Talking ’Bout a Nü Revolution: Les Nubians Interview
Growing up in two countries — Chad as children and France as teens — the women of Les Nubians, Hélène and Célia Faussart, were shaped by both cultures. On their third recording, Nü Revolution their pan-African vision remains as vibrant and clear as ever. Nü Revolution embodies, both through music and lyrics, a true sense of ‘World Citizenship.’ Featuring special guests ranging from African music legend Manu Dibango to indie soul icon Eric Roberson, with South African pop stars Freshly Ground, Ghanian-American MC Blitz The Ambassador and Polish MC John Banzaï along for the ride. Les Nubians manage to make the blend of so many diverse elements seem logical and organic; it flows quite naturally from their multicultural lives.
MundoVibe’s John C. Tripp spoke with Hélène and Célia on the Nü Revolution via telephone from their new home of Brooklyn just after their first performance ever in the Caribbean island of St. Maarten.
MundoVibe: Congratulations on your third full-length recording, I’ve been absorbing it and I love it. It’s got a great message to it, it’s really uptempo, very celebratory vibe and I think it’s going to blow up for you. So, this Nü Revolution, I want you to tell me about it because I want to be part of it.
Les Nubians: Well, Nu Revolution is a two year process to put together and Nu Revolution, why, I guess NU for “new universe” and we’re entering a new time, everything is kind of changing and no more types of frontiers because of the internet. I feel like because of the written histories we all went through, the recession crisis, all the wars and all the natural catastrophies we feel even more related to each other than ever. So, this is a new universe we’re living in. There’s finally worldwide citizenship that’s for real now.
Revolution? It’s not so much about revolution, it is more the evolution of our dreams. The dream is definitely the project, like the plan, and we have to stick to it to make it reality. America electing Barack Obama is like a dream that arrived to fruition in a sense, and we have to build dreams for ourselves in society. So, physically it’s about that, it’s about those kinds of struggles. We have to keep the faith and the hope and that’s why the album is more uptempo because we don’t want to mourn anymore. When things weigh so heavily on you, it’s better to dance to make it lighter. We have to stay positive and focus on the counterpart of what we feel is heavy in our life. We have to behave properly according to our dreams.
MundoVibe: That’s a wonderful message. It’s needed because there is a lot of reasons to be sad about the planet, about the state of affairs, and music can be so uplifting.
Les Nubians: We wanted to comfort as well as ourselves. We make the music we want to listen to (laughs). We also wanted to comfort and to energize. There is no sad song on this album: hope and love is underlined throughout the album.
And women, because in revolution you also have evolution throught the women. I truly believe that woman has a very important role to play in that change we all seek. They are the caregivers, they are the one’s giving birth. A woman has a business plan not for a lifetime, she has a business plan for this life and another lifetime which is a projection of her children.
So, when they’re talking about the Aquarius Age I think the point of this age is being true to ourself, and also the universe is taking good care of re-balancing the feminine energy out there. It’s been too many years people have been under male domination and when you look at history it’s not very brilliant. I mean, too much bloodshed and the fate of the planet and what we’ve done, that sucks really. I think women will be the key to that change and we empower them a lot on the album.
MundoVibe: On this album you have a number of collaborators, you worked with Blitz the Ambassador whose music I love on ‘Les Gens’ and Manu Dibango, a great soul legend, with ‘Nu Soul Makossa’. How did these collaborations happen?
Les Nubians: We like to collaborate, of course with artists we appreciate but also artists where we have similar ambitions. So, to collaborate with Blitz, it’s the beginning of a collaboration. He’s one of our last musical encounters and we thought of him for ‘Les Gens’ really at the last minute. We were about the finish the song and feature nobody but us on it because the artist we had planned to work with wasn’t available so we weren’t going to just replace to replace. And then we thought about Blitz and listened to his music we were like ‘yes, he’s the person’. We invited him and the thing is we only had 48 hours to make it happen because the album was already being mixed. And Blitz said ‘it’s my honor, it’s my pleasure, I’ll see what I can do’. He called back like 10 minutes later and said ‘OK, I can do it’. So the next day we did it. Working and meeting with Blitz is like encountering a kindred soul. Then he invited us to record on his new album “Native Son”.
It’s been more than ten years that we are working, traveling and sharing a new vision of Africa, a deep love for Africa and for the diaspora. So, it’s beautiful to meet somebody like Blitz. It makes us feel that we are not alone. We worked and we pushed ourselves to represent, to open the way and also to continue the path of our older brothers and sisters.
People like Manu Dibongo for example. It’s just a question of generation: we are continuing the path. That’s why when my sister was talking about “Nü Revolution”, saying that we believe in evolution and not necessarily in revolution. It’s not about tearing everything apart to reset everything. No, it’s about continuing the evolution towards what we want and where we want to head.
MundoVibe: What you said about evolution, I would say applies equally to your music. You haven’t torn anything apart and had to rebuild it, you’ve built on what you’ve created throughout your career. With this album you have an interesting mix, you have some traditional drumming and African music. You also have the hip hop and R&B influences and also just a wordly approach. Is the overall vision to be “wordly?”
Les Nubians: Yeah, it is. We’re making music for every generation, music for all of us. We are concerned about the link, we are link makers, we are bridge builders between the diaspora, between the cultures. You know, talking about the diaspora is not a way to exclude the cultures it’s just a way of saying ‘we know more who we are’ and you can stand strong and you are so much at ease to encounter anybody else. And because the continent is in an emergency state. But what we can see nowadays is that the planet is in an emergency state! We all need each other, we need each other like never ever. Or maybe we forgot but now we surely do, so what’s going on in the world is gonna remind us. And that’s what we’ve been talking about since Princess Nubiennes. Nothing under the sun, it’s just that in the beginning, for example, French journalists were saying that we were naiive and why were we talking about peace, it’s so naiive and cliched. But we grew up in Chad. It’s an area of the world that’s still shaking, you know? And look at Libya, when we were there it was a war between Chad and Libya.
It’s just what has been called the Third World is becoming the First World and the Western part of the world is really discovering what is the need of unification. It’s funny because Third World was more than 60% of the planet, you know? So, I think that the Third World learned about unity, learned about strength. So I think it’s time that the citizens of the world unite and envisage our world as one. Envisaging people as one.
MundoVibe: That’s a very profound and powerful message and what you’re saying will resonate with a lot of people. It’s a good message, it’s easy to be cynical but we need to be positive. Tell me about the tour then?
Les Nubians: We have an amazing band that we toured with in September when we did the launching of the E.P. The energy is super high, everybody’s so happy to get back on the road. The vibrations are in harmony and we’re very excited. We love performing the album live and the album, in the recording, has that “live” touch. We want people to come and enjoy and celebrate life with us.