Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars band brings memories & healing to immigrant communities.
The band, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars will perform at the Minnesota State Fair this Wednesday & Thursday, Aug. 29 & 30,. Playing start at 8:30 P.M. at the Leinie Lodge Bandshell, SEE YOU THERE !
Most of us, former refugees or immigrants, bring both joy & self evaluation seeing people with the same experience who picked up the pieces from nearly life-death situation and repositioned themselves to a better place through hard word and dedication. The difference now though is, these members didn’t pack their bags and depart their homeland altogether, they are actually from the Sembakounya Refugee camp in Guinea, where they found themselves in a few years ago.
All the members of Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars lived in or near Sierra Leone ‘s capital city before fleeing Freetown during the country’s decade-long civil war. Throughout most of the 1990s, Freetown remained relatively sheltered from the rebel war that had turned much of the West African nation into a bloody battlefield. Near the turn of the 21st century, however, rebels attacked the city and forced a panicked mass exodus to neighboring countries.
Today’s band stars, former camp mates, are Reuben M. Koroma-band leader, lead vocals, Francis John Langba ‘Franco’- rhythm guitar, kongroma, vocals, Abdul Rahim Kamara ‘Arahim’ – vocals, percussion, Efuah Grace – vocals, Alhaji Jeffrey Kamara ‘Black Nature’ – rap, vocals, Mohamed Bangura Medo’ – vocals, percussion, kongroma, Ashade Pearce – lead guitar, vocals, Mustapha Massaquoi ‘Nico’ – drums, percussion, Idrissa ‘Malam’ Bangura- bass guitar
Geassay ‘Jah Sun’ Dowu Bull- lead guitar, percussion, Mohammed ‘Makengo’ Kamara- vocals, percussion & Abdul Beal – guitarist.
Among the thousands who fled were musicians and future bandmates Reuben Mt. Koroma and Franco (Francis Langba) who connected in Kalia Refugee Camp in Guinea. When Reuben and his wife Grace located Franco they began making music for their fellow refugees, providing a welcome distraction to life in the camps. Their efforts, however, were to be short lived. Safety in the Kalia camp disintegrated when it came under attack from the Guinean army and citizenry who believed the camps were being used as staging grounds for rebel attacks against Guinea.
With refugee camps now war zones, the initial band members were evacuated from the area and moved to Sembakounya Refugee Camp. Set deep in the remote Guinean countryside, it was here that, thanks to a Canadian refugee aid organization, the developing band was able to acquire the rusted-out sound system and beat up electric guitars that helped officially launch the group.
Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars band has been featured on CNN and CNN International, PBS and CBS Sunday Morning, as well as having performed live on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Their music included many movies playing as a sound track such as Blood Diamond film and have been also invited many music festivals worldwide including Bonnaroo, The Montreal Jazz Fest, The Ottawa Jazz Festival, The Folk and Roots Festival in Chicago, The Fuji Rock Festival in Japan, as well as headlining at Central Park Summerstage. In November, 2006 the band opened for Aerosmith at the Mohegan Sun Arena and most recently performed for an international audience at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.