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Refugee band gets on soapbox in Guinea's camps

Refugee band gets on soapbox in Guinea's camps

Discovered in a Guinean camp, a Sierra Leonean refugee band has been entertaining fellow refugees with songs of hope and healing from its "Soda Soap" album, and encouraging them to help rebuild their country.
8 October 2003
"Refugee All Star" performing at Boreah camp in Guinea.

Albadariah, Guinea, Oct 8 (UNHCR) - A refugee band has jumped on the soapbox in Guinea's camps, singing songs from its debut album, "Soda Soap", and infecting the crowds with bubbly tunes of hope and healing.

Over the weekend, "Refugee All Star", a five-member band of Sierra Leonean refugees, performed at Kountaya and Boreah camps in the Albadariah area of Guinea. During the three-hour concerts, the band members had refugees and aid workers singing and dancing to songs from "Soda Soap", which they recorded on a go-and-see trip to Sierra Leone recently.

"We sing about issues affecting our people," said band leader Ruben Koruma. "Our aim is to contribute to healing the trauma of the refugees by helping them to forget their bad experience."

Besides singing about the war in Sierra Leone and their refugee experiences, the band members also convey positive messages through their songs to inspire confidence and encourage refugees to return and rebuild their homeland.

Title song "Soda Soap", for example, celebrates the self-reliance of the refugees and encourages them to undertake income-generating activities like soap-making.

Roseline Idowu, who heads the UNHCR sub-office in nearby Kissidougou, congratulated the musicians for their successful concerts and asked them to continue inspiring refugees in the turbulent West Africa region.

UNHCR's sub-office head in Kissidougou, Roseline Idowu, dancing with refugees during the concert.

"Refugee All Star", comprising one woman and four men, was discovered more than a year ago in Guinea's Sembakounya camp, which has since closed. The musicians are now living in Boreah camp.

With help from well-wishers, they hope to produce a video documentary on the band. They also plan to complete the production of "Soda Soap" in the United States and to launch the album in Guinea before bringing their songs of hope home to Sierra Leone.

By Ibrahima Diané
UNHCR Guinea