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Get to know: Emmanuel Jal

MSN Music

Who: Emmanuel Jal

From: South Sudan

Why You Should Know Him: He is a survivor.

At 8 years old, Emmanuel Jal was armed with an AK-47 and told to consider his family. For the next five years, the African hip-hop artist served as a child soldier before being rescued and smuggled into Kenya by a British aid worker.

Music, he says, came into his life by accident, and during the times he struggled the most, it became a "painkiller."

Jal's rhymes in songs like "Warchild" go deep. Here are some of the lyrics:

I lost my father in this battle
my brothers
all my life I've been hiding in the jungle
the pain I'm cutting is too much to handle
who's there please till candle
who's there anyone to hear my cry

Since leaving Sudan, Jal has become a refugee advocate and a peace warrior: He raises funds to build schools for children of war, travels around the world performing and telling his story, and when Southern Sudan voted for its independence in January 2011, he started an international campaign  "to get as many eyes into Sudan as possible. Evil will not want to perform where there is light," he explains. With a little love from Alicia Keys and Peter Gabriel, the refugee artist released the up-tempo and feel-good single "We Want Peace" (see above video) to coincide with the January referendum.

His new album, "See Me Mama," will be released this September. With this one, he says he "wanted to have fun, to dance a bit, then come back in deep." After the release, Jal says he will transform into a "modern-day nomad." He'll be touring around to 200 schools with the hope of raising $1.4 million dollars for three charities: Gua Africa, The Africa Yoga Project, and My Start. "I'll be away from my house until I get the dollars," he says.

How can you help the world's refugees? Find out on

Do 1 Thing: UNHCR

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