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

NURU KANE PROFILED (2013): A colourful tapestry of sound

NURU KANE PROFILED (2013): A colourful tapestry of sound

One of problems world music artists suffer is some preciousness in their audience which would preserve them in amber like an anthropological specimen. They want an artist to remain true to some... > Read more

POTTED PROFILE: Salif Keita

POTTED PROFILE: Salif Keita

The man often referred to as "the Golden Voice of Africa" (and that doesn't mean he's that continent's John Farnham) has had quite an extraordinary career. He was born in Mali and was... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Roger McGuinn: The Byrd who can't fly from his past

Roger McGuinn: The Byrd who can't fly from his past

The backstage meet'n'greet is usually an uncomfortable if not dire affair. Record company types, tour managers, promoter's flunkies and various levels of B-grade guests -- such a myself -- mill... > Read more

Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown and Billy Joel: Bad cop, good guy

Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown and Billy Joel: Bad cop, good guy

It was bluesman Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown who taught me a valuable lesson very early on: it was possible to like a man's music and not like the man who made it. Billy Joel confirmed the opposite:... > Read more