Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars: Music As a Weapon and a Salve
How is life in Sierra Leone today?
Life is better now than before because there is peace and stability. We are seeing some development taking place, like the road infrastructure, electricity, and many other things.
Going back to the 2006 album, were those songs inspired by what happened?
Yes. All we put together was to share what we had been through with people.
What was the Jam Cruise 2011 experience like?
It was something very new to me, especially being on a boat so sophisticated. I’ve never been on a big boat. The boat was sailing, many live performances, and no sleep. It was a happy expression of people because it was a bunch of music lovers and the music made them happy.
What are some of your favorite tracks off the new record, Radio Salone, and why?
I love “Gbara Case” because it’s really African. Another one is “Reggae Music” because it’s very strong reggae music. And I love “Mampamah” because it talks about palm wine and palm wine is my favorite beverage in the world. It’s a local drink that’s very popular in our country.
You went back to more of an old school sound for this record, how come?
Because we want our music to at least be natural, more natural than being dressed with modern effects. We want our music to have that natural sensation.
How did you go about creating that natural sensation?
It’s just a natural feel, it’s part of our talent. We just think and create something that feels natural.
When a band has been through so much together, does that make the musical collaboration come together that much easier?
Yes, because we have lived and practiced together for quite a long time. That’s why the band is so tight.
You always said Music is a weapon, can you explain?
Music is a weapon because it helps to bring changes. Most people are inarticulate and cannot speak for themselves. With music, you can speak for the people. Some people don’t have time to read, listen to the radio, or watch television, but they have time to listen to music. As long as the lyrics are positive, then it will help to bring positive changes.
Are there specific positive changes that the band has helped to come about?
When we were in the refugee camp, certain malpractices were taking place in the distribution of food. When I wrote “Living Like a Refugee,” it talked about these malpractices, and I think it minimized the problem. I wrote songs about the problems of war, which the young people listened to, and they got the message that war is not a good thing.
A lot of your music is so positive and hopeful, how were you able to do that as a group, despite all the hardship you’ve been through?
It’s just maybe a natural gift. We just think of making ourselves happy even in a difficult situation. If someone lives in a situation and you play sad music, you will make him more sad. If you play happy music, it will help to uplift his spirit.
And what’s next for the band?
Our main aim is to build a music school to help the youths who might want to make music their career.