Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars:Rise and Shine (Cumbancha/Ode)

 |   |  1 min read

Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars: Dununya
Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars:Rise and Shine (Cumbancha/Ode)

These guys certainly have a great back-story: in six years they went from languishing in a refugee camp, through being the subject of a doco (see clip below) to Oprah. They appeared on the Blood Diamond soundtrack, their self-titled debut album won widespread praise and for this one they went to New Orleans and recorded with producer Steve Berlin (of Los Lobos) as well as some local horn players.

So a good story, and when this album fires on the African songs it is stunning. More of that in a minute -- because what is also here are reggae grooves and on Jah Come Down the lyrics link familiar Jamaican lines ("when you put your hand in a lion's mouth") back to the Africa of the slavery days. That song is more effective than the rather lope-by-numbers Jah Mercy.

But the most thrilling tracks are those where the juju guitars and restless percussion hit both the head and heart simultaneously. It also shifts from traditional music (the medleys Dununya and Bute Vange) to original material from the band, notably by frontman and founder Reuben M. Koromoa. His Tamagbondorsu blends high life and juju with cannoning percussion. Terrific.

At 13 tracks and with maybe one or two too many reggae songs this is maybe a little on the long side, but there is no denying how entrancing this music can be.

And of course there is personal politics -- be a good Christian, respect each other, the satirical Goat Smoke Pipe, be confident and have faith -- throughout, but this never sounds like sermon.

More like a joyous celebration of life -- as you might expect given that back-story. 

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   World Music articles index

ELSEWHERE WORLD SERVICE: A quick overview of recent world music releases

ELSEWHERE WORLD SERVICE: A quick overview of recent world music releases

Here's a frequent flyer/transit lounge column for those at home who want to get their musical passport stamped. Elsewhere has so many CDs and downloads commanding and demanding attention that we... > Read more

Tinariwen: Amajdar (Anti/digital outlets)

Tinariwen: Amajdar (Anti/digital outlets)

Elsewhere has written about Tinariwen so often that we will come at this new album from another angle. The title apparently means “the unknown visitor” in their Tamashek... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

KATCHAFIRE (2005): Slow burning their way to consciousness

KATCHAFIRE (2005): Slow burning their way to consciousness

Reggae is one of the bloodlines of New Zealand music. It is there whenever an acoustic guitar comes out on the marae or suburban barbeque, and you can hear it in the hi-tech dub incarnation in... > Read more

Keith Jarrett Trio, My Foolish Heart (2007)

Keith Jarrett Trio, My Foolish Heart (2007)

Most people who know his music don't come to albums by jazz and Elsewhere pianist Keith Jarrett expecting to snap their fingers, smile at the swinging grooves and generally enjoy the good humour on... > Read more