Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars
Libation (Cumbancha, 2014)
Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars have traveled far from its modest beginnings as a music band formed by war refugees. The group is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a new studio album recorded at Cumbancha studios in the Green Mountains of Vermont (USA). The increasingly popular band is well known for its irresistible mix of highlife, maringa, palm wine, baskeda and gumbe music with reggae, and pop hooks.
Libation was produced by an old friend, Chris Velan, the producer of Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars first album, Living Like a Refugee.
The album’s title, Libation, refers to the ceremonial pouring of a liquid that is common in some African cultures. A libation is dispensed as an offering to a god or spirit, to respect the ancestors, and in memory of loved ones who have died. After completing the album, the members of Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars celebrated the accomplishment by pouring a libation, both as a salutation and to remember the numerous beloved members of the band who passed away over the last ten years and could not be included in the session.
The album’s production became a community event. The producers indicate that volunteer members of the community often dropped by to give rides to band members to buy phone cards to call home or to cook for them. The comfortable backdrop in Vermont was totally different from the conditions experienced during the recording of the first album, which was factually recorded around a campfire in a refugee camp in Guinea and in a muggy, rickety, studio in Freetown, where electric shocks and power disruptions were common.
Although Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars’ songs are designed for dancing and having a good time, the lyrics also convey an important sociopolitical message with topics such as unity, support for the poor, debt, dirty politics, the danger of tribalism, etc.
In the album’s booklet, the All Stars make the following declaration: “This album celebrates the 10th Anniversary of the making of our first album Living Like a Refugee. Since that first album we¹ve lived a life that once seemed unimaginable; we have toured the world, released more albums, and shared our music with thousands upon thousands of friends and fans. But while we keep rolling we never forget our roots. So this is our musical libation – an offering – to celebrate the blessings that our music has brought to us, to pay respect to the spirits of the musical brothers we have lost along the way, and to pay tribute to Mama Salone – the country whose culture, traditions, and rhythms infuse our music and fill our souls with pride.”
The group will embark on a North American tour in April to promote the new album:
Cedar Cultural Center
New York, New York
Africa Now! (with Fatoumata Diawara & Les Frères Guissé)
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Le Cabaret du Mile End
Festival Nuits d’Afrique
South Burlington, Vermont
Johnny D’s, with The Macrotones
Iron Horse with Jim Matus & Doug Raneri
Raleigh, North Carolina
The Pour House
Black Mountain, North Carolina
Asheville, North Carolina
The Orange Peel
LEAF Educational Event
St. Louis, Missouri
Castle Hill, United Kingdom
Buy Libation in North America
Buy Libation in Europe
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.