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15 Aug Child Soldier Turned Musician Performs at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival

Examiner reporter gets exclusive interview


At his lowest point Emmanuel Jal had been running for months, one of the few survivors left from a group of 400 that fled to escape the unimaginable violence of the second Sudanese civil war. Food was scarce, and driven by desperation some had resorted to cannibalism. Jal, still just a child, was tempted to eat the rotting flesh of his fallen friend. Now, Emmanuel Jal is a critically acclaimed recording artist, who shared his story and a message of hope to an audience of thousands at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. “Describing my childhood, I would say it was difficult, it was hell,” says Jal. “Compared to now, this is heaven.” For Jal, music is his therapy, letting him heal by expressing his story though his lyrics. “When I get on that stage, I don't even remember I was a child soldier. I was dancing, I was performing, I was engaged.” But even now, 20 years later, the nightmares still come. “If I was to sit down and tell the story, it's painful. I will have nightmares,” said Jal. “But if I do it through music, it no longer affects me, but I can see the journey.” Jal was born into war torn Sudan, and after his mother was killed he, along with thousands of other children, was taken to Ethiopia under the presumption that he would go to school. However, as Jal says in a stirring spoken word poem, while other children learned to read and write, they were taught to fight. When the fighting became unbearable, Jal, along with 400 others, fled on a desperate mission for safety. Out of the 400 that left, only 16 survived. “I could be one of those people,” said Jal. “I almost committed suicide, I almost shot myself.”   Jal ended up in a town called Waat, where he met aid worker Emma McCune who smuggled him into Kenya and adopted him. Just when he thought he had finally found security, McCune was killed in a car accident and Jal was left to live in the slums. However, it was in these slums that Jal discovered the healing power of music. “Music is where I was able to see heaven again,” said Jal. Now, Emmanuel Jal has four albums under his belt, one produced under his own label, an tours internationally using his music as a vehicle for inspiring change. “Maybe somebody's heart can be touched,” says Jal, “and that's going to open a door for another person to be rescued.” His music is often celebratory in tone, inspiring hope and empowering the listener without an ounce of hate or anger, a true testament to the strength of his spirit.
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08 Aug Director Sarita Siegel Announces Hip Hop Documentary featuring Emmanuel Jal

On Monday August 6th, Sarita Siegel in an interview featured on "The Freestyle Life" (found at this website: announced her newest project, entitled "Outspoken". "Outspoken" is a film that documents musicians and artists whose aim is to use their art for political and social causes. Former child soldier turned hip hop artist, Emmanuel Jal,is featured in the documentary alongside Zayar Thaw (a Burmese rapper who was once imprisoned for his activism), and Te Kuptu (one of the first rap artists from New Zealand to rap in Maori).   ...

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