After his storming set at Nelson Mandela’s Birthday Party bash in Hyde Park and with the release of an acclaimed new album, Emmanuel Jal is back to play Greenbelt again on the same bill as Michael Franti. Dynamite. And his story is every bit as amazing as his performances …
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.
By the time he was 13, he was a veteran of two civil wars and had seen hundreds of his fellow child soldiers reduced to taking unspeakable measures as they struggled to survive on the killing fields of Southern Sudan. After a series of harrowing events, he was rescued by a British aid worker (Emma McCune) who smuggled him into Nairobi to raise him as her own. 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), which among plenty of other things won him a place on the Live 8 stage. The Daily Express calls his music “ethical rap with a fresh sound and an important political message”.
Jal has a full-length documentary on his life and times which has been touring the film festival circuit. His autobiography has been sold to St. Martin’s Press with anticipated release of spring 2009. His new album Warchild was released on 12th May 2008 on the Sonic360 label with additional production and mix by Neal Pogue (Outkast, Talib Kweli, Pharohae Monch).
In a word: righteous