Friday 27 July 2012

Ten years ago many of these musicians were languishing in a refugee camp in Guinea, a safe haven from the truly awful civil war in Sierra Leone which tore their homeland apart for much of the nineteen nineties. They had lost a lot of relationships and were separated from country, culture, families and loved ones. In the refugee camp they found solace in music which seemed to lessen their suffering, especially when appreciative audiences gathered, totally enthused. After a Canadian relief agency donated two beat up electric guitars, a single microphone and a very basic sound system, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars were born. Their first CD - "Living Like a Refugee" - was released in Australia in 2007 . A fairly rough, accoustic sound and, down to earth tales of their lives in the camp, such as the infectious title track and the hilarious "Soda Soap". Some tracks were rough demos recorded in the camp; Others were recorded back at home in Freetown once hostilities had ceased. "Rise and Shine" followed in 2010 - another joyous celebration of lives regained, as they toured the world's festivals, clubs and bars becoming ever tighter musically and given a production polish by Cumbancha Records. Recorded in snow-covered Brooklyn in January 2011 on vintage analogue recording gear and produced by Victor Axelrod (aka Ticklah), their new CD "Radio Salone" is an absolute revelation. There's old-style reggae galore, a liberal sprinkling of dub, some hypnotic chanting, a beautifully resonant bass sound, a glorious brass section and touches of joyous soukous and highlife guitars and beats to remind us just where they're from. Between the jokey songs such as "Big Fat Dog" and "Mother In Law", they include songs such as "Reggae Sounds the Message", "Work It Brighter" and "Gbara Case" which chant down "bad-heartedness", "wrong-doing", "men's wars" and "evil ways" (in five different languages) and let us all have one hell of a party at the same time. With springtime barbies just around the corner, if you are looking for some sounds that are relentlessly optimistic, endlessly upbeat and uplifting - look no further than Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars. The so-called leaders of the two main political parties in Australia really should listen to this music. If either of them had any soul whatsoever, this manifestation of joyous optimism in the face of tremendous suffering would give them a real insight into the lot of the refugee and might encourage them to behave in a more compassionate manner towards those who seek refuge with us on our super-sized island continent. But I'm afraid that's a big if. video from the new CD: video snippet from older doco: