Music » Livewire

Les Nubians

Tuesday, March 4, at the Odeon.

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Les Nubians
  • Les Nubians
Sister vocal act Les Nubians learned the meaning of the word "multiculturalism" firsthand at an early age. Helene and Celia Faussert, born to a French father and a Cameroonian mother, grew up in an interracial household influenced by both African and European traditions. They were raised in Bordeaux, France, and they lived in Chad, West Africa, for a number of years. But neither regards the mixed ancestry as cause for an identity crisis.

"If I don't believe I'm black and I'm white, I won't be true to myself," says 23-year-old Celia, the younger of the two. "We are from a mixed couple, so we have to cope with both cultures. If we don't, we die. African and European -- we believe that is our identity, and our parents raised us in knowing both cultures and not choosing one for another." The sisters' upbringing has resulted in good news for music fans via the stylistic hybrid they term "Afropean."

Les Nubians take traditional African music and modern African funk à la Fela Kuti, mix it with American hip-hop and English Soul II Soul, and end up sounding something like Sade fronting the Roots.

Though the sisters achieved success relatively young, they had to overcome a lot of adversity before becoming known internationally. They encountered prejudice not only because of their cultural background, but also because of the topics they addressed in their songs. The sisters hit a raw nerve, says Celia, "because we wanted to talk about culture and identity, and they don't like it in France. They have this politics where you shouldn't talk about it. We are French, or we are not. You have to be African or French, but not both."

On the tour, Les Nubians hope to break down cultural barriers. According to Celia, "It is very important to know about each other. It is very important for us to open this bridge to make African American people know more about other black people." One thing music can achieve, Celia says, is "to keep the culture where you're from alive." C'est vrai. Vive Les Nubians.

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