"Music is every moment of our
lives," says Helene FAUSSART, one half of the Afropean hip
hop/R&B duo Les Nubians. Helene and her sister
and bandmate, Celia, found that this feeling connected
them with people in Jamaica, Egypt, Cameroon, Chad, London,
their native Paris and other locales around the world as they
embarked on the journey that led to their newest album 'One Step
In the time since their 1999 U.S. debut 'Princesses Nubiennes'
Octave/Virgin) became the most successful French-language album
in more than a decade of Billboard charts, Les Nubians' singing
sisters have traveled the world, soaking up the sounds of
reggae, afro-beat, pop and electronica while collaborating with
a host of respected musicians.
"Everywhere we went, we looked
for music that spoke of the local culture," says Helene. The
sisters met and worked with traditional folk musicians, as well
as artists at the apex of every genre from Afro-jazz to British
breakbeat to Cameroonian hip hop. In addition to working on
their own material, Les Nubians appeared on 14 different
recordings by an assortment of other artists, spanning the globe
and crossing genres - from Towa Tei, Black Eyed Peas and Talib
Kweli & Hi-Tek to the acclaimed Red Hot series on "Red, Hot &
Riot" and "Red, Hot & Indigo."
The musical summits gave way to recording sessions in Jamaica,
Cameroon, London and at home in Paris, where Helene and Celia
were joined by African jazz legend Manu Dibango, pianist Ray
Lema, classical musician Benjamin Biolay, dancehall reggae stars
Morgan Heritage, UK electronica wizard I.G. Culture, Mounir
Belkhir, the poetic producer of the US hit track “Makeda” and
more. For Les Nubians, these diverse sessions were a chance to
work with some of their biggest influences, while bringing
together the music of a wide range of cultures and generations.
Along with learning from these
master instrumentalists, Celia and Helene sought to preserve
their legacies among younger listeners. "This is so important,
especially in Afropean music," says Helene. "Many of the sounds
of the two cultures have been separated for so long, but music
can be a bridge that helps people meet."
Multi-cultural sensibilities come naturally to Les Nubians. Born
to a French father and Cameroonian mother, Helene and Celia
learned how to sing at a young age. Inspired by a backstage
meeting with jazz singer Abbey Lincoln (who encouraged them to
"do it-the greatest thing in the world is to be a singer!"), the
group pursued their music relentlessly. Their debut "Princesses
Nubiennes" was a successful amalgam of the music they'd
experienced during their life travels, combining their African
roots with jazzy nuances, funky rhythms and a hint of British
soul, all delivered in their uniquely elegant French style. A
long and varied list of musical influences are attributed to Les
Nubians' distinctive sound, including Miriam Makeba, Ella
Fitzgerald, the Fugees, Fela Kuti, and Jazzie B of Soul II Soul.
According to Celia, "Music is a great way to transmit a cultural
background. Making this record was, in part, a way for our
generation to give tribute to musicians we've looked up to and
see that their music gets the recognition it deserves."
Les Nubians had their work recompensed by a 2004 GRAMMY AWARD
nomination for the track "J'veux d'la musique" in the Best Urban
Alternative R&B category, along with Outkast, Erykha Badu, Kelis
and Music Soulchild.