Santino Majok was born in 1977 in the village of Aweil, Sudan. Aweil is the capital of Bhar el Ghazal, a state on the northern fringes of what has become known as South Sudan. He was born into a Dinka tribe. His father named him Mou Atak Mou, according to the tradition of his Dinka tribe. Mou is the youngest of his father’s 22 children. His father had 4 wives. This is the cultural norm for the Dinka.
As a child, Mou loved his life. His father found him quite charming and never laid a hand on his beloved child. As he lay dying, his father told the family to always be kind to Mou, for he would someday make them proud and come to their aid.
In 1983, southern Sudan was attacked by fellow countrymen from the northern regions of Sudan. Mou was just 8 when his mother was killed as she was riding the train to the capital city of Khartoum in hopes of finding a safe place for her family. This loss marked the beginning of countless hardships he would have to endure.
In 1987, Mou’s village was attacked. Mou chose to run away with most of the other boys. They fled on foot to Ethiopia. The journey lasted many weeks. Many of the boys died along the way. Some were killed by lions or crocodiles. Some drowned, others died of starvation or dehydration. This group of Sudanese boys has become known as The Lost Boys of Sudan. The Civil War in Sudan lasted until 2005, when a peace agreement was signed. By then, over 2 million people had died. Today, tensions remain high in Mou’s homeland.
In Ethiopia, Mou and the other boys were recruited to fight for the newly formed Sudan People's Liberation Army. This was an army of South Sudanese that formed a resistance to the northern soldiers. Mou proved to have great leadership abilities and quickly advanced in rank, despite his youth.
During his years as a boy soldier, Mou began thinking of a way to cheer up the other soldiers. It was then, he discovered his musical gift. He began singing for his companions. His deep voice helped soothe the pains of war. Mou’s melodies resonated with undying optimism from the depths of his soul. The boys’ smiles encouraged him, as he encouraged them. He was inspired to compose more songs for them. His lyrics speak of the war, his family, love and God. The melodies are lively and uplifting. They encourage you to get up and dance. Dance, and your mood will brighten. People who listen to his music are often moved to tears of joy as the sounds and the words wake up their spirits with a loving embrace.
Mou eventually fled the life of a boy soldier. In 1991, he and thousands like him found themselves walking south along the border between Ethiopia and Sudan towards Kenya. One fine day, they were discovered by Red Cross workers who were based in Kenya. The Red Cross helped the boys get to a United Nations’ refugee camp in Kenya. With the help of the UN and the Red Cross, Mou and his companions waited there for years. They were waiting for their name to appear on a list that was posted each week. Each week, the boys checked the list to see if they had been selected for a seat on a plane that would take them to a new land. Each week, they waved good-bye to the boys who had been selected. Perhaps they would go to Australia, Europe, or maybe even America! At last, in the fall of 2003, Mou’s name was called. Now 26-years-old, Mou’s new life was about to begin. With trepidation and bravery, he boarded the plane that would take him far away from his beloved homeland. He was on his way to his new life in a promising place called America.
Upon landing in America, Mou was told he would have to adopt a new name as well as a new country. The name Mou Atak Mou would not pass muster with most Americans. To give him a better chance of succeeding in America, he was told he would now be known as Santino Majok. This name would be easier for Americans to accept and pronounce.
As Santino continues to adapt to the foreign American culture, he finds solace in his music. He has already released one CD under his given name, Mou Atak Mou. It is entitled, “Sudanese Change Music.” A second CD is in the works. He writes music to encourage those people who continue to suffer the ravages of war both in Sudan and elsewhere. He also writes with his dear mother in mind. Santino’s wish is that women like his mother, who died while looking for safety, can find peace in their own home. Mou’s music is now loved by people around the world.