BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Released to celebrate the band’s tenth anniversary, Libation is a perfect example of how to find happiness in groove. Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars come for a dark place – the band’s name is literal, as its members were indeed exiles from their country – and its themes often reflect those origins. Social commentary born of experience remains at the heart of the band’s music – cf. “Manjalagi,” covering the plight of the homeless, or “Rich But Poor,” which addresses economic disparity.
But, like most African music, the tunes themselves seem powered by joy – that distinctive and irresistible blend of melody and rhythm that comes from that part of the world, here often combined with reggae, refuses any despair. Whether it’s the (often economically induced) heartbreak of “Can’t Make Me Lonely” and “Maria,” the spiritual devotion of “Gbaenyama” or the angry defiance of “Chaimra,” the sheer exuberance of the music reminds that life is worth living no matter how high the pile of shit you’re under. “Never give up/As long as death has not invited you yet,” the band asserts in “It’s So Sorry.” “Every man must live/So push it hard and let the wheel turn.” Exactly.
DOWNLOAD: “It’s So Sorry,” “Manjalagi,” “Chaimra”