing and exploring his musical voice, but I think you have the opportunity to see someone with the potential of a young Bob Marley.”

- Peter Gabriel introducing Emmanuel’s performance at the Nelson Mandela 46664 Concert, London June 2008.

Musician/songwriter/rapper Emmanuel Jal has one of the most extraordinary life-stories you'll ever hear. Emmanuel Jal was born in war-torn Sudan, and while he doesn't know exactly when, he believes it was in the early 1980s. He was taken from his family home in 1987 when he was six or seven years old, and sent to fight with the rebel army in Sudan's bloody civil war. For nearly five years, he was a "child warrior," put into battle carrying an AK-47 that was taller than he was. Amazingly, he survived front line action and eventually managed to escape with 300 other "lost boys", enduring a 3 month trek on foot without any supplies to reach safety. One of only a handful to survive the journey, Emmanuel was rescued by Emma McCune, a British Aid Worker, who smuggled him to freedom in Kenya and enrolled him in school for the first time.
To help ease the pain of what he had experienced, Emmanuel started singing. In 2005, he released his first album, Gua ("peace" in his native Nuer tongue), with the title track broadcast across Africa over the BBC and becoming a number one hit in Kenya.

Emmanuel Jal has won worldwide acclaim for his unique style of hip hop with its message of peace and reconciliation born out of his experiences as a child soldier in Sudan. Throughout all this, Emmanuel has worked tirelessly with the United Nations, Amnesty International and Oxfam to campaign against the employment of child soldiers and the illegal trade of arms. Emmanuel founded a charity ‘GUA Africa’ to work with individuals, families and communities to help them overcome the effects of war and poverty. Currently GUA works in Kenya and Sudan, arranging sponsorship for children in the slums of Nairobi, putting survivors of war through school and is in the initial stages of constructing an ex-child soldier rehabilitation centre in South Sudan.

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