Spun: Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars

It’s not uncommon to find big-name musicians putting their star power behind social and political causes. The most famous examples include Bob Geldof’s Live Aid concert in 1985 to raise awareness and funds for the famine in Ethiopia, and more recently, his follow-up Live 8 concert in 2005 to combat global poverty. While many mainstream artists have been criticized for piggybacking social causes to crank up their own record sales, the same cannot be said of a much less common phenomenon–the oppressed themselves putting out records.

Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars have lived through the brutality of civil war, the unimaginable pain of being separated from family and friends, and the ensuing difficulty of living as refugees. Despite their struggles, Living Like a Refugee is unshakably positive. Beginning with the chanting refrain on the opening title-track, right through to the head-bobbing hip-hop rhymes on “Refugee Rolling,” the album is like a challenge not to dance. And with an estimated nine million children living as refugees in the world, the timing couldn’t be better to highlight the plight of the civilian victims of war and bring hope to those currently suffering.

There is more emotional power behind the All Stars’ lyrics, more hope and cheer in their reggae-infused West African folk music and consequently a more biting commentary on the evils of war and greed than any washed up rocker could squeeze out of “Give Peace a Chance” on Geldof’s stage.

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