For the commercial side of the industry, World music often is difficult to market because it’s hard to categorize. But diversity is precisely the aim of Les Nubians, the French recording act whose songs cross myriad creative lines.
Even their lyrics possess that hard-to-pin-down feature. To some, their music has an Afro-centric appeal. To others, it’s all about French culture. To others, still, there exists a sense of black radicalism within their message. Complicating (or to some, enticing) matters further, their albums consist of songs recorded in several different languages: French, English and Spanish.
Les Nubians, sisters Helene and Celia Faussart, made history with One Step Forward, their sophomore album that was released this spring. The CD’s debut (No. 79) was the highest in two decades for a French-language album on the Billboard 200.
The set follows Princesses Nubiennes, the pair’s 1998 debut recording project, and comes in the wake of extensive world travel and collaborations with noted vocalists and musicians from around the world. The result is an album that’s laced with an array of artistic influences, from Afro-jazz and British breakbeat to reggae and electronica to U.S. and Cameroonian hip-hop.
The album’s first single, “Temperature’s Rising,” featured guest rapper Talib Kweli, an artist the duo enjoyed working with because of their respect for his lyrical abilities, as well as his commitment to promoting positive cultural aims.
Helene and Celia, were born in the Bordeaux region of France, but lived for seven years in the African nation of Chad before returning to France as teenagers. All the while, performing music was a part of their being. They eventually formed Les Nubians while still working as a young a cappella act specializing in r&b, reggae, and African songs.
They credit noted acts such as Ella Fitzgerald, Abbey Lincoln, the Fugees and African icons Miriam Makeba and Fela Kuti as significant influences. As a result, it’s no wonder that Les Nubians’ music holds such a broad creative range -- one that will certainly help them maintain a impressive and respected career for years to come.