- The first single from the album “Hey Mama” which was officially released last week is an Afro beats /Hip Hop tune flavoured with a catchy guitar and the sweet female vocals of what Jal describes as ‘Nilotic voices.’
- Music with a positive message, says Jal, is a powerful tool in a country like South Sudan to change the attitudes of people towards life and foster unity and purpose.
- Incidentally, Jal says his recent visit to South Sudan was surprising because he could walk the streets at night without being arrested.
The globally renowned Canadian- South Sudanese artist Emmanuel Jal, has performed on some of the biggest music stages in the world but his new album has brought him back to the traditional roots of African music.
“We are bringing the village into contemporary music,” he says, during an interview in Nairobi, where he has been working with a host of producers on his latest album.
“We are not doing really deep traditional music because you run the risk of disconnecting with the market but tapping into voices and styles that would easily be fused with contemporary rhythms,” he explains
The first single from the album “Hey Mama” which was officially released last week is an Afro beats /Hip Hop tune flavoured with a catchy guitar and the sweet female vocals of what Jal describes as ‘Nilotic voices.’
“The first time I released the single “Gua” more than a decade ago, many Kenyans thought they were hearing voices from the Kalenjin or Turkana or Maasai communities,” says Jal.
“These communities with a common language heritage have a similar cultural expression so that is the connection you can make when you hear these voices.” Jal has just completed his latest album called “Shangah” most of which has been recorded in Kenya with producers Jesse Bikundu and Chris Adwar. “The challenge is getting the right sounds but Adwar is a genius because he got me all the best rhythms during production,” he says.
The single “Hey Mama” features Check B a young activist from Juba, South Sudan who was wounded during the civil war and now uses the arts to promote a positive future for young people.
Through the song the artistes imagine what South Sudan would be like without the threat of conflict: “You walk the streets no one stops, you stay in your home, enjoying love, kindness, we forgive each other and build the country.”
The song’s lyrics say: “South Sudan is my mother, tribalism has no place, languages don’t discriminate, we are all equal, no war, love is our cure.”
Music with a positive message, says Jal, is a powerful tool in a country like South Sudan to change the attitudes of people towards life and foster unity and purpose.
Incidentally, Jal says his recent visit to South Sudan was surprising because he could walk the streets at night without being arrested.
“Even the police who have been retrained are now respecting the citizens.”
Jal also says the pandemic which grounded artistes around the world provided lessons for people in the industry to open their eyes to alternative revenue streams and to embrace collaboration.
Besides working with Kenyan producers, he has also partnered with Kenyan label Godana Records which is associated with popular electronic dance music DJ Suraj, to release the album “Shangah” here in Kenya.
“What we are trying to do right now is to give the producers and writers that we work with the right credit so that they too benefit from the proceeds of the music, whenever it is used, in films or other soundtracks,” he says.
According to Jal: “If an artist wants to make money, then they have to learn about financial literacy because it is not about what you will get but what you are doing with what you have.”
He says African governments must invest in the music business because talented artists provide the best marketing for their countries.
“The Canadian government supports my art because all the money I earn during my tours and music sales, goes right back to Canada,” says Jal. “Nigerian artistes get paid lots of dollars whenever they perform in Nairobi or Juba, and that money goes into the Nigerian economy.”
Jal has also partnered with Twin for Peace, a show company that is supporting the shooting of three music videos from the new album, the first of which was shot in Lamu, while the others will be shot in Juba and London.
The French company has chosen Jal as the first artist to work as part of a new venture to support the arts while also contributing proceeds from the sales of their shoe brand to Gua Africa, a charity founded by the artist, which has funded the education of more than 2,000 children in South Sudan.
These days you are most likely to spot Emmanuel Jal wearing an outfit that is made simply from a bedsheet. “They used to wear bedsheets in South Sudan but now everyone wants to wear designer clothes but that is just giving the people at home more stress,” he says.