Emmanuel Jal thinks he’s 27 years old. Like all of the “Lost Boys of Sudan” Emmanuel says his birthday is New Years day — and guesses the year was 1980.
Emmanuel’s confusion should not come as a surprise. When he only was eight years old, Emmanuel left his hometown in Southern Sudan to join an Ethiopian-sponsored militia that was fighting against the Sudanese government. For the next four years Emmanuel fought as a child soldier in South Sudan’s devastating civil war, which lasted two decades and claimed more than 2 million lives. Then, at the age of twelve Emmanuel was rescued by Emma McCune, the late human rights activist who is the subject of the book Emma’s War (which is being turned into a film.)
Like his late rescuer, Emmanuel is also the subject of a forthcoming film. When I met him in a lunch organized by the documentary’s production team, it was apparent that he is still haunted by memories of life as a child soldier. When he wakes up each morning, he instinctively checks himself for bullet wounds. In one recurring nightmare, he is surrounded by enemy soldiers, but his gun won’t fire. “When I don’t talk about it for a few weeks, the nightmares stop,” says Emmanuel.
But Emmanuel does more than just talk about his experience as a child soldier — he raps about it. Emmanuel Jal is one of the rising stars of the world music scene. Check out his YouTube page and you will see why. His unique brand of hip-hop layered with African beats is taking the world music scene by storm. His song “Child Soldier” was featured on the soundtrack to Blood Diamond. USA Today calls him “Africa’s hottest rap star.”
Emmanuel is playing a concert tomorrow night in Washington, DC at Night Club Ibiza. Proceeds will benefit a foundation he has established to build poly-technical schools in Southern Sudan, which under the UN’s watch (which includes 10,000 peacekeepers) is slowly recovering from civil war. Those in the DC area should stop by, listen, and learn. You won’t be disappointed. You can buy tickets (only $15) by following this link.