From troubled Africa, to temporary exile in Egypt, and all the way to Tasmania; Ajak Kwai’s story is much more than just music; it’s one of inspiration and hope.
Born in a small town called Bor in the Malakal Region of the Upper Nile in South Sudan, Ajak was exiled from her home country due to civil war. After spending eight years in Cairo with no home to return to, Ajak found refuge in Australia under the Humanitarian Aid Program. As a young adult in her mid-twenties, Ajak migrated to Hobart and joined a small Southern Sudanese community before immersing herself into study including an AMES English language course and accounting studies at TAFE. During her studies, an occasion arose where class members were organising a ceremony and asked if anyone could sing. Ajak obliged, and they asked her to sing some more. The rest, as they say, is history.
Music was a natural career path for Ajak. Growing up in a musical family in South Sudan, music was central to her way of life, and intrinsic to her cultural heritage. She sang at all the village ceremonies and celebrations, later joining a local missionary choir that sang gospel music in their own Dinka style.
“Music has always been part of my life,” Ajak says.
“When I was younger I had challenges with my speech and I found music to be the tool to express myself. Growing up in Sudan as a young child we would sing traditional gospel songs.”
In addition to her Dinka tribal language, Ajak also sings in Arabic and English. The songs she sings are very close to her heart, inspired as they are by her continuing love and hopes for her homeland and through her concern and sadness for the ongoing civil war still raging in Sudan.
“I’m not a politician,” she says.
“But music can take your message places. I want people to have a taste of what Sudanese music is like and to share my culture and stories through my music.”
Ajak’s music is soulful, yet powerful, playful yet purposeful; her lyrics littered with inspiration and strong storytelling. Her performances are filled with vibrant sounds and her distinctive voice has mesmerised audiences nationally and internationally. In 2014 Ajak was awarded the African-Australia Community Female Singer of the Year.
“My storytelling through my music looks to convey peace; for us to live in harmony with one another through love,” Ajak says.
“I hope my music breaks any fear that people have in welcoming and engaging with different groups of people. The key message being that regardless of our differences, we are all capable to love and live peacefully.”
Don’t miss Ajak Kwai when she plays at the Tanks Arts Centre on Friday 22 September as part of the 2017 World Music series. Tickets through Ticketlink, phone 1300 855 835 or book online at www.ticketlink.com.au