Sounds of Africa in French

Sounds of Africa in French

Bella Boqo

Photo by: Prefeitura de Olinda

What do you get when you mesh the raw tone of two sisters, some French lyrics, jazzy rhythms, sweet harmony, a love for Africa and a set of light, head-bobbing hip-hop beats? ?Music [that] is a bridge where people can meet, dance, love and create?. That is how international Afropean duo, Les Nubians, choose to describe their music.

Born of Cameroonian and French parents, sisters and co-singers?C??lia and Hel??ne Faussart, have used elements of their diverse identities to produce music that transcends the boundaries of genre and geography. 

When first listening to their debut album titled Princesses Nubiennes, one experiences emotions of apprehension; all but one track are sung in French. This creates a space for confusion, especially amongst non-French speakers. The first track Demaine does nothing to change this; it is upbeat with some jazzy elements but lacks coherence, making it sound like a disorganised practice session. However, the collaborative sound of the saxophone, percussion, piano and violin beginning the second track, Les Portes du Souvenir, transform the mood. They create a hopeful, free and distinctly African atmosphere that can be understood in any language and is present right through to the last track. There are of course numerous other tracks that allow both a sensual and light-hearted sway of the hips. The inclusion of well-played drums, guitar and bass allows for this.

The hit single Makeda, produced by Mounir Belkhir is one of such. It is a celebration of African women that directly refers to the Queen of Sheba (whose is known as Makeda in Amharic). It is responsible for much of the excitement around the album?s release in 1999, under the Omtown/Higher Octave label. Makeda topped US Billboard charts, granting Princesses Nubiennes recognition as the most successful French-language album in decades. Other tracks were produced by Lee Hamblin.

The Majesty, Detroit?s Premier Entertainment Centre recorded the duo stating that ?[m]aking 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.? These include artists such Miriam Makeba, Fela Kuti, Ella Fitzgerald and Edith Piaf.

It is clearly evident that Les Nubians have succeeded in their attempts, simultaneously gaining rewards of their own. In giving recognition to others, they have created a genre that both unites European and African culture; and celebrates young and old. If their newest offering, Nu Revolution, is as pleasant to the soul as Princesses Nubiennes, it is a definite must-have.

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