Emmanuel Jal and Abdel Gadir Salim
Ceasefire (Riverboat, 2005)
There used to be a lot of rappers from the world music realm that were just awful but in recent years rap artists from Africa have become much better and Emmanuel Jal is one of those artists who makes me proud to be an African. Ceasefire is collaboration between Emmanuel Jal, a Christian from Southern Sudan and Abdel Gadir Salim, a Muslim from Northern Sudan. Considering the fact that until recently this collaboration would have been impossible this CD is a landmark project. Ceasefire is most definitely a well-crafted political statement and yet still manages to be a wonderful work of art.
The songs are sung in Nuer (Jal’s native language), Arabic, English and Kiswahili. Translations for the songs can be found at: http://www.worldmusic.net/home/features/emmanuel.html. I would recommend taking a look at the translations of the songs, as it will give you a much better understanding of the artists and the issues for which they advocate. You can of course enjoy this CD without being able to understand any of the words, as Jal’s voice and the music are beautiful all on their own. The mixture of the modern rap/hip-hop and the traditional music on this album is seamless.
In my opinion Jal is an artist with a bright future and a strong positive message that hopefully will get out to the people who can make a difference. Jal‘s life story is one that is very sad and far too common for children in Africa. After Jal‘s mother died he left home at the age of seven to go to what he thought was a school. He was actually recruited into the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and spent five years fighting in a brutal war before being rescued by a British aid worker, Emma McCune. He has come a long way and had to over come tremendous challenges. There are many child soldiers that cannot make the transition back into society. He has made the transition very successfully and become an advocate for children in similar situations.
Salim is a famous artist in his own right and has been known for being non-political in a region of the country where this is very unusual. Salim who is a much older and more traditional musician complements Jal so well that you would have thought that they must have known each other very well. In fact one artist was recorded in Nairobi and the other in London.
Salim has been known for being a bridge between African and Arabic music and this certainly can be seen on this CD. Salim’s oud playing is a treat to hear blended with Jal’s rapping and I was quite surprised to hear that their voices blended so well.