Cultural Life: Emmanuel Jal, musician

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The Independent Culture

Books: I am reading Marley Legend: An Illustrated Life of Bob Marley by James Henke. It is about the early years when he was trying to make a band, and includes interviews with Marley's family. I am also reading Slave: My True Story, about the Sudanese girl Mende Nazer's lost childhood after she was sold into slavery, until she managed to escape in 2000. I have been reading a few books about child soldiers. I just finished writing about my own experience, so I didn't want my book to sound similar. Somebody gave me Roddy Doyle's Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. It follows the story of a 10-year-old Irish boy and is written in a way that copies the way a boy would speak.

Music: When I want spiritual input, I listen to gospel music. For fun I listen to country music, African Lingala and reggae. At the moment I am listening to a lot of hip-hop; I want to understand what is behind this genre. On my list of artists right now are The Roots, a band from Philadelphia, Talib Kweli, a rapper from Brooklyn, and hip-hop artist Nas. I really like his remix of "Thugz Mansion".

Film: I was recently at the Cannes Film Festival performing. There was also a private screening of my documentary, Warchild. I didn't see any films while at Cannes and I didn't really like it there. I last went to see I Am Legend. The best clip is Will Smith jogging on an exercise machine. He is sweating so much that it made me wonder. He must have put so much energy into that scene to make it look so real. I recently saw a DVD, August Rush, directed by Kirsten Sheridan, about a boy who lives in an orphanage, who believes his parents are still alive, and finally meets them.

Theatre/opera: I went to see Into the Hoods – an urban fairy tale and dance show about two children lost in the hood after playing truant from school. It is set to a soundtrack of music by artists including Kanye West, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg and Basement Jaxx. Have I been to the opera? To be honest, no.

Emmanuel Jal performs at the 46664 concert honouring Nelson Mandela, in Hyde Park, London W1 ( on 27 June