Festival of Nations Welcomes Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars
Saint Paul, Minn., March 25, 2013 –Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars are on a world tour, making their way to Saint Paul for a concert on Friday night, May 3 at 8:30 p.m., as part of Festival of Nations 2013.
Their story begins with a desperate situation, yet the All Stars are living proof that hope and joy can rise out of unimaginable hardship and despair. Throughout the 1990s, the West African country of Sierra Leone was wracked with a dangerous, bloody war that forced millions to flee their homes. Many who left the country made their way into neighboring Guinea, some ending up in refugee camps and others struggling to fend for themselves in the capital city of Conakry.
The musicians that would eventually form Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars were forced to leave at various times after violent rebel attacks. When it became clear they would not be heading back to their homeland anytime soon, Ruben Koroma and his wife Grace joined other musicians in the Kalia refugee camp to entertain their fellow refugees, and the Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars were born.
A pair of American film makers encountered the band at a camp and were so inspired by their story, they ended up following them for three years from camp to camp. Eventually, the war in Sierra Leone came to an end, and over time the All Stars returned to Freetown, where they met other returning musicians who joined the band’s rotating membership. It was there in the tin-roofed shacks of Freetown’s ghettos that Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars recorded the tracks that, along with unplugged recordings made in the refugee camps, ended up being the basis for their debut album, Living Like a Refugee.
The movie, album and eventual U.S. tours helped expand their following, and soon the band found itself playing in front of enraptured audiences of tens of thousands at New York’s Central Park SummerStage, Japan’s Fuji Rock Festival and the revered Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival. They appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, contributed a song to the Blood Diamond film soundtrack, participated in the U2 tribute album In the Name of Love: Africa Celebrates U2, and earned praise and backing from Sir Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, Ice Cube, Angelina Jolie and others inspired by their life-affirming story and captivating music.
Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars now tour the world providing uplifting songs of hope, faith, and joy. They have become one of Africa’s top touring and recording bands. The band’s most recent album, Radio Salone, was recently named a CBC World Music Album of the Year.
Now, the Festival of Nations proudly welcomes Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars for a night of truly unique music and powerful stories on Friday, May 3 at 8:30 p.m. at Saint Paul’s Roy Wilkins Auditorium. Concert tickets are included with Friday’s regular Festival of Nations admission. The Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars concert is part of Think Global, Party Local—a new addition to Festival of Nations’ Friday night festivities including extended hours, international wine and beer tasting, and a fresh lineup of international music. Also playing on Friday Night: the Twin Cities-based salsa group Salsa del Soul and Rahim Alhaj, master of the Iraqi oud (a string instrument considered to be the ancestor of the guitar).”
Festival of Nations, Minnesota’s largest multi-cultural celebration, returns to Saint Paul RiverCentre Thursday, May 2 through Sunday, May 5. Festival of Nations is a one-stop event with great food, music, dance, unique gifts and merchandise from around the world and exhibits representing over 90 cultures. Tickets are $11 for adults and $8 for children (6 – 16) in advance beginning April 2 through May 2, and $13.50 for adults and $8 for children at the door. More information at FestivalofNations.com