I first met Emmanual Jal at the 2009 United Nations Peace Keeping Concert in NYC, a Sudanese hip hop artist who as child soldier in the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and at 8 years old was given an AK-47 and forced to fight in Sudan's brutal civil war that raged from 1983 and 2005. Jal has seen everything from young soldiers his age dying to his mother being beaten, his aunt being raped and his home burnt to the ground. Enthralled by years of brutal fighting Jal was saved by British aid worker Emma McCune who took him to Kenya where he was fed, clothed, educated and given the ability to live.
In Kenya began the rebirth of Jal, there he was able to put his pain, experience, and life on paper and transform it into music. Now a successful international musician he is able to give back to his native Sudan. I truly believe he is The Greatest Rapper You Never Heard of for the simple fact that he has sacrificed his life, pride, freedom, and health, all for his native Sudan. In fact Jal has been working on raising funds for GUA Africa a school he founded in Sudan that is helping families stricken by poverty and war. It has been over a year and he has only eaten dinner, no breakfast or lunch. Jal is a true artist dedicated to not only his craft but his country. He is reminiscent of another artist who garnered worldwide fame through music, Bob Marley. Marley not only bought Reggae to the forefront but also escalated the awareness of his own native country of Jamaica. Like Bob Marley I see that same spirit in Jal, an artist that is willing to go beyond being an ordinary artist, but is trying to make significant change. Hopefully Jal can do for his country what Bob Marley did for Reggae music.
Unlike his American counterparts Jal's focus isn't on clothes, cars, houses, or jewels, his purpose and goals are much bigger than himself. That's why he is the 'Warchild' a man since the age of 13 who has witnessed the unspeakable horrors of war and had seen hundreds of others like him perish and was able to survive and flourish in his music. I remember Jal telling the audience at the UN Peacekeepers concert 'Look, I'm willing to die for this'. Because this is a message I want the world to know. Education is the only way for my country. When you don't educate the people, you're crippling them. You are, you're not giving them ways to survive,”. This message is a constant, education is the key.