Hélène Faussart of French duo Les Nubians speaks on their new album Nu Revolution, working with family, and much more
With over a decade on the music scene, sisters Hélène and Célia Faussart, otherwise known as “Afropean” duo Les Nubians, is back with the release of their latest LP Nu Revolutions— an up-tempo blend of world music, afro soul, and hip hop sounds. I recently had the chance to speak with Hélène about the album’s message; what it’s like working with family, and whether or not the French duo will ever record an all-English album.
Describe the creative inspiration behind Nu-Revolution?
There are two primary inspirations on Nu-Revolution: dreams and evolution. We are more children of evolution than revolution, but dreams are what inspire revolution. This album is about dreams and the realization of a revolution, as well as the evolution of women.
I’ve heard you all speak out/comment on the state of our world today; how do you believe music can help or ease the pain of a crisis? Why is it necessary?
Music has always been a medicine. It has the ability to ease pain, caress the heart, and helps us dream about what is possible. It also allows us to be together and to dance, and this is a very important part of the album. Our Mom always says that you must dance to reconnect to the energy of the sun, and to have strength to realize what we can do, what is possible. Music is the weapon. It is the weapon against pain today.
Tell us about some of the collaborators on this project? How long was the recording process?
We started recording the album two years ago with influences of dance music. On Nu Revolution we have friends like John Bonsai, who is a friend and poet. We have Manu Dibango who was on One Step Forward, as well as new friends. This was our first time recording in the United States. We finished recording in New York. We met Eric Roberson, a composer and producer. Blitz the Ambassador is on the album, which is like a member of our family. We share similar objectives with Africa and more specifically modern Africa. Bran Jackson is someone else that we composed with. A great person and artist, and we had great conversations with him about music. It’s an adventure, and when you go on a voyage you go with people you think will help you change and develop.
When writing, creating songs; do you all have a technique as sisters? For example: one writes lyrics; the other does melodies?
I write more of the music. But as far as the rest, we like to mix it up and share roles. We are very casual so we have a tendency to write a vocal part, and then my sister will program music using the computer. It’s really an exchange.
Though I’ve always felt Americans have truly supported your music from the beginning; As opposed to living in France, what has been the reception now that you’re mostly based here in New York?
I’m not exactly sure because I really wouldn’t say that we are based here. We are still in between Paris, New York, and Africa when possible. We are getting ready to go to the Congo in the beginning of June. I don’t know if the fact that we’re here a bit more has changed the relationship with our American fans. I feel they have always accepted who we are, with our songs in French. It is true that there is a bit more English on this album because we’re more comfortable with English now than we were before. So when we’re creating, sometimes it comes in English and it sounds real. The things that we want to say in English come out naturally. We still love to write in French because it is important that it’s part of our mission and our prerogative. It’s the language of my heart and of my dreams. But there are thoughts inside us now that really do come in English, as well as dreams even. It’s an odd phenomenon, but there are times where we are speaking to each other now and we say things in English, its funny.
Have you thought about or will you ever release an all-English album?
(Laughs) I don’t think so.
Though I studied two years of French in high school, I still can’t speak a word of it! But since Princesses Nubiennes I’ve been a fan of your music. Is that intentional, connecting your words with music in a way that no matter your language skills (or lack thereof) fans can still connect?
It is very important because no matter what language, each one has its own musicality within, and it’s a little bit due to the magic of words. Ultimately, words are sounds and so for us to do music and use words in either language that goes beyond language, is what we listen to in all music. We want to feel close to the music beyond the notes and music part of it. Music is a universal language. It’s like a gift to be able to make this music that allows access to this universal language. To be able to break down barriers using two languages is great.
How do you continuously separate business from family? How do you find that balance?
It’s about organization. All the parents of the world organize so that they can work and have personal lives. For me, my personal life is very important so I try to protect it. It’s like a secret garden. I speak about my family life, but very little so I can keep my life private for myself. Like everything, it’s about balance building both, and to give them both attention.
You’re a Grammy-nominated, highly successful sister act. Would either of you ever consider solo projects? If so, what would they be?
Yea, why not? It’s not excluded. We, at the end of the day, are sisters. Les Nubians, the group, is the two of us. But we are sisters. It’s great with the two of us together as Les Nubians, and it’s different and unique. It’s our bigger projection, and it’s our family.
Last question, what do you want listeners, fans to take away from Nu Revolution?