While spending the past week in Carlsbad, CA, Susan and I discovered that the city’s Cultural Arts Office sponsors a “TGIF Jazz in the Parks” concert series. On Friday evenings from late June through mid-August, people attend these free concerts featuring musicians from all over the world who present a variety of jazz styles.
In the “it’s a small world category” the concert the Friday night we were in Carlsbad featured Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars. Here’s what the pre-concert publicity said about them. “The Refugee All-Stars are uplifting, inspiring, ebullient and exuberant, a group of consummate musicians whose improbable success story shows the power of song and spirit. Their infectious Afro-pop optimism in the face of loss and sorrow hoisted them out of the border camps of Guinea and onto the international stage.”
After a 2005 documentary about the band’s post-war journey skyrocketed them to a global platform, their story and music was soon inspiring fans worldwide. They’ve appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, opened for Aerosmith, contributed to the Blood Diamond film soundtrack, and participated in the U2 tribute album In the Name of Love: Africa Celebrates U2. They have built a loyal fan base with extensive touring and festival performances both in this country and abroad. From the ashes of war, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars have risen like a phoenix to become one of the most lauded African bands in the world.
It was wonderful as concert-goers gathered in various groupings sharing food and drink and relaxing together on a warm summer evening. The Refugee All Stars helped immensely in contributing to the fun. Their traditional West African sounds blended with vintage reggae and American soul to produce wonderfully rhythmic music that had people up and dancing or at the very least swaying to the beat.
Being there reminded me of the power of music to overcome almost any catastrophe, personal or communal. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote that, “Music… will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you,” and U2’s Bono reminds us that “Music can change the world because it can change people.”
I felt changed that night and have since then through the internet been listening to more of Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars wonderful music. Check out their website http://www.sierraleonesrefugeeallstars.com/fr_home.cfm where you can read their story and listen to some of their music. You can also access their music using www.youtube.com.