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Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars: Living Like A Refugee

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The simple chorus in the CD's first song is an understatement: Living like a refugee is not easy. But this is not as depressing a disc as one would think should come from a group of musicians who discovered each other in a Guinean refugee camp after fleeing to escape torture and death at the hands of murderous rebels in Sierra Leone. In fact, this is one of the most bouncy, infectious albums you'll ever hear. Its genuine hopefulness in the face of hardship and tragedy is remarkable. Instead of wallowing in their pain, the Refugee All Stars sing songs of hope, encouragement and truth. The All Stars' lead singer and songwriter, Reuben Koroma, says simply, "I just take all the problems, the suffering of the people, and make a song of it."

The songs blend reggae with West African rhythms and a smidgen of rap and were written during their exile. The album was recorded over three years, when a pair of American producers filmed a documentary titled The Refugee All Stars. Some songs were recorded in the field while others were recorded in a proper studio when the band members returned to Freetown, Sierra Leone after peace had been restored. The kicker is that the reason the band returned home was for a battle of the bands concert, which they won.

Taken as a whole, the album is a musical documentation of the band's unimaginable journey. Starting with the opening track ("Living Like A Refugee"), the 17 songs tell the story of life in the camps. Facing hunger ("Bull To The Weak"), enduring the horrors of war ("Weapon Conflict" and "Kele Mani"), forgiveness and hope ("Big Lesson") and gratitude for peace ("Compliments For The Peace") offer an uplifting perspective on their terrible, transient world and provide plenty of food for thought. Look for the movie on DVD.

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