Gordon Koang, a blind Nuer musician from what is now South Sudan, made 10 albums back home and became a local celebrity in Juba before going into exile in Australia in 2013. Leaving wives and families behind, Koang and his percussionist/accompanist cousin, Paul Biel, set about establishing a career in Melbourne and sending funds to relatives back home. Quite a story, but the best part is their music is a rare and marvelous shot of South Sudanese folk pop. Koang plays the thom, an East African harp not unlike the Ethiopian krar. He sings in a reedy, tuneful tenor and writes very catchy songs.
Koang’s 11th album, Unity, drops on Aug. 15. His single/video “South Sudan” has just gone public. Have a look, and be assured that we’ll be watching this remarkable artist who, along with Biel, recently became a legal resident in exile, and now proudly calls himself “Australian.”
Photos by Duncan Wright.