Music is a powerful entity. From the day we are born to the day we die, words and melodies speak to us in ways that make us smile, cry, and laugh. Sometimes we listen and are inspired to change the world. Here’s a look at a few artists who use words and music to move the masses.
Some people are born to change the world. Emmanuel Jal is no exception. He was born in South Sudan during a time of grave conflict and ended up in Ethiopia at the age of seven. Eventually, Jal realized he was being trained as a child soldier and taught how to hate the people of Northern Sudan. So, he escaped and was rescued by aid worker Emma McCune and smuggled into Kenya. A year later, McCune died in a car accident and Jal turned to music for therapy.
He has transformed into an artist who uses emotion, videos, and words to compile thoughts and progressive ideas into something even the most ignorant of people can understand. He truly allows people to walk in others’ shoes for a short but impactful few minutes. Currently Jal is heading the We Want Peace campaign, highlighted by one of his most well-known songs.
I’m calling on, I’m calling on the whole wide world
On the whole wide world
Come on people, would you help me?
Let’s scream and shout, let’s scream and shout, cause we want peace, cause we want peace.
If you watched any of the 2010 South African World Cup, you may remember the upbeat song “Wavin’ Flag” by K’naan.
When I get older, I will be stronger
They’ll call me freedom
Just like a waving flag.
The Somali-Canadian artist left Somalia in 1991 with his mother and brother as the civil war became too dangerous. After moving to Canada, K’naan began learning English and started rapping. In an interview with Link TV, K’naan admitted, “I don’t create my music with the purpose of doing things to effect change. I do it because I sincerely believe in what I’m saying. I don’t have a way that I coin phrases or mold them so that people can feel politically vibrant or liberated or something like that. I’m directly just trying to reach a heart, from my heart.” Though he doesn’t aim to be political, his music definitely makes people think deeply about what is happening around the world.
Voices United for Mali
It’s not always easy for musicians to speak their minds and sing about negative politics in their countries. In January, amidst conflict in their home country, 40 well-known musicians from Mali came together to record a song about peace. The song states that “the time has come for us to speak up about the crisis in Mali.” The organizer, Fatoumata Diawara, spoke to BBC about the dangers musicians currently face in Mali and why creating Voices United for Mali was so important. The song questions the purpose of war and shows that people can come together to create change even in a period of suffering and crisis.
Though this song is aimed at Mali, its message that “peace has no price” rings true for every corner of the world and surely we can all agree that “when we stand united, we have a future.”