This band was born in a refugee camp in Guinea. All the members of the band had fled the violence of the civil war in Sierra Leone, most coming from the capital city of Freetown. The bands music chronicles some of the difficulties and challenges of live as a refugee, but their music is infused with hope and joy.
Ruben and Grace Koroma fled Sierra Leone and ended up at the Kalia Refugee Camp at the Guinea-Sierra Leone border. They teamed up with two other refugees they had known before the war, guitarist Francis “Franco” John Langba and bassist Idrissa “Mallam” Bangura. They began playing to keep their fellow refugees entertained. A Canadian relief agency donated guitars and a microphone, and the Refugee All Stars were born.
Two American film-makers stumbled across one of their performances in a refugee camp and began to follow them as they toured the various camps. When the war ended the band members returned to Freetown, and the band began to expand with other survivors of the war.
They recorded tracks of some of their songs, added to recordings from concerts in the camps, and released their first CD Living As a Refugee. When the documentary of the band was released they became a global sensation. Soon they were touring from the U.S. to Japan and playing in huge venues and in festivals such as Austin’s South by South West.
The band members know the horrors of senseless killing and death, having lost family members, friends, and some of the original members of the band. They singi about some of the roots of war, but also bring their faith that peace is possible. Ruben Koroma shared the band’s passion and vision: “We try to bring out sensitive issues that are affecting the world. It is all of our responsibility that the masses are suffering. We bring our positive messages into the world so we can expect a positive change in the world. And, most importantly, bring about peace.”
Since their first exposure to the world, they have continued to grow as musicians. They are moving beyond just the story of their refugee experience to broaden into quality music writing and production. Some of their new work integrates traditional Sierra Leonean music forms and instruments and proudly share their culture with the world.
“Living Like a Refugee” Live at Granada Theater in Dallas:
Trailer About the Band: