When it all began: After a long stint in the music business as tour manager and producer for top stars including Ice T, Public Enemy, the Rolling Stones, Madonna and as tour manager for Michael Jackson in Germany and Europe, he eventually became a musician at 25. “I never thought to record, but when I started to play and people liked my music, I went on to start the Mannheim Soul Orchestra, which became the number one band in Germany in 1999. Locally music is very strong in these countries. Music is a lifestyle, and it sounds like the country. You have strong sounds in Nigeria, while in Saudi Arabia the music is melancholic because it is hot, and people therefore prefer slow music.”
How it works: Because of the huge success of the first concert, on 3 September 2005, Stahlhofen invited more big names to the new SAP Arena in Mannheim. Stars including Mousse T, Emma Landford, Sasha, Söhne Mannheims, Peter Maffay, Jim Kahror Silbermond performed for five hours in front of 10,000 fans, backed by the Mannheim Soul Orchestra. The money raised was used to build solar-powered water pumps in seven villages in Eritrea, with technical assistance from the World University Service and Your Voice Against Poverty, an initiative founded in 2001 by popular artists, scientists and ordinary people seeking to ensure that governments of the world keep the promise pledged in the Millennium Development Goals. “We gave those villagers a fair chance to work themselves out of their poverty, where they find themselves because of circumstances beyond their control. Every euro we got out of the concert was invested in this project. Now, normal life has developed in the villages. Because of the water stations, children can go to school again. They don’t have to walk for hours to the next water hole any more. People
from other parts of the country have settled there and the community is growing.”
His personal quest: To get youth in south Sudan to hand in illegal weapons and bring peace to a troubled region. “I want all young people to be given a chance in life. They should not be made to suffer from unnecessary wars, poverty and other harmful practices because with good opportunities, young people can achieve much more than we can ever imagine. And that is my prayer.” And that fits perfectly with his own name because in his Nuer ethnic dialect, his name means prayer.
His wake-up call: Yanked from a large family of 70 siblings (his father had 21 wives), Lam was forcibly recruited into the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) at the tender age of seven. “The issue of escape never arose because the commanders were ruthless with those caught trying to get away. And then again, where would a young boy go in the rough and wild battle front.” The fact that Lam today is a musician who rocks shows in London or Nairobi as easily as in Juba, the regional capital of south Sudan, is a story of extraordinary personal courage and perseverance for someone who witnessed at so young an age the worst horrors of war.
How he did it: The SPLA engaged the Sudanese government in a long running war, fighting for self determination. This culminated in a peace accord signed in Kenya in 2005 finally giving the southern Sudanese some autonomy in running their affairs.“Times were tough up to then. Here we were, barely 10 years old and we were already being trained as killing machines. The guns were heavy, the marches long and difficult, and many died in the process. By sheer determination I held on.”
When it all began: The turning point came at the battle of Kejo-Keji when the Sudanese armed forces inflicted heavy casualties on the SPLA and everybody scattered. Lam and seven of his young buddies ran away. They trekked for 27 days until they found themselves at Lokichogio, a border town between Kenya and Sudan. After a long stand off with the Kenyan security forces (the youngsters were armed with guns and grenades) they eventually understood through a translator that the Kenyans meant no harm. They wound up in a refugee camp. He was found by an uncle exiled in Kenya and sent to school. “I was studying IT at Nazarene University in Nairobi. And then the music bug bit!”
How it works: He teamed up with some Sudanese friends. “We started doing songs and moved to London. But soon I realised home is East Africa – Sudan – and I later reunited with my family in Juba where my father is a Member of Parliament. Last year, I was appointed a UN-HABITAT Messenger of Truth. And now I lead the campaign to enlighten the youth on the importance of surrendering illegal guns.” He also heads the South Sudanese Artistes Association which comprises more than 2,000 Sudanese entertainers inside and outside the country. In April he held a sold- out concert in Juba and will follow it up with another one in September. His parting shot: “Give youth a chance.”
His personal quest: To raise money so that the poor get water and sanitation. “My motivation as a Habitat Messenger of Truth is that you can change the world if you do something. I have a happy life with a family and a small cute baby. But I know many people who aren’t happy. It is very satisfying for me when through one concert you get 25,000 people to make a donation, indirectly. Fifty or 60 years from now I hope to be singing and using it to change something. It is not a big deal for me;
it is a very normal thing to do. With music you can motivate people to do something.”
His wake-up call: The huge flood in eastern Germany in 2002. He founded the nonprofit association, Menschen am Fluss e.V. (People on the River). “In Germany it is easy. You simply open a tap and you get water. In Saudi Arabia water is very precious; in Nigeria drinking water is very precious. Dad kept telling me not to play with water. When I came back to Germany I started telling people to stop playing with water, for example by not taking a shower for too long. I don’t like the idea that there are industries that make profit from selling water. Water is a human right because humans are 70 percent water, and so is the earth. My dream is that every human being in the world has free access to water.” For Rolf Stahlhofen, water is life. Born in the Bavarian countryside on 21 April, 1968, he grew up in Germany before moving to Saudi Arabia with his father, an engineer. They lived in Jeddah for three years before they moved to Nigeria for two years, Algeria for a year before returning to Europe. He developed an interest in water during these travels with his father.
How he did it: By inviting well-known international and national stars to a big benefit concert for the flood victims in Mannheim, Germany. All the money raised from the concert was given to the people of eastern Germany, mostly families who had not received assistance from the German government, to help rebuild their homes and youth clubs.