By: Chris Pacifico
Living Like a Refugee is clear evidence of the power of music to heal and overcome life's most trying tribulations. Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars come from a tiny West African nation ravaged by rampant poverty, corruption, the fleecing of natural resources, and a brutal a civil war which has raged for the better part of two decades, fueled and funded by diamonds. Living Like A Refugee is the debut effort from this 16-person collective that masterfully detail the horrendous perils, hardships, and atrocities of their forced displacement. Surprisingly, it is a joyous, heartfelt album.
Led by Reuben Koroma, Living Like A Refugee shines with numbers like reggae-tinged "Weapon Conflict" with its mantra "When two elephants are fighting/The grass dem'a suffer," metaphorically illustrating how civilians are the true casualties when caught in the middle of warring factions. A recent increase in violence in Africa stems from vengeance-orientated acts of aggression that push things deeper into chaos. On "Big Lesson" the All Stars call on all Sierra Leonean's living abroad to return home with forgiveness in their hearts so there can be unity. On "Pat Malonthone" they stress the importance of rebuilding the damaged infrastructure of their nation as well as embracing their cultural roots like their native "Bubu" music.
While their songs do revolve around mostly African polyrhythms, Living Like A Refugee touches on a colorful array of blues, dub, R&B, and even some mariachi flavors.
While this group is, for a lack of a better word, victims of their nation's troubles, their music doesn't sound like it. One can hear the tremendous adversity they've survived in their voices but there's no bitterness. Like Bob Marley, Fela Kuti, Woody Guthrie and Joan Baez, Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars embrace change and provided a voice to the voiceless through music.
To hear their music and learn more about their plight and how you can help refugees worldwide, please visit www.ninemillion.org.
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