Ontario | South Sudan
“I believe I survived for a reason… to tell my story… to touch lives”
Emmanuel Jal was born in Southern Sudan in the early 1980s. When he was about 7, he was sent to Ethiopia to be trained to fight in the Sudanese civil war. For nearly five years, he was a child soldier, put into battle carrying an AK-47 that was taller than him. By the time he was 13, Jal was a war veteran. But, 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. Tragically, his newly-found mother died in a car accident a year later.
Jal found an outlet and salvation for his turbulent life story in music, and emerged as a remarkable and inspiring recording artist. He achieved wide acclaim for his unique style of hip hop, with its message of peace, hope, and reconciliation. He is also a passionate activist, fighting against poverty and child warfare, passionate about children’s rights issues and the plight of Africa.
In a life and career with two complementary paths, he’s released five studio albums: “Gua,” “Ceasefire,” “Warchild,” “See Me Mama,” and the most recent, “The Key” in 2014. The Key, nominated for a 2015 Juno Award for Best World Music Album, is Jal’s most ambitious and sonically adventurous music project to date. It seamlessly blends traditional African music with contemporary urban, hip hop and global pop music rhythms, while incorporating EDM, reggae/dub, soul and Afro beat elements.
He continues to work tirelessly, to speak, to advocate, to teach – and to perform around the world. A remarkable man with an incredible story is also a brilliant artist we’re honoured to welcome back to the festival.