Story and photo by Renard Roberts
When Angelo Thal sings and strums his guitar he is creating music that reflects joy, passion, and love. You can still hear a story of struggle in his voice, but when you look in his eyes you see freedom. The joy and love come from God’s gift of music to him. The passion comes from knowing his purpose in life. His vehicle of expression is R&B and soul music.
Angelo’s story begins in the middle of Sudan’s second civil war. The war had reached the area where his family lived and forced his parents to evacuate with their children. Angelo’s mother was pregnant at the time. As they were attempting to escape she was shot in the leg and her water broke. They made it to safety and eventually found themselves as Sudanese refugees in Phoenix.
“While in Arizona my parents just wanted to put a pencil and paper in our hand, but my family always wanted to go back to Sudan as soon as the war ended,” Angelo said.
After problems within the home, Angelo said family life began to split apart. To avoid the drama, at the age of 18 he moved out, leaving with the clothes that he owned and guitar that was given to him as a gift.
The next three months would prove to be very difficult for him as he began to face hardship after hardship. “After I left, I found myself homeless, living on top of roofs, abandoned houses, then a homeless shelter.” While at the homeless shelter, Angelo continued creating songs and perfecting his skills with the guitar. There he met his manager and mentor Conorie Richmond. They started from nothing and together generated a nice following.
Conorie said when he first listened to the music he could hear Angelo’s story and pain, but the passion and hunger as a musician overwhelmed his troubled past. “The stuff we are doing now, Angelo is in a happy place because of the work he is putting in. Right now we are just getting his name out, by putting videos of him performing with his guitar, but in the studio it is crazy how good it sounds.”
About a year ago his family went back to Sudan, but Angelo made the decision to stay behind and live in the states. As his passion for making music has grown, he also has realized that his talent as a musician can be used as a tool to open opportunities for himself and others. “Your parents will tell you what they want you to be in life. They want you to be better than them, to be safe, and live happy, but to be happy and an inspiration to people, you have to do it your way. True freedom is being able to chase after your dreams.”
Currently Angelo is working on eight songs that will be featured in an EP releasing in 2016. Conorie and Angelo also plan to book performances in the beginning of next year.