Transcending tragedy with reggae backbeats
The members of Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars lost family, friends and limbs to the civil war that consumed their home country in the 1990s. Through protest songs teeming with bright Afropop melodies, the troupe escaped from West African warfare to recording studios and concert stages worldwide, their 2006 debut Living Like a Refugee symbolizing musical and spiritual resilience. Follow-up Rise & Shine is a tribute to roots reggae on which the ensemble dabbles in electric backbeats and bombastic horns, swapping earlier references to their homeland—family, food, even soap—for reggae’s ubiquitous praises to Jah. The All Stars have distanced themselves from the strife that first brought them together, but thanks to their tireless optimism, socio-political awareness (“disarmament is a modern revolution,” proclaims “Global Threat”) and the rumbling jam session “Tamagbondorsu (The Rich Mock The Poor),” they still have something to teach the world.