Michael Franti said it best with his hit, “Everyone Deserves Music.” There are very few things in this world which can pick you up when you are down and give you strength when you are weak. Music, is definitely one of these things. From 1991-2002 Sierra Leone – a small country on the West coast of Africa – was engulfed in a massive civil war in which rebel factions were “fighting the government,” yet slaughtering hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians which had nothing to do with the rebels’ strife. During this time, many Sierra Leoneans fled for refuge in neighboring Guinea. This is where the journey begins.

Reuben Karama is the lead singer and leader of the musical gang who make up the Refugee All-Stars. They began creating music inside the camps, which provided an outlet from the harsh realities surrounding their daily lives. With a couple of guitars, and a makeshift drum set, the All-Stars create inspiring music. Music for the refugees. Music that makes them stand up and be proud of who they are, so that no matter what situations present themselves they can say, “I can excel.” Their folk style rhymes and Afrikaans / Reggaeton rhythms, are occasionally accompanied by “Black Nature,” their young and gifted rap star – who had lost almost all of his family during the fighting.

Their story, which comes equipped with devastating real-life footage of rebel attacks makes you think what is really important in life. What do you really need? What do you really live for? They make all of our worries seem so insignificant. Their music is powerful, and their strength reflects that of their people, who even after all they’ve been through, still keep their faith for the future.

Their lyrics speak of their struggle, about their strength, and about peace and love. After making a bit of a name for themselves and performing around other camps, the group was given an opportunity to return home to Sierra Leone for the 1st time since fleeing, to record a professional album. With the help of the UN the group was bussed back home to Freetown, where for the first time, they saw all of the devastation that was left behind. The All-Stars couldn’t even recognize most areas, referring to them as ghost towns. Nevertheless, the album was recorded and released in Freetown during the summer of 2004.

Upon returning to Guinea after recording, the group met to determine their future. Most were prepared to repatriate, but a few members were weary of this, and did not trust the situation enough to return home. Home in Sierra Leone is uncertain. At least at the refugee camps, they have the stability of food/water/medicine/shelter. Others, like Reuben, can no longer live in exile though. Freedom is more important to him than comfort and security. Freedom at this point becomes life.

While Ice Cube gets an executive producer credit for this documentary, the real credit is reserved for the All-Stars. The world has continuously raped, plundered, and forgotten about this beautiful and rich land. The refugee All-Stars are helping keep Africa and Africans rolling on. PICK UP THIS ALBUM & DVD AND HELP SUPPORT THE FEW THAT CAN HELP THE MANY.


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