Born in the village of Tonj in Southern Sudan, he was a little boy when the civil war broke out. Emmanuel’s father joined the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and when he was about seven years old his mother died. Emmanuel then decided to join the thousands of children travelling to Ethiopia who had been told that they could be educated there.
However, many of the children, Emmanuel included, were recruited by the SPLA and taken to military training camps in the bush in Ethiopia. The camp was disguised as a school in front of international aid agencies and UN representatives, but behind closed doors the children were training to fight. Emmanuel spent several years fighting with the SPLA in Ethiopia, until war broke out there too and the child soldiers were forced back into Sudan by the fighting and joined the SPLA’s efforts to fight the government in the town of Juba.
When the fighting became unbearable 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 headquarter on 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 then and Emma insisted he should not be a soldier. She adopted him and smuggled him to Kenya. There Emmanuel attended school in Nairobi. Sadly Emma died in a road accident a few months later, but her friends helped Emmanuel to continue his studies.
While studying in Kenya, Emmanuel started singing to ease the pain of what he has experienced. He also became very active in the community, raising money for local street children and refugees. With the encouragement of those around him, Emmanuel became increasingly involved in music and formed several groups. His first single, “All We Need Is Jesus,” was a hit in Kenya and received airplay in the UK.
He went on to produce his first album, Gua, a mix of rap in Arabic, English, Kiswahili, Dinka and Nuer. The title track, also called “Gua”, was a number one hit in Kenya and featured on The Rough Guide To The Music Of Sudan and Help: A Day In The Life, bringing together some of Britain’s best known on a CD in aid of children in conflict zones (produced by War Child).
Ceasefire, was released in September 2005 and includes a re-recording of “Gua”. This album is a collaboration with the well known Sudanese Muslim musician Abdel Gadir Salim and brings together opposing sides of the conflict, and different music traditions, to a common ground of the wish for peace in Sudan. This album’s version of Gua was played on the American television series ER at the very end of the Season 12 episode “There Are No Angels Here” (aired on May 4, 2006).
His most recent album Warchild was released in May 2008, produced by Roachie and Silvastone, with additional production by Neal Pogue (Outkast/Talib Kweli) tells his amazing story of his life as a Child Soldier and his subsequent experiences on arrival to the West.
Emmanuel is a spokesman for the Make Poverty History campaign, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers and the Control Arms campaign. Among other places he performed at the Live 8 Concert in Cornwall this summer. He was awarded a 2005 American Gospel Music Award for best international artist.
A documentary about Emmanuel Jal and his story is in the works and should be released late 2007/early 2008.
* Help: A Day In The Life - ? - War Child emmanuel jal has also foundation called Gua Africa ,read about at www.guaafricaonline.com ,listen to tracks of his latest music www.myspace.com he is the next big thing in hip pop.
* Ceasefire - 2005 - Riverboat
*Warchild - 2008 - Sonic360
Edited by EmmanuelJal on 14 Dec 2009, 15:38
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