Jacob Shacko fled his home in the Democratic Republic of Congo when he was 7 years old and learned to sing and play guitar while growing up in a Ugandan refugee settlement. As a teen, he formed a band with fellow refugees and a United Nations agency commissioned the group to write topical songs and perform for the public. He was relocated to St. Louis along with his mother and two brothers in 2016, with help from the International Institute of St. Louis.
Shacko, now 17, has seen a lot of things that one might think he’d like to forget. But he takes strength from his memories, both good and bad, and channels them into his music. He sings about love, about missing his friends back home, and, in “Prayer For Africa,” he directly evokes some of the horrors he experienced as a child.
When he plays his music with fellow refugees at the Revival School of the Arts in St. Louis, his songs’ African colors are prominent. But stripped down to acoustic guitar and voice in the St. Louis Public Radio studios, his performance is painfully raw and searing.
In this conversation with Cut & Paste, Shacko is optimistic about the future, but always in touch with the intense experiences that have made him who he is today.
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