One of the people who helped film the documentary is a colleague of my partner Seung. He works in refugee camps in Sudan (I’m told these are technically not refugee camps but “internally displaced persons camps”).
Sudan is run by a strict Islamic government that forbids alcohol consumption. Thing is, there plenty of non-Muslim Sudanese, and apparently plenty of alcohol-tolerant Muslim Sudanese as well. The international aid community donates sacks of various grains for these “IDP” camps. As you know, grain is the main ingredient in beer. Seung’s coworker confirms that, predictably enough, plenty of the grain that shows up in these camps is in fact summarily fermented into beer.
Sierra Leone is on the other side of Africa, but it’s population is equally mixed religiously – roughly two thirds Muslim and one third Christian, and in each case with strong threads of traditional animist practices that don’t technically fit into either religion and tend to be beer-friendly. I don’t know for sure, but something tells me the camps in neighboring Guinea where the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars spent most of their time, were probably similar to those in Sudan in terms of their treatment of fermentables. Add to this the fact that the All Stars have a strong Rastafarian strain in some of their lyrics and fashion, and something tells me these musicians wouldn’t be averse to the occasional can of homebrew – just a hunch.
In any case, starting in a few weeks, the All Stars don’t have to drink like refugees anymore because they’ll be on tour in the world’s craft beer capital – the good ol’ Brew S of A! I’m hoping to catch them in New York City where they’ll be playing at the Save the Children 75th anniversary on September 6th at Lincoln Center.