"When two elephants fight, the grass will suffer" runs an African proverb. So it was in Sierra Leone in the years 1991-2002 when the fallout from a brutal civil war between the government and various rebel factions - killing, mutilation, rape, forced conscription - sent hundreds of thousands of Sierra Leoneans fleeing to the neighboring West African nation of Guinea. Among those gathered in the refugee camps were six musicians who initially began playing together as a distraction from the horrors of the war and the bleakness of life in the camps.
An American documentary film crew discovered the band - some of whose members had had limbs amputated by the rebels - and followed them for three years as they moved from camp to camp, back to Sierra Leone and eventually to a studio recording under sponsorship of the United Nations.
With the 2005 release of the documentary, "Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars," the band acquired both a name and international recognition. They've since been touring the world, engaging their particular fusion of traditional West African music and roots reggae in support of various humanitarian causes. Among their high-profile fans: Keith Richards, Paul McCartney, Aerosmith, Angelina Jolie and Ice Cube.
On Tuesday the All Stars come to the Iron Horse in Northampton for a 7 p.m. show. $15 advance; $18 at the door. 586-8686, iheg.com