Not many bands get started like this: Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars began playing together in the late '90s at the Kalia refugee camp in Guinea, having fled their homes in Sierra Leone's capital city of Freetown as a result of a long-running civil war. But Kalia was hardly a safe haven; it came under attack from the Guinean army, which thought the camp was being used as a staging ground for rebel attacks. The band was put on the move again, this time ending up at the Sembakounya refugee camp in the remote Guinean countryside. It was only there that the octet was finally able to acquire electric guitars and its own sound system and, in 2002, make its first recordings.
Some of those recordings can be found on the All Stars' debut album, "Living Like a Refugee," whose title track is today's free download. Light and breezy on first listen, the song's swaying, reggae-inflected rhythms and warm vocals carry a set of stark, plainspoken lyrics: "You will be comforted by strangers/ You will be fed with unusual diet ... living like a refugee is not easy."
-- David Marchese