A former child soldier from Southern Sudan, Emmanuel Jal, was separated from his family under dramatic circumstances at a very young age. This peace ambassador, actor and Juno Award nominated musician has now joined forces with his talented sister Nyaruach to record a vivacious album NAATH. Emmanuel has released five award-nominated albums, co-starred with Reese Witherspoon in the motion picture The Good Lie, performed at Live 8, Nelson Mandela’s 90th Birthday Concert and the One Concert for his Holiness the Dalai Lama. He is one of the spokesmen for the Make Poverty History campaign; he was awarded the Desmond Tutu Reconciliation Award 2017, The Dresden Peace Prize; he was asked to give a talk at TED Global, to be a Young Global Leader for the World Economic Forum, and he also performed at the G20 summit. Emmanuel and his sister are coming to please Pohoda 2019 festival-goers with their music full of energy in less than 100 days.
Emmanuel Jal and his sister were separated from their family at a very young age. While Emmanuel became a child soldier, Nyaruach witnessed her family members killed and was raped. Emmanuel managed to run away and got adopted by an aid worker, but after she died, he lived in the slums in Nairobi, Kenya. Later, he became a successful artist and peace activist. His first song “All We Need Is Jesus” became a hit in Kenya and also got airplay on radios across the UK. He occasionally played with his sister starting in 2005. Together, they recorded his breakthrough hit “Gua” which became number one in Kenya. The eponymous album is a mix of rap in Arabic, English, Swahili and several East African tribal languages. He took a more global approach on his next song “War Child” through which he describes his story to people all around the world.
He collaborated on his second album, Ceasefire, with the well-known Sudanese Muslim musician Abd El Gadir Salim. The album brings together different music traditions, cultural as well as religious approaches to a common ground of the wish for peace in Sudan. In 2008, he released album Warchild, whose fitting title was used for his autobiographical book and film soon after. In 2012, he released album See Me Mama, which helped him promote and finance his We Want Peace campaign. At the eponymous peace concert, he performed together with his sister (apart from Emmanuel, the campaign was or is supported by the likes of George Clooney, Alicia Keys, Richard Branson, Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter or Kofi Annan). Emmanuel and Nyaruach’s latest album NAATH is influenced by Afrobeat and the unique Sudanese musicality. Positive vibes of their music are in a stark contrast to the image of war and poverty that destroyed South Sudan. Instead, they choose to reflect upon the resilience and rich culture of their identity through their vibrant tones. The album interweaves traditional folklore and love songs with dance tunes. (‘NAATH’ is the ancient word for the Kingdom of Kush, Nubia). Last summer, they released a video to the song from this album titled “Ti-Chuong”.
As a zealous hip hop artist, Emmanuel has also been a critic of the genre in its homeland, the United States. Many American rappers exploit themes of gangster culture, drugs, sexual violence and greed which sets a very bad example for youngsters. According to the Washington Post, “The Roots and Jal set the hip-hop bar higher”. Thanks to his charity Gua Africa, many South Sudanese refugees have become doctors, lawyers and teachers. He is also the founder of the Lose to Win challenge whose aim is to motivate the lucky ones to lose something in order to help the less fortunate. He as a creator ate only one meal a day for almost two years to raise money for the Academy in South Sudan named after his adoptive mum Emma McCune. Nyaruach has become a vital spokesperson for women’s rights and education in the region and also joined the campaign to help her brother build a school in South Sudan. Emmanuel and Nyaruach will bring not only great music to Pohoda 2019.