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

Various: Next Brel (Barclay)

Various: Next Brel (Barclay)

The music and lyrics of Jacques Brel (1929-78) have seduced dozens of musicians down the decades, notably Scott Walker, Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone, Dusty Springfield . . . Actually just about... > Read more

Geraldo Pino: Heavy Heavy Heavy (RetroAfrica/Southbound)

Geraldo Pino: Heavy Heavy Heavy (RetroAfrica/Southbound)

Some weeks ago I posted a track by the late and very great Fela Anikulapo Kuti from Nigeria who put James Brown funk, Black Power politics and African rhythms into the blender and created Afrobeat.... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

GUEST WRITER MATTHEW BARNETT considers the art of putting science to song

GUEST WRITER MATTHEW BARNETT considers the art of putting science to song

One of my favourite TV shows is The Big Bang Theory. Admittedly this could be a case of damning with faint praise. Rising above the veritable array of “reality” TV shows that... > Read more

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown: The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (1968)

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown: The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (1968)

By the latter part of the Sixties there was a clear difference between how American and British "hippies" perceived "the psychedelic era". If it's true that no music movement... > Read more