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Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars: Living Like a Refugee

Charlie Owen

It’s hard for me to get into this kind of music. I am not a fan of reggae, and folk music usually gets me as excited as watching re-runs of “Sex and the City” with an ex-girlfriend. On first listen of Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars’ album Living Like a Refugee I could tell why fans of reggae would love these guys. Then I listened to it a second time and realized why fans of folk music would also love this stuff. After my third listen I had a smile on my face and I started to feel it.

What makes this music so important is not so much the music, but what inspired it. Everybody in the band (nine people in all) is an actual refugee. All Africans, they have lived through unspeakable atrocities, civil wars and endured hardships I can’t even imagine. During their displacement, the All Stars started playing music together on crude instruments in a refugee camp in Guinea. Theirs is truly a remarkable story. At the risk of sounding preachy, the message is the music.

R.A.S. has taken elements of traditional West African music, reggae, folk, and hip-hop and added lyrics filled with hope and happiness, despite the overwhelming odds that they have had to face to get to this point. But the power of music is a weapon in itself and they have harnessed its power for the good of mankind. This CD will probably never find its way into heavy rotation on my play list. But check it out and let the message speak to you, realize that sometimes in life, music is quite literally all that some people have.


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