Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars

Youssoupha Sidibe with the Mystic Rhythms Band

When
Fri May 6, 2011
Where
The Independent
Time
Show @ 9:00pm
Cost
$15
Tags
Music
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Description

Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars are a group of musicians who escaped the horrific violence of Sierra Leone's civil war, landed in a West African refugee camp and formed a band to keep their spirits up and their hopes alive. From these humble beginnings the band has now grown to be an international musical sensation. Their can't help but dance live shows and their musical message have earned them devoted fans around the world. They've known the horrors of war firsthand and have become ambassadors of peace. An unbelievable testament to the human spirit, the journey of Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars exemplifies the universal healing power of music.

Near the turn of the 21st century, rebel forces attacked Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone, forcing a panicked mass exodus to neighboring countries. Among the thousands who fled were musicians and future band mates Reuben Koroma and Francis Lamgba (Franco) who connected in a refugee camp in Guinea, West Africa. Along with Reuben's wife Grace they began making music for their fellow refugees, providing a welcome distraction to life in the camps. Safety in the Kalia camp quickly disintegrated, however, when it came under attack from the Guinean army and citizenry. The refugees in this camp were evacuated and relocated to a camp set deep in the remote Guinean countryside. It was here that, thanks to a Canadian refugee aid organization, the developing band was able to acquire the rusted-out sound system and beat up electric guitars that helped officially launch the group.

It was also in this camp that American documentary filmmakers Banker White and Zach Niles along with Canadian singer-songwriter Chris Velan encountered the group, which by that point also included Black Nature, a teenaged orphan with a gift for rap, as well as Abdulrahim Kamara (Arahim) and Mohamed Bangura (Medo), both of whom had had limbs amputated by the rebels. The first-time filmmakers followed the band for three years as they moved from camp to camp. While filming, the United Nations sponsored a trip for the group to return to Freetown so they could see for themselves that the war was indeed over and safe for thousands of refugees to return home. As part of the trip, the UNHCR offered the band the opportunity to make their first studio recordings, which led to leader Reuben Koroma uniting the core group from the refugee camp with his former band mates, The Emperors, many of whom had remained in Freetown during the war. Together they recorded their debut album as Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars. The current touring lineup features members of both entities.

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Location

  1. The Independent
    628 Divisadero St., San Francisco, CA