With a spirited and infectious fusion of traditional West African music, roots reggae and rhythmic traditional folk, 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.
The band has announced a second tour of the U.S. to follow up its hugely successful summer tour (see tour dates for a complete listing of dates and places). Also look for an exclusive feature in the December issue of GLOBAL RHYTHM about the band, its' music, and inspiring story of what the bandmembers have survived.
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 clichŽ 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.