Sierra Leone group to sway listeners with its reggae beats, African grooves

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — When the rhythm comes, so does relief.

The Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars come from a place torn apart. War through the 1990s killed countless innocents in their west African homeland, and forced millions to flee their homes and seek refuge in camps in neighboring Guinea.

Yet this band, here for the 20th annual Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts, is living proof of music's power.

When the Refugee All Stars start to play, their reggae beats and funky African grooves cause bodies to sway. The sound is buoyant and warm, like an equatorial breeze.

For more than 10 years now, the Sierra Leoneans have used music as a salve and a messenger for listeners across the world.

“When you connect, together, you forget [your worries],” one band member says in “Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars,” the 2005 film chronicling the group's history.

Singer-dancer-percussionist Black Nature is one of eight Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars arriving in Port Angeles.

“I'm the youngest member of the band,” he said. “I run around, and follow the spirit of the music on stage . . . it's a very special music: African rhythm, Sierra Leonean rhythm.”

And while some of the songs are about life in a refugee camp, this music also celebrates Sierra Leone's culture. This is the sound of resilience, and its message is a positive one, Black Nature said.

And it is for dancing.

You don't need any special moves. Just nodding your head is a good start.

The Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars are slated to give three concerts for Port Angeles-area school children today at the Port Angeles High School Performing Arts Center; then they will headline tonight's Juan de Fuca Festival lineup with a concert at 8:30 p.m. at the Vern Burton Community Center, 308 W. Fourth St.

Patrons can choose the single-day ticket for $20 or a pass to the entire Juan de Fuca Festival today through Monday for $60; complete details are at www.JFFA.org.

Music and dance, Black Nature said, are “the language of the body; the language of the spirit and the language of the people.

“Just come out, and listen.”

Last modified: May 23. 2013 6:27PM
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