Founded by two sisters from Bordeaux, France, inspired by the conscious rap of Public Enemy, De La
Soul, and Arrested Development as well as the smoother but no less exhilarating sounds of Soul II Soul and
Des’ree, Les Nubians are a new breed of Afropean-styled hip-hop, Afropop Queens.
Les Nubians debut album, Princesses Nubiennes, mixes uplifting messages with contemporary hip-hop
stylings. Other French rappers such as MC Solaar and Mel’ Groove have forged a blueprint upon which
Les Nubians build their sound, equally influenced by classic soul, contemporary R&B and the inspiration
of such African world music icons as Miriam Makeba, Ray Lema and Youssou N’Dour.
Born to a French father and Cameroonian mother, Helene and Celia Faussart learned how to sing at a
young age. Even from their first performance as a cappella group, journalists in attendance later raved in
print about these two charismatic young girls and their wonderful voices.
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. The results come
to fruition on Princesses Nubiennes, an amalgam of everything they’ve soaked up so far in their life travels,
including African roots (the girls lived for several years in Chad), with a jazzy feel, funky rhythms, a hint
of British soul and a dash of French cool.
The girls cite a long and varied list of musical inspirations for this distinctive sound, including Miriam
Makeba, Ella Fitzgerald, the Fugees, Fela Kuti, and Jazzie B of Soul II Soul. “This album is a kind of
travelogue, a kind of journey through all the music of the African Diaspora,” says
Helene. “We begin with the roots-African chants, griot chants-and then after that traditional soul, and after
that gospel, blues, jazz reggae, funk and on to more modern styles. (And there’s even a hint of jungle in
track 5). This was our idea of travel, to offer a tribute to different black music, but still to have a modern
touch. Because soon it will be the 21st century, and so we wanted to do something modern. On time.”
Their debut album was recorded in England and France and with a core group of English and French
backing musicians who’ve previously worked with the likes of Ronny Jordan, Jhelisa, Positive Black Soul
and Des’ree. The duo made their first appearance on the Jazz A Saint-German compilation, released on
Higher Octave Jazz in the U.S.
Their promising debut album, Princesses Nubiennes, was released by Virgin worldwide in France, Switzerland, and Belgium in June 1998 before coming out on Omtown/Higher Octave in the U.S. in September of that year. It became America's most successful French-language album in more than a decade, and Les Nubians also graced recordings by Talib Kweli and Black Eyed Peas, as well as a Red Hot tribute to Fela Kuti, Red, Hot & Riot. Sessions for their second album brought the pair to Jamaica, Cameroon, London, and Paris, including a host of intriguing collaborators: top underground rapper Talib Kweli, fellow Cameroonian Manu Dibango, pianist Ray Lema, and broken-beat maestro IG Culture. The results appeared as One Step Forward, released in March 2003 by Higher Octave. They recorded the track "Going All the Way" featuring reggae star Berres Hammond for UNITY: The Official Athens 2004 Olympic Games album. In 2005, Les Nubians issued Nubians Present Echoes, Chapter One, a collection of spoken word pieces by poets and hip-hop artists from the U.S., France, and Africa. The duo also covered "With or Without You," for inclusion on the compilation In the Name of Love: Africa Celebrates U2, in 2008. Les Nubians finally re-entered the recording studio in 2010, emerging with the EP Nü Revolution in the latter part of the year and the full-length, Nü Revolution in the spring of 2011.
Les Nubians have been honored with two Soul Train Lady of Soul Award Nominations- winning one in 1999 for Best New Group or Duo, two NAACP Image Award Nominations, an Applause African Diaspora Award in 2013, an AFRIMMA Award in 2014 and one GRAMMY nomination. Countless recognitions and four dynamic albums later, Les Nubians continue to inspire with their latest album, Nü Revolution and dedication to women’s rights issues. In 2015, the duo performed at the UN Women-hosted event, “Step It Up For Gender Equality” led by Hilary Clinton, sang for a sold out audience at the Apollo Christmas show in Harlem, NYC and collaborated with Boddhi Satva on "Beautiful Human." This year they are celebrating their 20 year union by recording and releasing new music for their fans around the world.