The Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars come from a place torn apart. War through the 1990s killed countless innocents in their west African homeland, and forced millions to flee their homes and seek refuge in camps in neighboring Guinea. 

Yet this band, here for the 20th annual Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts, is living proof of music’s power. 

When the Refugee All Stars start to play, their reggae beats and funky African grooves cause bodies to sway. The sound is buoyant and warm, like an equatorial breeze. 

For more than 10 years now, the Sierra Leoneans have used music as a salve and a messenger for listeners across the world. 

“When you connect, together, you forget [your worries],” one band member says in “Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars,” the 2005 film chronicling the group’s history.