Sierra Leones Refugee All Stars 6/22/09
Scarred by the wounds of war, but not broken, Sierra Leones Refugee All Stars are on a triumphant tour of America in support of a documentary film on the band, whose roots are set in the civil war of the west African country.
The film, Sierra Leones Refugee All Stars will have a free showing at the State Theatre in Traverse City on Monday, June 22 at 10 a.m., with the band performing at the City Opera House on Wednesday, June 24 at 6:30 p.m. (Tickets $22 advance, $25 door.)
The band came together while fleeing one of Africas most horrifying conflicts, in which victims routinely had limbs amputated or were subject to gang rape, torture, or the massacre of entire villages.
Near the turn of the 21st century, rebel forces attacked Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone, forcing a panicked mass exodus to neighboring countries. Among the thousands who fled were musicians Reuben Koroma and Francis Lamgba (Franco) who connected in a refugee camp in Guinea, West Africa. Along with Reubens wife Grace, they began making music for their fellow refugees, providing a welcome distraction to life in the camps.
Safety in the Kalia camp quickly disintegrated, however, when it came under attack from the Guinean army and citizenry. The refugees in this camp were evacuated and relocated to a camp set deep in the Guinean countryside. It was here that, thanks to a Canadian refugee aid organization, the developing band was able to acquire the rusted-out sound system and beat-up electric guitars that helped launch the group.
It was also in this camp that American documentary filmmakers Banker White and Zach Niles, along with Canadian singer-songwriter Chris Velan, encountered the group, which by that point also included Black Nature, a teenaged orphan with a gift for rap, as well as Abdulrahim Kamara (Arahim) and Mohamed Bangura (Medo), both of whom had had limbs amputated by the rebels.
The first-time filmmakers followed the band for three years as they moved from camp to camp. While filming, the United Nations sponsored a trip for the group to return to Freetown so they could see for themselves that the war was indeed over and safe for thousands of refugees to return home.
Ultimately, a recording emerged along with international acclaim, the documentary and a world tour.
Photographer Captures Life in the Holler
Shelby Lee Adams wasnt always proud of the fact he was born in Hazard, Kentucky, where the Appalachian Mountains isolated the community, or that he spent his teen years in Hot Spot, which was named after a coal company.
He felt trapped there as a child and immersed himself in reading, especially photography and art books.
As he evolved as an artist, Adams devoted his work to telling the story of the mountain folk. Now a world famous photographer, he will talk about his experiences and share his images during a presentation and slide show June 27 at Crooked Tree Arts Center. His appearance culminates Photostock 2009, the fourth-annual gathering of photographers from around the world.
Photostock organizer Bill Schwab said Adams intimate portraits of mountain backwoods people resonate everywhere in these tough economic times.
He shows us generations of families facing a challenging existence with dignity, Schwab said. We can all use a few lessons about the merits of being less materialistic.
As a photographer, Adams began searching for a deeper understanding of his heritage. He ended up documenting the lives of friends from the hollers. They stand on rickety porches held up by cinder blocks, in front of satellite dishes with chickens afoot, and sit at a table in a room with newspaper-covered walls. Sensitive to respecting cultural and humanistic diversity, Adams also captures their strong wills, creativity and motivation.
Tickets are $20 Doors open at 6 p.m. Folk singer Dave Boutette will perform before Adams presentation at 7 p.m.