Les Nubians is comprised of sisters Hélène and Célia Faussart. The pair were born in France and raised in the African country of Chad. In the late 90’s they burst on to the scene with their debut album, Princesses Nubiennes, which featured the hit singles “Makeda” and “Tabou,” sung in both English and French.
The duo recently released their fourth album, Nü Revolution, their first on an independent label. The album features guest appearances from independent soul icon Eric Roberson and African music legend Manu DiBango, who also happens to be Hélène’s godfather.
We recently sat down with Hélène and Célia to talk about the album, how being exposed to different cultures informed their music, how language barriers mean nothing in music, and how women will be leading the new revolution.
TUD: Where have you guys been for the last couple of years?
Célia: We’ve been busy!
Hélène: We travelled a lot, visiting new territories, performing a lot around the world. We separated from our major record company, took care of our kids, suffered the loss of our mother, and wrote new music. It took us almost two years to deliver the new album because we were independent and producing it independently. We took the time to really craft the songs.
TUD: Since you guys are now independent, I’ll assume you had complete artistic control. How did that feel?
Hélène: Not saying that before we didn’t have freedom — we had it. It was quite marvelous to work with our artistic director, and they were so trusting of us in our music. I would say that we have more freedom.
Célia: It’s more fun.
Hélène: You have the chance to take your time, craft the songs, get a little feedback from good people around you, and get back to work on the songs when necessary and needed. It was a great process.
Interview continues below
Les Nubians “Veuillez Veiller Sur Vos Rêves (feat. John Banzai)” (J. Period Remix) (2011)
TUD: How did living in Paris, Chad, and now New York, and the wildly different cultures in those places inform your music?
Célia: That is our music!
Hélene: The music we have wanted to share since the first album was music that would be filled with that worldwide experience, knowledge, encounters, languages, and music styles. We grew up in many different cultures, hearing other tongues. Hearing all those languages, seeing all of those different faiths around the world, you learn about tolerance. That’s feeding all of our music.
TUD: Les Nubians often sing in French, and sometimes in English. Have you found the language barrier to be a bit of a hurdle in America?
Hélène: We’re proof that it’s not. When we worked on our first album, we wanted to sing in French.
Celia: It’s important for us to sing in French. It’s the language we dream in, it’s our first language. We wanted to do music that looked like us with our language before it disappears!
Hélène: When we arrived in America with our music and our French songs, we met our audience and they would say “we don’t know what you’re talking about in this song, but I can feel sadness, pain and all of that. ” and it was true. We figured out that music is a language all by itself. The emotions, even without the words, people could feel them and describe them which was quite amazing. It was confirmation that the music we were doing was exactly what we wanted to put out.
Celia: You want to be comfortable with the language when you write the song. You want your message to be true. Of course, We started making music in French. That’s the language we speak more fluently. But as the years go and we began to speak more English and we felt more comfortable, English started to resonate as truth. On Nü Revolution, there’s a bit more English than before. Not necessarily as an attempt to crossover, but we recorded part of this album in America and that’s how the inspiration came — in English.
Interview continues below
Les Nubians “Makeda” (1999)
TUD: What is the Nü Revolution?
Hélène: “Nü” for New Universe. We aren’t living in the same world we were 15 years ago. We have new rising nations setting up the path of the world, China, Brazil, India, which is very interesting to me. Revolution is not so much “revolution.” I believe in evolution. In French, the word “rêve” means “dream.” It’s the evolution of our dreams. Rêve and evolution. And in “Revolution” you have “Eve”. I truly believe that that evolution will be carried by women. We’re living in a new time and it’s time to rebalance our feminine energy. So Nü Revolution is all of those things.
TUD: Speaking of feminine energy, there’s a song on the album called “Femme Polyandre.” Can you tell us what that song is about?
Hélène: Basically, if you take the title literally, it means “Woman who has several husbands.” (laughs) But it’s a beautiful image talking about the complexity of women. Now women are super-educated, doing things that men do. They want every thing at the same time. But women has all of these faces – the mother, the lover, the friend, the whore. She’s all of those faces. If you go into a woman’s head and mind I’m sure she’d associate one man with all of those faces. Her quest is to one find one man who will unite all of those personalities. We’re not promoting polygamy at all. We’re just complex human beings and we should be taken as such.
Nü Revolution is out now on Shanachie Entertainment!
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