Music has the power to break all existing barriers between communities. This forms the motto of Amal Jazz Band, a unique ensemble of musicians who promote peaceful coexistence and social cohesion through their performances.
“Our aim is to widen public participation in cultural activities, encourage interaction and build peace among all communities in Malakal, and of course, across South Sudan,” says Fawil John Achuil, a musician and founding band member.
Formed in December 2016, the band started as a community volunteer group of some 30 South Sudanese who loved music and wanted to bring hope to residents living in Malakal in the immediate aftermath of civil wars. Hence, their name, ‘Amal,’ a word that means ‘hope’ in Arabic.
Since then, they have gone from playing ad-hoc, acoustic sets to fully electronic instruments and released an album of peace songs called “All South Sudanese Need Peace.” Furthermore, they have collaborated with other musicians, civil society groups and even the United Nations in Malakal to spread messages on key social issues as well as the need for durable peace in the world’s newest country. “Collaboration forms the essence of peace. Therefore, we have done many events in and around Malakal that involves partnerships with other artists, groups and UN humanitarians,” reveals Mr. Achuil.
An ongoing project that members of Amal Jazz Band are involved in is teaching music to displaced children living in the Protection Site adjacent to the UN Mission in South Sudan’s (UNMISS) base in Malakal. Mr. Achuil says he believes that children born amid conflict need cultural roots, an anchor to which they can pin their identity. In his opinion, music provides that anchor since it is an undeniably strong cultural marker. “For us as a jazz band, music is everything,” he avers. “Many displaced children and young people in South Sudan have known nothing but violence and devastation. Therefore, we decided to give music lessons to displaced children and teenagers so that they begin to inculcate the strong cultural heritage that they come from,” he adds.
For band members it is also a way to ensure that emerging generations keep traditions, musical and otherwise, alive in future as well as to spread a culture of peace among youngsters. “Our first and last objective is to preserve humanity. We will not stop building peace and will continue our efforts to represent all South Sudanese. We hope that the Amal Jazz Band will endure as a symbol of a united, peaceful South Sudan,” states Mr. Achuil passionately.
21 September is annually commemorated worldwide as International Day of Peace. With a global pandemic ongoing, 2020 has been a year like no other; this Day is, therefore, doubly significant and UNMISS is proud to showcase voices advocating for durable peace in the world’s newest country.