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Sierra Leones Refugee All Stars Details
Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars
with Black Nature Band
Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars have risen like a phoenix out of the ashes of war and enflamed the passions of fans across the globe with their uplifting songs of hope, faith and joy. The band is a potent example of the redeeming power of music and the ability of the human spirit to persevere through unimaginable hardship and emerge with optimism intact. 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 bloody, horrifying war that forced millions to flee their homes. The musicians that would eventually form 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. Most of those that left the country made their way into neighboring Guinea, some ending up in refugee camps and others struggling to fend for themselves in the capital city of Conakry.
Ruben Koroma and his wife Grace had left Sierra Leone in 1997 and found themselves in the Kalia refugee camp near the border with Sierra Leone. When it became clear they would not be heading back to their homeland anytime soon, they joined up with guitarist Francis John Langba (aka Franco), and bassist Idrissa Bangura (aka Mallam), 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.
American filmmakers Zach Niles and Banker White encountered the band in the Sembakounya Camp, and were so inspired by their story they ended up following them for three years as they moved from camp to camp, bringing much needed joy to fellow refugees with their heartfelt performances. Eventually, the war in Sierra Leone came to an end, and over time the All Stars returned to Freetown, where they met other returning musicians who joined the band’s rotating membership. It was there in the tin-roofed shacks of Freetown’s ghettos that Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars recorded the tracks that ended up, along with unplugged recordings made in the refugee camps, being the basis for their debut album, Living Like a Refugee, which was released on the label Anti in 2006.
Black Nature Band
Black Nature is an original musical artist who composes and performs positive music that incorporates a unique blend of African Rhythms, Reggae, Dancehall, Rock, Hip-Hop and R&B. He is also a musical producer and filmmaker.
As a young child, Black Nature began singing and playing percussion, and he was greatly influenced by the rich musical culture of Sierra Leone. In the midst of the country’s brutal 10 year civil war, he fled to neighboring Guinea where he was placed in a refugee camp. During his time at the camp, he and other Sierra Leonean refugees formed a band that later became the world renowned Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars.
For the first few years, this band composed and performed original music to entertain their fellow refugees. They actually had to make their own instruments from the few materials available to them at the camp. In 2002, the group met documentary filmmakers Banker White and Zack Niles along with the talented musician Chris Velan. Banker, Zack and Chris followed the group from one refugee camp to another, creating a documentary of the band’s experiences living and performing in the various refugee camps in Guinea. After three years in production, this documentary, entitled The Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, became an international success, winning eleven awards in various categories and is currently available on Netflix. For more information about the documentary, please visit www.refugeeallstars.org.
Following the release of the documentary, the band toured internationally for nine years and developed a loyal following. They have performed at events such as Red Rocks in Colorado, Life is Good Festival in Boston, Bonaroo Festival in Tennessee, Fuji Rock in Japan, Outside Lands in San Francisco, Central Park Summer Stage in New York, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, SXSW in Austin, Jam Cruise 9, the World Economic Forum in Geneva, Save the Children in New York and a variety of other notable venues and major festivals worldwide.
Two of the Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars’ songs were featured on the soundtrack to the movie “Blood Diamond” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and they have appeared on Oprah, CBS, CNN, NPR, KEXP and many other US and European radio and news stations, establishing the band’s success and notoriety in the industry.