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World Music Features

Les Nubians

By Tom Terrell
Published July 12, 2006

This September, the Faussarts dropped their third full-length recording with a group that always finds ways to confound expectations: Les Nubians Presents: Echos: Chapter One Nubian Voyager.

“Ah, the French/I love their skies/Ah the French/I love their fries.”—Martin Mull (“Ah France”)

 

In 1993, French-Cameroonian siblings Helene and Celia Faussart formed Les Nouveaux Griots in Bordeaux, France. A non-profit, Afrocentric, art/music collective modeled after Soul II Soul, Les Griots organized spoken word shows throughout the region. Two years later, the sisters were singing their poems. Called themselves Les Nubians. 

In early‘98, Les Nubians released their debut album Princesses Nubiennes on Virgin France. All the critics hated it; one ass even derided it for not being “really black!” So very wrong. A year later, that same freakey-styley fusion of smoovey hip-hop/trip-hop beats, ’70s soul jazz grooves, Afro-French melodies and R&B harmonies (dubbed Afropea) the French denigrated as inauthentic made Les Nubians the first French pop group to have an R&B Top 20 hit (“Makeda”) in the very country that birthed black pop music!

By the summer of ’99, Princesses Nubiennes was chilling at the #100 spot on Billboard’s album chart with over 180,000 units sold. That fall, 400,000 punters—mostly 20-something and African-American—came out for the group’s 20-date national tour. “The 1999 tour was, I think, a really special time,” marvels Helene. “It was our first real encounter with the American audience. We had amazing shows all around the country.”   

 

“He who laughs last, laughs best.”—Way back in the day axiom

 

A year later, Princesses Nubiennes rises to #46 on Billboard’s R&B albums chart. More importantly the over the next two years, the Faussart sisters record collaborations with hip-hop luminaries Black Eyed Peas, Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek and Guru’s Jazzmatazz, as well as tracks for the Love And Basketball soundtrack, Red Hot & Indigo and Red Hot