Former child soldier Jal uses rap to spread peace

Wed Nov 19, 2008 3:09pm EST
 
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By Edith Honan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sudanese child soldier turned global hip hop star Emmanuel Jal has both embraced rap as a way to reach a global audience and distanced himself from what he says is a tendency to glorify violence.

Jal, who fought with the Sudan People's Liberation Army for five years as a child and guesses he is 28 years old, tells his story in detail in the documentary "War Child," released on DVD this month, and in a memoir and an album of the same name.

The documentary won the Audience Choice Award at this year's Tribeca Film Festival. Jal's memoir will be published in February by St. Martin's Press.

In a recent interview with Reuters, Jal said that hip hop should be about demanding positive change.

"When somebody comes and says that they enjoy killing people, they don't know what they're talking about. The real killers, they don't talk about killing," Jal said.

Jal's "War Child" album includes both biographical songs where he confesses doing "inhuman and barbaric" things and playful songs advising women not to wear their "skirts too short" and scolding U.S. rappers for using bad language.

In the song "50 Cent" he takes the U.S. rapper to task for producing a violent video game called "Bulletproof."

For Jal, who now lives in London, music is a form of therapy that allows him to sort through feelings of guilt while serving as a role model for child victims of war.   Continued...

 
<p>Emmanuel Jal in an undated photo. Jal, who fought with the Sudan People's Liberation Army for five years as a child and guesses he is 28 years old, tells his story in detail in the documentary "War Child," released on DVD this month, and in a memoir and an album of the same name. REUTERS./Handout</p>