Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars sing to heal wounds of war

Tue Jul 29, 2014 11:18am EDT
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By Roberta Cucchiaro

GDYNIA Poland (Reuters) - It's a long way from the refugee camps of Africa to Poland's balmy Baltic coast, but for Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars, the message is still the same.

"We want to make those people who went through horrible things forget about their problems and make them smile and laugh," says band leader Ruben Koroma.

Appearing at Poland's Globaltica World Cultures Festival last weekend, they delivered a typically vibrant, energetic and uplifting show.

The people of Gdynia - a Nordic city where metal and hard rock tend to be the music of choice - danced and sang to the funky African grooves, traditional Sierra Leonean beats, and old school reggae mixed with a flavor of New Orleans.

The All Stars are celebrating 10 years since the making of their first album "Living Like a Refugee". Their fourth and latest album, "Libation" is an offering for "the blessings that our music has brought us".

It has been a remarkable journey.

The band were formed in a Guinean refugee camp during Sierra Leone's 1991-2002 civil war. "Living Like A Refugee" was recorded in tin-roofed shacks in a Freetown shantytown - a process depicted in a 2005 documentary film directed by Zach Niles and Banker White.

"The U.N. refugee agency helped us make our first album and there was also a Canadian NGO called CECI, donating speakers, mixers, a generator, microphones and two guitars to help us become more audible" Koroma told Reuters.   Continued...

Ruben Koroma, member of Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars, performs during their concert in Gdynia, northern Poland July 25, 2014.  REUTERS/Lukasz Glowala/Agencja Gazeta