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Sierra Leone: Celebration, War, and Healing

While Sierra Leone is currently in the news for the horrific outbreak of Ebola that has devastated the nation in recent months, the country is no stranger to tragedy. This also means that it has deep reserves of resilience, an ability to come together and overcome great obstacles embedded in its culture. To provide the kind of history that is all too often overlooked when reporting on current events on the African continent, we are encoring this episode of Hip Deep episode, which explores the nation’s past.

When Sierra Leone gained independence in 1961, Freetown swayed to the beguiling, breezy lilt of palm wine guitar and danced to the funky pop of Geraldo Pino and the Heartbeats. Once a center of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, Sierra Leone became an improbable amalgamation of indigenous peoples and repatriated Africans freed from slavery. Thirty years of political and economic disintegration led to a horrific civil war that claimed tens of thousands of victims and created a generation of maimed bodies and ruined lives between 1991 and 2002. This program profiles the inspiring story of Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, a band formed in war-era refugee camps in Guinea. This band played a key role in giving citizens the courage to return home, and now, along with other young musicians in Freetown, attempt to pick up where others left off before the war. Produced by Simon Rentner with Wills Glasspiegel.