Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars
Songs of hope, faith and joy
Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars rose from the ashes of war and enflamed the passions of fans across the globe with their uplifting songs of hope, faith and joy. From their humble beginnings in West African refugee camps, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars have performed on some of the world’s most prestigious stages and matured into one of Africa’s top touring and recording bands. Throughout the 1990s, the West African country of Sierra Leone was wracked with a horrifying war that forced millions to flee their homes. The musicians who formed Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars are all originally from Freetown, forced to leave the capital city at various times after violent rebel attacks. Ruben Koroma and his wife Grace left Sierra Leone in 1997 and found themselves in the nearby Kalia refugee camp. When it became clear they would not be heading back to their homeland anytime soon, they joined up with guitarist Francis John Langba and bassist Idrissa Bangura, other musicians in the camp whom they had known before the war, to entertain their fellow refugees. After a Canadian relief agency donated two beat-up electric guitars, a single microphone and a meager sound system, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars were born. Eventually, the war in Sierra Leone came to an end, and the All Stars returned to Freetown, where they met other returning musicians who joined the band’s rotating membership. This moving saga also became a documentary, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, that introduced the world to the personalities and dramatic stories behind the band and their instantly appealing music. The movie, their first album and eventual U.S. tours expanded their following, and soon the band found itself playing in front of enraptured audiences of tens of thousands at New York’s Central Park SummerStage, Japan’s Fuji Rock Festival and the revered Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival. They have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, contributed a song to the Blood Diamond film soundtrack, participated in the U2 tribute album In the Name of Love: Africa Celebrates U2, and earned praise and backing from Sir Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, Ice Cube, Angelina Jolie and others inspired by their life-affirming story and captivating music.