Words by Rose Skelton
Sierra Leone’s reggae band, the Refugee All Stars, emerged from the refugee camps born of the brutal civil war that ended a decade ago. This is their third studio album, following the brassy New Orleans-tinged winner of their last release, 2010’s Rise & Shine. The band has since toured the world before going to Brooklyn to record with producer Victor Axelrod, who has worked with Amy Winehouse and Afro-beat outfit Antibalas. He has taken this music in new and exciting directions – through dub and old school reggae – and the tightness and confidence of the sound indicates that the band has grown together. The result is both fresh and mature, with hip beats underpinning deep grooves and fabulous vocals, occasionally shimmying off into vintage soukous and Afro-beat for a reminder that these tunes come from West Africa.
Sung in a multitude of languages, including the deliciously expressive Krio – a patois of English and local languages – the songs go from the roughly hewn chant of ‘Goombay Interlude: Rain Come Sun Come’ to the smooth ‘Kali’ which oozes joy from its tropical guitar riffs. There is some deep dub-infused reggae (‘Work It Brighter’) and some that sounds like it could have come out of the Caribbean a few decades ago (‘Remake the World Again’). These are the songs of a fabulous, gifted band: down to earth, full of life and absolutely going in the right direction.
Listen to a choice track from Radio Salone on the Top of the World CD included with the current issue (#84 June 2012).
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