Emmanuel Jal & Abdel Gadir Salim
Ceasefire (Riverboat Records, 2005)
Unity between north and south in Sudan is not a foregone conclusion in these
war-torn days, when reality sees the entire country torn by the war in the
Darfur region. Even rarer, considering the current state of the world, is a
collaboration between a southern Christian (Jal) and northern Moslem (Salim).
Riverboat Records (whose MD Phil Stanton, incidentally, spent some time working
for VSO in the Sudan during the 1980s) have brought together a star from the
Moslem north –
Gadir Salim and a young rapper from the south in the shape of
Emmanuel Jal.Jal has an extraordinary history for such a young man. Orphaned at the age of
7 and drafted into the SPLA he was trained in warfare at a rebel military camp
an Ethiopia. He survived the failed ‘Operation Jungle’ attack on Khartoum in
1991 and was one of only a few survivors who successfully trekked hundreds of
kilometres to join a rival rebel group and, now aged about 12, was rescued and
adopted by an English aid worker Emma McCune, who had married the rebel
commander Riek Machar. She smuggled Emmanuel into Kenya and established a home
for him in Nairobi. Sadly, Emma was killed in a car crash in 1993 and it was
left to her friends to find funds for Jal’s education.
He discovered an aptitude for music and worked with a number of gospel groups
in Nairobi until he recorded his first single, featuring his gently laid-back
rapping style, which led to almost overnight stardom in Kenya and across East
Africa. His story is told in Emma McCune’s mother (Maggie)’s book about Emma’s
time in Africa,
Till the Sun Grows Cold, and a best-seller by Deborah Scroggins
Emma’s War which is set to become a major motion picture starring
In his raps and in his life as a whole Jal is a spokesman for a lost
generation, betrayed by the actions of their fathers and left with a war-torn & deeply divided country.
Ceasefire shares the honors equally between the lead artists and features
Salim’s group who manage to adapt their rocking Arabic sound to fit Jal’s style
with panache whilst giving Salim’s songs the same degree of potency so that the
album does flow very naturally from one artist’s songs to the other’s. Naturally
enough, the lyrical content has a lot to say about unity and brother-love and
lack of same in Jal’s short life.
The powerful instrumentation, featuring accordion, percussion, guitars & saxophone, drives the album on an uptempo, danceable groove from start to finish
and, whilst it’s hard to pull out a particular favorite from such a strong set,
Salim’s “Lemon Bara” and Jal’s “Gua”, with superb female chorus, stick their
heads above the parapet.
Riverboat have capitalized on the groundbreaking Mozambican group
Mabulu‘s successful crossover with yet another classic from east Africa.