LES NUBIANS’ AFROPEAN REVOLUTION: THE SOUND OF A MULTICULTURAL NEW WORLD
Les Nubians is an Afropean, Urban, R&B Grammy-nominated duo composed of sisters Hélène and Célia Faussart from Paris France. In 1985 the sisters moved with their parents to Chad, Africa. Seven years later, they returned to Bordeaux, France and began singing a cappella, producing poetry slams in Bordeaux and Paris, and singing background vocals for various artists worldwide. The duo’s debut album Princesses Nubiennes was released by Virgin Records, France, in 1998.
They have become one of the most successful French-language musical groups in the U.S., best known for their Billboard R&B Single “Makeda” from their Grammy nominated album Princesses Nubiennes. Les Nubians were the 1999 Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards winners for Best New Artist, Group or Duo and received two NAACP Image Awards nominations in 2000.
To date, Les Nubians have made their home base Brooklyn New York. They continue to tour the U.S. and world-wide performing at Festivals, art centers, theaters and clubs. Their most recent release is, Nü Revolution (2011) Nubiatik, Shanachie.
NÜ REVOLUTION CD FEATURES SPECIAL GUESTS MANU DIBANGO, ERIC ROBERSON, BLITZ THE AMBASSADOR, FRESHLY GROUND, JOHN BANZAÏ
” Nü Revolution: Nü for New Universe, this new world as World Citizens that we are. In Revolution, in motion. In the word Revolution, there is Rêve which in French means Dreams. The Evolution of the Dream, of our Dream for a better world, a better Self. In Evolution, there’s the evolution through Eve, the woman. We were princesses becoming Queens with Grace, Strength, Responsibilities, Unconditional Love and Care for our Community: The World, The Universe. Full Circle” –Les Nubians
In a world where teenagers in West Africa and Eastern Europe can share videos and mp3s on youtube, a Sri Lankan urbanite is transformed by hip-hop and an American deejay re-mixes sounds out of a Brazilian favela, it is undeniable that the completely interconnected global village has arrived. As a result, a new wave of artists from around the world, conversant with and connected to ancient traditions as well as the latest technology, has emerged. Artists such as M.I.A., Zap Mama, Manu Chao, Michael Franti, Nneka, Gogol Bordello, Rachid Taha and many others mix and match musical elements and cultural experiences, often with hip-hop the lingua franca. Very often the mix is rooted in the multiple strands of the African diaspora. One of the leaders of this trend has been Les Nubians, who managed the difficult trick of scoring an urban radio hit with French language neo-soul–the first time that had ever been done. Suddenly Les Nubians, consisting of two bi-cultural sisters from France, Hélène and Célia Faussart–were being hailed as one of the most appealing and innovative artists on the urban music scene world-wide. There followed a near gold-selling album, collaborations with the likes of Talib Kweli and the Red, Hot and Riot collective, and Grammy nominations. Then suddenly they seemed to disappear but all along they were busy refining their craft. Now Les Nubians return with Nü Revolution, their highly-anticipated third album to be released on April 19, 2011 by Shanachie Entertainment. It fully delivers on the promise of their breakthrough efforts with a relentlessly enchanting and energized mix of R & B, hip-hop, African music and other world elements.
“The main difference between this album and the others,” muses Hélène Faussart, “is that Nü Revolution is more uptempo. This album is a celebration of life! We wanted to bring and spread this energy, this joy in a time of uncertainty.” Indeed Nü Revolution may be the most impressive representation of Les Nubians’ “Afropean Soul” to date. Featuring special guests ranging from African music legend Manu Dibango, whose “Soul Makossa” crossover classic gets a politically charged make-over to indie soul icon Eric Roberson, with South African pop stars Freshly Ground, Ghanian-American MC Blitz The Ambassador and Polish MC John Banzaï along for the ride. Somehow, Les Nubians manage to make the blend of so many diverse elements seem logical and organic; it flows quite naturally from their multicultural lives.
The infectiously funky dance track “Afrodance” expresses this reality by celebrating hairstyles as an expression of personal style and cultural identity. “Your hair is a statement of who you are and how you live with your true nature,” Célia Faussart notes. “That’s why since the first album we insisted on bringing back natural Black hair by using traditional braids and hair-dos and dreadlocks because we need to embrace ourselves to the fullest. Our mother always said “natural is beautiful” but it’s not easy to cope with everyday! And, yes, it is a political statement saying who we are and that we will not compromise. This message has been used by the same way during the 70′s as a symbol of liberation, destruction of the old establishment and affirmation of identity.”
Nü Revolution embodies, both through music and lyrics, a true sense of ‘World Citizenship.’ “Liberte,” for instance, is inspired by the general shift signaled by Barack Obama’s election as President, and is dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King. Les Nubians do not neglect love or romance.
“Déjà vu,” with guest vocal by Eric Roberson tells of a man and woman meeting in a club while “Fraicheur Souhaitée (Freshness Desired)” presents romantic longing through a personals ad. Nü Revolution also delivers provocative messages, as on “Femme Polyandre (Polyandrous Woman).” “Polyandrous woman” is the female version of a polygamous man,” Les Nubians explain. “This idea came from a conversation between women friends where we were wondering if there was a word for it. Why some man could ‘marry’ several women and not the inverse? We also appreciate the different qualities in a variety of people! Women are naturally very complex. If you listen to the voices in their mind, you would be amazed! There is a joke saying that a woman needs three men: one for the money, one for romance and one for sex. The ideal situation would be to have all those three men in one!”
The women of Les Nubians were shaped by many influences. Les Nubians has its genesis in a small town in the South West region of France where the Paris-born sisters Hélène and Célia Faussart lived as teenagers after returning from several years’ residence with their parents in the African country of Chad. With a French father and a Cameroonian mother, Hélène and Célia experienced cultural dissonance in the rural Bordeaux region. After their father’s death, Célia joined her sister in Bordeaux and they helped found a cultural collective, Les Nouveaux Griots, a “griot” being a traditional African storyteller and historian, all with the goal of increasing awareness of African and Urban cultures. A chance meeting with jazz legend Abbey Lincoln, who encouraged the sisters to sing, led to the formation of Les Nubians. In the beginning they sang acapella due to their difficulty finding musicians who would back them. Their unique sound led to a recording deal with Virgin Records and in 1998 their debut album, Princesses Nubiennes was released in Europe, where initially it enjoyed only modest sales. But the albums innovative mix of hip hop, neo soul and African music found an audience in America and “Makeda” the first single from Princesses Nubiennes became an urban radio hit. The video for “Makeda” garnered heavy rotation on BET and VH-1 Soul while a DJ Spinna re-mix generated strong club play. Characterized by a marriage between Sade and Erykah Badu, “Makeda” was the right sound at the right time. Massive media attention, successful tours and a Grammy nomination followed as well as nominations for two NAACP Image Awards and two Soul Train Lady Of Soul Awards; one of which Les Nubians took home as 1999’s winner for Best New Artist Group or Duo.
In 2003, Les Nubians released their second album One Step Forward a conscious evolution of their style. They sang more in English on this album, largely as a result of their American experiences, which made them far more fluent in English.” Restlessly creative, the sisters graced 2005 not with a new Les Nubians album but with a spoken word project that brought together talented spoken word artists under Les Nubians’ umbrella. By now Les Nubians was in demand around the world as a performing act, which they felt fostered both personal and artistic growth–the fruit of which is revealed on Nü Revolution. Their pan-African vision remains as vibrant and clear as ever, as expressed on “Africa For The Future” from the new album.
“Africa is our past, present and future,” Les Nubians asserts. This song is about accepting and rejoicing through our body and mind that Africa is vibrant and 10,000,000 times ALIVE! Africa FOR the future also to say that we have to prepare the future of the continent. It’s in the NOW that we create the future. ACTION time is NOW!!!”