Head of UNMISS, David Shearer (right), with legendary South Sudanese musician, Emmanuel Kembe at the SSBC studios in Juba. Photo: Moses Pasi/UNMISS
David Shearer and Emmanuel Kembe Live!’ was an unusual announcement for an unusual artistic collaboration this week, as the head of the UN Mission in South Sudan took to the country’s national television, strumming his guitar and singing along to Emmanuel Kembe’s ‘Lovers in Dangerous Times’ song.
“Since 2013, I have made songs like Turab Junub (South Sudan Soil), Na ben Beled, (We Build our Country Together), and Nin Junubin (We are South Sudanese) to promote peace in my country,” said Emmanuel Kembe, 49, explaining the motivation behind his songs.
This time, though, the legendary South Sudanese musician was performing with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, in support of a peace agreement to end nearly five years of civil war in the country.
“There are songs that everybody sings around the world in any country,” said Mr. Shearer, referring to the importance of music in bringing people together in any society, adding, “As Emmanuel’s songs are sung all over South Sudan, he can easily relay massages of peace.”
Mr. Shearer noted that as a singer of nationalism and hope, Emmanuel Kembe had brought a message of hope to the UN base in Yei, when he was invited to perform at its reopening last year.
“Music is such a wonderful vehicle to convey a message of hope,” he said, also noting that South Sudanese people had accepted Kembe’s nationalistic songs about freedom and human rights.
Sponsored by UNMISS, the Kembe Music International (KMI) band performed live on South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation (SSBC), using their full set of musical instruments.
In a two-phased event, the musician had first performed in the national broadcaster’s compound, with more than 60 secondary school students drawn from various schools around Juba. The students later watched as the head of UN Mission performed live with Emmanuel Kembe in the studio, followed by a panel discussion.
“I am very happy, and I would like to thank UNMISS for recognizing my musical contribution in the building of this nation,” said Mr. Kembe, who had been rehearsing with the head of UNMISS in his office the previous day.
Mr. Kembe also sings in support of human rights. “Stand up for some one’s rights today,” is his latest song that advocates equality, freedom, impartiality and respect for human rights in South Sudan.