Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars

Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars

BandWorld

Biography

With a spirited and infectious fusion of traditional West African music, roots reggae and classic rhythm & blues, Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars craft music that transforms and uplifts. The collection of songs on their debut album Living Like A Refugee, decry the insanity of war and call out for social justice while instantly compelling you to get on your feet and dance. They have lived through unimaginable tragedy and yet Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars have become an inspiration and a symbol of the healing power of music.

Championed by The New York Times, critic Stephen Holden wrote, “As harrowing as these personal tales may be, the music buoying them is uplifting. The cliché bears repeating: music heals and creates community.” Be it via the warm, percussion-steered delights of “Akera Ka Ambonshor”, the spirited skiffle of “Soda Soap” or “Refugee Rolling,” where uprooted souls manage to rise above uncertainty with inexplicable finesse, Living Like A Refugee is proof that that there is always hope to be found.

Formed in a refugee camp in the West African nation of Guinea, all of Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars’ members lived in or around Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital city, prior to their individual departures in the late 1990’s. Throughout most of 1990s, Freetown had remained relatively safe from the rebel war that had turned much of their country into a bloody battlefield. But near the turn of the 21st century, rebels attacked the city and forced a panicked mass exodus to neighboring countries. Although group leader Reuben M. Koroma and future R.A.S. bandmates Franco (Francis Langba) and Arahim (Abdul Rahim Kamara) knew each other as professional musicians from different bands in Freetown and even occasionally played together in common musical circles, it wasn’t until they reconnected in Kalia Refugee Camp in Guinea that the roots of the group took shape.

When Reuben and his wife Grace located Franco and began making music for their fellow refugees, their efforts were short lived. Safety in the Kalia camp disintegrated when it came under attack from the Guinean army and citizenry who believed the camps were being used as staging grounds for rebel attacks against Guinea. With refugee camps now war zones, the initial band members – alongside thousands of fellow refugees – were evacuated from the area and moved to Sembakounya Refugee Camp. Set deep in the remote Guinean countryside, it was here that Reuben and Franco – thanks to a Canadian refugee aid organization – were able to acquire the rusted-out sound system and beat up electric guitars that helped officially launch the group.

At Sembakounya Camp, American documentary filmmakers Banker White and Zach Niles encountered The Refugee All Stars (which by now also included Black Nature, Arahim and Mohammed Bangura) and their music. The first time filmmakers followed the band for three years as they moved from camp to camp and eventually returned home to face their war torn country and reunite with family, friends and former band-mates many of whom they had believed did not survive the violence. It was during this trip that the current line-up of the band was cemented and their life long dream of recording in a studio was realized.

Backed by the likes of Keith Richards, Sir Paul McCartney, Ice Cube, Angelina Jolie and Steve Bing – the resulting documentary film, “The Refugee All Stars”, has won a series of major awards, including the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the AFI Film Festival 2005, the Audience Favorite Award at the Miami Film Festival 2006, the Filmmaker’s Award For Social Change and the Emerging Pictures Audience Award (bestowed on the winner of voting by audiences in eleven cities) at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival 2006, Human Rights Watch Film Fest – Best of The Fest and Nashville Film Fest – Impact of Music Award. Sustaining hope in a landscape dominated by rage and loss is at the core of this heartbreaking yet life affirming story.

And while the film has been busy conquering the hearts of festival goers (including Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry, who told Billboard "I was just so overwhelmed by the movie and the message of hope they're carrying. Their music is so buoyant and joyful.") it is the music of Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars that is now prepped to win over legions of new fans. On the heels of their first major tour -- which included performances at some of the most prestigious music festivals worldwide including Bonnaroo, Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, The Ottawa Jazz Festival, The Folk and Roots Festival in Chicago, a headlining appearance at Central Park Summerstage, California Worldfest and The Fuji Rock Festival in Japan – the release of Living Like A Refugee is the realization of a seemingly impossible dream for the band.

Living Like A Refugee was recorded throughout the production of the “The Refugee All Stars” film, between August 2002 and October 2005. Each s

Discography

Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars due out Sept 26