Les Nubians: New York SOB’s

French jazz-hoppers perform with friends, including Black Thought from The Roots...

“How many of you speak French right now?” Pose that question to your average room full of New Yorkers, and you’ll probably hear a few quiet shouts from around the room. Tonight, however, it’s met with a resounding, directionless cheer. Then again, this isn’t your average room full of New Yorkers. These are fans of Les Nubians, the French sibling duo of Helene and Celia Faussart, also known as LN and C. Lia.

For the most part, the set is a showcase of the tracks off ‘Princesses Nubiennes’. There is a promise that this will be the “last show with this album, because we’re working on our second one”, which is definitely good news for those that have been growing impatient waiting for new material. But despite the lack of new songs for tonight, there are plenty of reasons to get excited, whether you speak French or not. First off, the performance is smoking, and the fact that most of the songs aren’t in English doesn’t matter at all, because of the brilliant way the songs translate musically. Combining the best of new and old worlds, much like their dress, Les Nubians mix up R&B, soul, world music and hip-hop, with an effortlessness and a sincerity that Wyclef would most likely kill for.

Secondly, for those who were paying attention, this show was actually billed

as Les Nubians & Friends, and it’s not long into the set when the first of those friends is brought on stage. “Make some noise for our brother Tariq, from The Roots,” shouts LN, as the rapper, aka Black Thought, hops up behind them for a performance of ‘Tabou’, their update on Sade’s classic ‘Sweetest Taboo’.

It’s a hard act to follow, but the next special guest, Parisian Angelique Kidjo does a hell of a job. She joins the sisters for ‘Princesse Nubienne’ and momentarily takes over the show with her forceful, inspired vocals. An outbreak of onstage dancing and tribal

drumming takes over afterwards, before the introduction of another guest, a

poet/performance artist called Queen Godis, who takes the stage for one piece, while the Nubians take a break.

Of course, the encore, a cover of Bob Marley’s ‘Exodus’, is a bit of a letdown, but then, attempting to do one of Bob’s songs justice always is. Besides, for everything else they’ve given us tonight, it’s an easy trespass to forgive. All right then, let’s have that second album now please, tout de suite.

Doug Levy