Who Are Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars?:
Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars are:
- Reuben Koroma
- Ashade Pearce
- Jahson Bull
- Black Nature
- Makengoh Kamara
- Francis John Langba
- Sister Grace Ampomah
- Mohamed Bangura
- Alpha Keita
- Nico Massaquoi
- Christopher Davies
- Dennis Bakarr
The Background Story - Sierra Leone's Refugees:
Sierra Leone is a country with a tumultuous history. In 1991, a gruesome and horrific civil war broke out. Tens of thousands of people (including babies, children, and the elderly) were killed in the fighting, and unspeakable human rights violations were committed against countless others. By the time the war was declared over in 2002, over a third of the country's population had been displaced to refugee camps in equally-unstable neighboring countries, including Guinea. Despite improvement efforts by UN forces, Sierra Leone still has one of the lowest standards of living in the world, and thousands of people remain in refugee camps elsewhere.
The Story of the All Stars:
Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars was founded by musician Reuben Koroma, a refugee from Sierra Leone's capital city, Freetown. Koroma and his wife, Sister Grace, joined up with other musicians who they knew from back home in order to provide a bit of entertainment and levity to their devastated fellow refugees. After a few years of itinerant life in the refugee camps, the members of the band returned home to Freetown, where they continued to play as a group and record music. An eponymous film was made about the band, which featured their story and much of their music, and it was released alongside their debut album, Living Like a Refugee, in 2006. Both received international critical acclaim.
What Does the Music Sound Like?:
Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars is a large group with multiple rotating members who each add their own twist to the music, thus resulting in a regularly evolving and very endearing hodge-podge of styles. Rooted in West African highlife and palm wine music, as well as Jamaican reggae, the band takes on elements of many other genres of African music and pop in their songs. Though the group is not afraid to tackle political topics, the band's lyrics are, by and large, spirit-filled and uplifting, which fits in with their original intent -- to provide some joy and hope in the midst of devastation.
A portion of the sales of Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars' CDs, and often a portion of ticket sales from their shows, goes to support humanitarian relief efforts in both their native Sierra Leone and, more recently, earthquake-stricken Haiti.