Imagine living throughout your childhood in fear. Imagine being 7 years old and playing with a gun rather than toys. With all of this around you at such a young age, what would be your escape?
For Emmanuel Jal, it was music.
“It was music therapy,” Jal said. “It reduced my nightmares, my depression disappeared. I was very active.”
Jal escaped Sudan after nearly five years of being a child soldier and is now an international hip-hop star. He will be performing and talking about his experiences Monday, Feb. 9, at 7 p.m. in Gusman Hall.
“Emmanuel Jal is on a whole other level,” said Jared Smith, the special events chair of Hurricane Productions. “He is such an underground superstar. It’s amazing.”
The event, which Smith described as “a few bars higher than def poetry and one bar below a concert,” is cosponsored by Hurricane Productions, the Council of International Students and Organizations, African Students Union, United Black Students and Invisible Children.
Jal has performed alongside Alicia Keys, Damian Marley and Five for Fighting at events such as The Concert to End Slavery, Live 8 and Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday celebration in London. His music is also featured in the movie Blood Diamond.
Jal brings a unique and original style to hip-hop. His lyrics are very direct, almost as if he is speaking instead rapping.
“I’m telling my story through the music,” Jal said. “I’m bringing my neighborhood into the world just like other hip-hop artists do. What’s different is that I am the voice for those who can’t speak.”
Jal’s voice is now heard throughout the world and he is bringing his message to the United States, especially to universities. He is currently touring colleges, both performing and talking to students about his life and experiences. He will also be appearing on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report later this month.
“If you look at history, these [collegiate] people are the ones that have the power. If you go back to MLK, the university people were the ones that made the difference,” Jal said. “They have the free mind and can make the choices. They have the power. I’m trying to tell them, ‘Look you can make it happen.'”
Jal also practices what he preaches. He has recently begun eating only one meal a day, using the money that he saves by not eating to help build a school in Sudan.
Jal’s actions and determination are the reason Smith believes this concert is the perfect event for these organizations – this is why they think the university will embrace Jal’s message.
“This is something that I can relate to,” Smith said. “This is politics. This is music. This is history.”
If You Go
What: Emmanuel Jal Concert
Where: Gusman Hall
When: Monday, Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6:45 p.m.