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Album Review

The stories behind this album have as many hooks as the music itself does. At approximately the age of seven (he doesn't know his exact date of birth) Emmanuel Jal was pressed into service with the Sudan People's Liberation Army. He fought with them for several years before leaving to join a rival rebel group closer to his home in the Upper Nile region. There he met and was eventually adopted by British aid worker Emma McCune, who smuggled him into Kenya with her. McCune died shortly thereafter, and Jal eventually returned to school, studying in both London and Kenya. A religious conversion led him to take up music as his vocation, and he now serves as the spokesman for the Campaign to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers. On this album he is joined by singer, composer, and oud player Abdel Gadir Salim, a venerated master of northern Sudanese music and a prominent figure on the other side of the Christian/Muslim divide that has contributed in large part to the civil strife in Sudan. Their collaboration is symbolically moving, but is also musically fascinating; Salim's songs are steeped in both the urban and folk music of his region, whereas Jal is a rapper with roots in American and British hip-hop. They don't blend their styles as much as counterpose them, switching within the same song between Salim's powerful singing and Jal's promising (but not yet fully developed) flow. Highlight tracks include the spare and funky "Nyambol," the strutting "Baai," and an elegant number entitled "Hadiya," in which the rhythm shifts subtly but completely about halfway through into a completely different pattern. It's an especially exciting moment on a generally pretty thrilling album.

Biography

Genre: World

Years Active: '80s, '90s

In a country where nationalist lyrics have been the norm and governmental repression the standard response, Abdel Gadir Salim has stood out as a charismatic, yet resolutely non-political, musician: vibrant, successful, innovative, and widely admired. Abdel Gadir was born in Dilling, in the far west of this country, but started out by writing and performing distinctly urban songs that sounded as if they belonged in Khartoum. He studied both classical European and Arabic music at the Khartoum Institute...
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Top Albums and Songs by Abdel Gadir Salim

Ceasefire, Abdel Gadir Salim
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Contemporaries