In 2002, American filmmakers Banker White and Zach Niles traveled to Sierra Leone to make a documentary about the civil war tearing apart the West African nation.
While visiting the refugee camps of those affected by the war, White and Niles found a group of musicians that had joined together to make music as a salvation for those around them. These musicians, whose love for music overcame their age differences, became known as Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars, and the subjects of White and Niles' film of the same name.
The film, which, through these musicians' experiences, tells the story of the civil war, has been a massive hit on the documentary film festival circuit. And the All Stars' music has earned its own accolades. Since White and Niles' discovery and documentation of their story, the All Stars members have become international music sensations, playing dates in the United States, Canada and Japan.
"We found music as something to do in the camps, something to do for a living," says the band's founder, Reuben Koroma. "We never thought that we would come to America. It's really unimaginable. We just played the music to survive. All these things are happening like a miracle."
Koroma's appreciative tone is one reflected in the joyful sounds of the All Stars' West African reggae. It's a surprising and uplifting sound, especially considering the somber circumstances under which Koroma wrote each song.
"We know we've lost many things," Koroma says, "but we found something in music that revives us."
Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars
Boulder Theater, 2032 14th St., Boulder
Tuesday, Nov. 7, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $21.50, all ages; visit bouldertheater.com.