Parts of West Africa have really had way more than their fair share of misfortune recently. Ebola, political unrest and terrorism have been added in some combination to economic hardship in countries like Mali, Guinea and Liberia. Sierra Leone borders the second two of those three and it's not far from the first.
The Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars were formed in Guinea by a group of refugees at a camp there, when civil war in Sierra Leone displaced thousands to neighboring countries. The band, which has since returned to its homeland and toured the world extensively, mixes a variety of traditional West African elements with reggae and pop, picking up influences and regional touches. Fans of West African music might recognize hints of high life, palm wine music, and other styles on their 2014 record "Libation."
The band plays good-time dance music, with the ska syncopations driving many songs, but, despite the triumphs, a certain gentle sadness lurks at the heart of the All-Stars' music. The band was the subject of a documentary, which documented the hardships many of the band members suffered before coming together to play music. They've also appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show, opened for Aerosmith and played festivals like SXSW and Bonnaroo.
Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars take the stage at Infinity Hall, 2 Front St., Hartford, Friday, Jan. 13, at 8 p.m. $24 to $34. 866-666-6306 and infinityhall.com.