Les Nubians are a couple of French-African sisters who bust out in Lauren Hill style R&B and soul. The catch is that much of their music is in French. Now I know what you’re thinking: French music, what good is it? (Edith Piaff notwithstanding) But honestly, these French-African babes from Bordeaux bring something to the French table that mainstream French music could never bring: soul—and lots of it. I was pleasantly surprised when I picked up their latest album, “Princesses Nubiennes.” According to nubienne numero un, Hèléne Faussart, “this album is a kind of travelogue, a kind of journey through all the different kinds of music of the African Diaspora.” This becomes strongly evident throughout the album as soul, R&B, gospel and hip-hop are intertwined to create a unique and distinctive afro-centric sound.
Born in France of a Camerounian mother and a French father, they spent part of their early childhood in Chad. Thematically, the songs on the album reflect that multi-national upbringing and touch on issues of social consequences, world citizenry and a forward-looking introspective on a positive future. The first track on the album, “Demain” has a funky soulful groove to it and, as the title suggests (“tomorrow” in French), it is a testament to that forward-looking positivity.
The track “Makeda” is a homage to the African queen, Makeda, wife of the biblical Solomom, as a symbol of female pride, strength and beauty. There is a also badass version of Sade’s Taboo on this album infused with phat basslines on the R&B tip.
While all but one song on the album is sung in French, the only language necessary to feel their soulful mood-enhancing vibe is the language of music. For those still aching to know what they’re actually singing, the liner notes offer English-language versions of the songs. To sum it up, take Sade, add some Lauren Hill, throw in some MC Solaar and some Wyclef, and you got Les Nubians.