Former Child Soldier Turned Global Star, Emmanuel Jal, Performs in Aid of Street Child

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Last month Emmanuel Jal, former Child Soldier turned musician, actor and campaigner, brought the sounds of his vivacious, Afrobeat infused album, NAATH, to London in aid of Street Child.

From his start in life as a child soldier in the war-torn region of South Sudan in the early 1980s, Jal has come through huge personal struggles to become a successful and acclaimed recording artist and peace ambassador.

Following the death of his mother, Jal joined thousands of children travelling to Ethiopia seeking education and opportunity. Along the way however, many of the children, Jal included, were recruited and taken to military camps. They were disguised as schools, but behind closed doors the children were being trained to fight. When the fighting became unbearable Jal and some other children decided to run away. They were on the move for three months before they reached the town of Waat in the North East of the country, where Jal was rescued and smuggled to Kenya by a British aid worker. It didn’t take long for Jal to fall in love with music and start producing.

Today, Jal has released six award-nominated studio albums and has collaborated with the likes of Alicia Keys, Ed Sheeran, Ms. Lauryn Hill, and many more.

NAATH, Jal’s sixth studio album, is a stunning joint collaboration with his hugely talented sister, Nyaruach. The album draws strongly on the unique sounds of their home country; interweaving traditional folklore and love songs - alongside infectious dance tunes.

Jal said, "South Sudan is still suffering from years of war and oppression, we feel it is our cultural responsibility to bring out the music and voices from our country.”

NAATH is the ancient word for the land and language surrounding the glorious Kingdom of Kush. Carefully choosing this theme - Jal and Nyaruach's music is often at odds with the image of war and poverty that has blighted South Sudan. Instead, both artists choose to reflect upon the resilience and rich culture of their identity through their vibrant tones and messaging.

Jal was supported by seven-piece reggae band KIOKO.

Street Child is currently supporting South Sudanese refugees in Uganda.

Anna BowdenComment