Words by SOAS Student Joshua Parfitt
As a self-professed ‘war child,’ Emmanuel Jal stands before us a broken man, but he stands – or rather leaps. Wearing only leopard-print three-quarter-lengths and a peace sign painted on his chest, he takes the stage with passion, and a message to match. Before jumping (literally) into ‘Cush’, he announces that all proceeds of the gig would go to his The Key is E enterprise, which raises funds for African entrepreneurs with a youth focus, and that all merchandise proceeds would be for the Gua Africa charity, which helps those in war-torn areas.
The compassion emanating from a man with a past so harrowing is quite moving; the slogan on his website ‘I believed I survived for a reason… the tell my story… to touch lives’ is not an overstatement. Social activism aside, Jal is a joy to behold, setting the crowd alight with the help of his pumping live band. His lyricism and vocals seem to have come a long way on new album The Key, and he is a real entertainer – pushing nearly everyone to jump and dance to hits ‘Baaki Wara’, ‘My Power’, and ‘Party’. Then comes the real highlight: he shouts “I’m gonna go crazy now” and dances with such abandonment I almost thought Bob Marley had come back to life. An enjoyable, sweaty, and positive gig, highly recommended.