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Les Nubians

An unconventional female duo that came out of Bordeaux, France, in the 1990s, Les Nubians offered a jazzy, sophisticated style of R&B that combined French lyrics with the influence of Sade, Soul II Soul, hip-hop, and African pop. The duo consists of sisters Helene and Celia Faussart, who were born in France to a French father and a Cameroonian mother. After living in France as children, the siblings moved with their parents to the African country of Chad in 1985, when Helene (born 1975) was ten and Celia (born 1979) was six. The sisters lived in Chad for seven years before returning to France as teenagers. Helene and Celia had been singing most of their lives, and when they first formed Les Nubians, they were an a cappella group that specialized in covers of R&B, reggae, and African songs. Eventually, they started working with bands and performing original material. Helene and Celia absorbed a variety of music along the way, and they have expressed admiration for artists ranging from Ella Fitzgerald and Abbey Lincoln to the Fugees and African icons Miriam Makeba and Fela Kuti. Their promising debut album, Princesses Nubiennes, was released by Virgin worldwide in France, Switzerland, and Belgium in June 1998 before coming out on Omtown/Higher Octave in the U.S. in September of that year. It became America's most successful French-language album in more than a decade, and Les Nubians also graced recordings by Talib Kweli and Black Eyed Peas, as well as a Red Hot tribute to Fela Kuti, Red, Hot & Riot. Sessions for their second album brought the pair to Jamaica, Cameroon, London, and Paris, including a host of intriguing collaborators: top underground rapper Talib Kweli, fellow Cameroonian Manu Dibango, pianist Ray Lema, and broken-beat maestro IG Culture. The results appeared as One Step Forward, released in March 2003 by Higher Octave.