South Sudan may not be known as a music hub on the continent. But this song is actually a bop. This is my first time hearing of a song by a South Sudanese artist. The riveting traditional instrumentation aside, “Gatluak” is a very poignant delivery- both in terms of the message Nyaruach is conveying and the soothing melody of the song.
Nyaruach highlights the prevalent issue of men ‘ghosting’ on women after having an affair with them. In this story, she narrates how Gatluak has refused to ”pick up my phone (calls) after you got what you want’, adding ‘you are such a bastard guy, I just want to say goodbye”.
For such cowardly display, she labels him a ‘boring man with no plan’. She, however, reminisces on the good times they shared during the courting phase, and the love he expresses towards her: “how you bought me cold drinks” and they walked “around in town talking about love among ourselves”
The life of Nyaruach – and her brother, Emmanuel Jal, also a hip hop artist, hasn’t been one of comfort. Separated by the war that ravaged South Sudan, the two finally met, after years of separation in Kenya. The two released ‘Gua’ (Peace), their first collaborative effort in 2005. The song became a hit in Kenya and gave Jal his major breakthrough. Jal, a former child soldier has since become an peace activist, with his sister, working at promoting women’s right in South Sudan.
“Gatluak” is the second single off their joint album, “NAATH” which translate as ‘Human” in the Neur language. The album is described as ‘a vivacious afropop album drawn from the sounds of South Sudanese villages’. The songs made by the two is heavily steeped in Neur traditions.
Nyaruach is using her experience as a refugee and a victim of abuse during the war period to challenge minds and impact attitudes of men while empowering young women in the process; an uphill task considering South Sudan is still a fragile nation which continues to backpedal into chaos despite efforts at bringing peace to the 7 year old nation state.
If music is a means to affecting lives, entertain and educate, then “Gatluak” serves both purpose. Nyaruach is on a mission to impacting lives. She deserves great support.