Map & Directions
Sitting in a dusty refugee camp in Guinea in 2004, Reuben M. Koroma, the founder of Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars, could not have imagined what the near future would hold for him and the members of his band. In just six years, the group has gone from being unknown musicians languishing in various refugee camps to being the subject of an acclaimed documentary film, touring the world to support a critically revered album, appearing on the Oprah Winfrey Show, and sharing the stage and studio with Aerosmith and other international stars.
Throughout the 1990s, the West African country of Sierra Leone was wracked with a bloody, horrifying war that forced millions to flee their homes that forced millions to flee their homes. The musicians of Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars are all originally from Freetown, and they were forced to leave the capital city at various times after violent rebel attacks. Eventually, Reuben, Grace and Franco ended up in the more stable Sembakounya Refugee Camp near the remote town of Dabola, and there they put the call out for musicians to audition to form a band. 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.
After recording some songs and demos in Sierra Leone, the group went to New Orleans, Louisiana to work on their album. The residents of New Orleans in turn could relate both to the All Stars experience of being displaced from their homes and to the important role music plays in healing spiritual and emotional wounds and bringing communities together.
The resulting album, Rise & Shine, is a masterful collection of songs that reflects how much Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars have grown since their early days jamming around campfires in isolated refugee camps. The title of the album reflects the band's desire to remain positive in the face of struggle, always greeting a new day with a spirit of excitement over what the future holds.
"It's been a long struggle out of the war, out of miserable conditions," notes Koroma, "So now we are trying to develop ourselves as a band and be based in our country. We are really moving towards finding ways of elevating ourselves somehow. But we do not just think about ourselves alone, we try to bring out sensitive issues that are affecting the world. It is all of our responsibility that the masses are suffering. We bring our positive messages into the world so we can expect a positive change in the world. And, most importantly, bring about peace."