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Check out this in-depth piece about Les Nubians 2011 from The Village Voice this week, exploring what the group has faced, what they are saying NOW, and how even though their music is mostly recorded in French, they are poised to grow even more of an audience in the USA. A favorite of mine, Spain’s Concha Buika, is also profiled. #NuRevolution is out now!
“In the ’60s and ’70s danceable jazz-pop in foreign languages made American radio more exciting: Jorge Ben’s “Mas Que Nada” charted when recorded by Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66; it was followed by Miriam Makeba’s remake of “Pata Pata” in 1967, Tito Puente’s “Oye Como Va” when covered by Santana in 1970, and Manu Dibango’s irresistible “Soul Makossa” in 1972. Something about each single’s arrangements, rhythms, and vocals allowed these crossover miracles to seduce stateside listeners who only understand English.
Don’t be too surprised if it happens again with Spanish singer Concha Buika and French high-concept hip-hoppers Les Nubians; they seem uniquely positioned to win America’s love, even though Buika normally sings in Spanish while Hélène and Célia Faussart record mostly in French.
Les Nubians were already famous for cerebral themes and ambitious collaborations, and on Nü Revolution they raise their “Afropean” flag to salute what I like to call the Third African Diaspora, which is being established as we speak by the free, inspired migrations of Afro-Americans, Afro-Caribbeans, and Afro-Europeans born in the last three decades who are linked by family and economic sophistication to more than one continent—and which follows the traumatic dispersion forced by chattel slavery, and the one created after World War II by the need for imported labor to rebuild Europe.
The Faussart sisters—from France, with Jewish and Cameroonian backgrounds—have won awards and attention for offering a new perspective on black femininity. They’ve written songs aspiring to the dignity and leadership role of the Queen of Sheba; they’ve covered Sade; they’ve collaborated with rappers, new-age fusion lords and African poets. They’ve survived childbirth, major-label snafus, Grammy nods, and the French race riots of 2005. Now they’ve compiled an album full of ideas and energy built around an imaginative play on the French language that can simultaneously mean “a turnaround,” “new dream movement,” even “stripped-down revolution.”
With uptempo melodies full of shifting time signatures, fragile harmonies, and oddly textured instrumentation, each song on Nü Revolution makes the most of hip-hop intertextuality and modern remix techniques. Into this Chic-meets-Weather Report fever dream, the Faussart sisters strive to drop a little science.
Weaving between languages and tempos, the first few songs push Hélène’s reedy vocals above and around Célia’s supportive embellishments, sometimes sweetened by acoustic riffs or keyboard pads. On “Liberté” they rally their troops with gentle cries of “I’m ready!” “I’ve been waiting for you!” “We’re together/ Now we can fly to higher places!” You can easily mistake these proclamations for simple declarations of romantic love until a verse equates the election of America’s first black President to the fulfillment of Dr. King’s most famous dream.
Nevertheless the album doesn’t really catch fire until fellow Cameroonian Manu Dibango assists on an unexpected update of Dibango’s classic “Soul Makossa.” Shifting to a tempo closer to afrobeat than vintage makossa, you hear Dibango himself cheerfully passing his torch to a new generation; they, in turn, supply his song with a subtle critique of racist immigration policies between cheerful rhymes about freedom, equality, brotherhood, diversity,and security.
But it wouldn’t be a Faussart production if the two sisters didn’t reinvent their feminism along with rethinking the future of immigration law and the modern global citizen. “Femme Polyandre” is seductively oblique in its description of the kind of freedom these Amazons truly desire. It begins like a spoken word piece: “I want a man to pray with/ and a man to blaspheme with/ A man as a souvenir/ and another to forget/ A man I can give myself to/ And a man who will take me…”—but to forestall the presumption that either sister thinks she should get all of this in a single lover they continue in unison for the chorus: “I am the Polyandrous Woman/ I am the Independent woman.” And in case you still think they need you to put a ring on it, they continue: “Rebel Woman/ Once captive, Once lucky escaped/ The woman who falls for you/ And gets up again.”
Sung with supreme calm and compassion, “Femme Polyandre” is an unapologetic rejection of patrarchy, purdah, exclusivity, and domestic abuse that ends in a promise: “I appear and disappear/ In your bedsheets as I wish.””
Read the entire article on Concha Buila and Les Nubians here.
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Blitz the Ambassador [brand new website!] has been amazing people with his new album, “Native Sun” (Embassy MVMT). So much truth to self and miraculous love was put into the project, I’m not surprised to watch people hear so much in the album, reflecting on themselves and the world at large. Isn’t that what music’s supposed to do anyway? Lots in store for 2011 and beyond, as Blitz just signed on with Monterey International: meaning, Blitz and The Embassy Ensemble will be coming to your town soon!!!! Here come the horns!
[Blitz on Afropop Worldwide’s excellent piece called ‘The Trans-National Hip-Hop Train’ ft Baloji, Nneka, Spoek Mathambo, Talib Kweli, Dead Prez and more!]
[Extensive Interview in Complex Magazine]
Oh, and have you seen Blitz’s short film ‘Native Sun’?
“But in the category of “Short Films Produced By Rappers” I’m not sure all of your lights can compete with this African boy saga. All other rap video directors: you are so fired.” – Okayplayer
…And if you’re in Brooklyn or NYC this weekend, check out Blitz the Ambassador and The Embassy Ensemble rock a FREE show at The Brooklyn Museum on Saturday, June 4th at 5 PM for Target Free Saturdays! Get more info by clicking below:
“There’s African hip-hop, there are African grooves with rapping on top and then there’s Blitz.” – Exclaim (Canada’s #1 Music Publication)
“Native Sun” is one of the most organic marriages of African music and hip-hop we’ve heard — an effortless release that incorporates Afrobeat, highlife and kora music into old-school hip-hop. It’s a warm and danceable record with a social conscience, and it speaks to anybody who’s lived between two cultures — as more and more of us do.” – Youtube
“It makes sense though, cause this song seems like kind of a mission statement for the ambitious goals Blitz set for himself with Native Sun–doing the whole damn diaspora proud–and it does not disappoint. Musically speaking, it sounds like he heard all these “Sabali”-based tracks that Theophilus, Damian & Nas and everybody have been jumping on and said, Maaaaan, I don’t need to sample no Afropop. I am Afropop!” – Okayplayer
“Blitz – and his band, the Embassy Ensemble – pack a brilliant fusion of styles.” – Guardian UK
“The fluidity of styles and ideas is masterful. There’s a real community feeling to his vision of hip hop. What is most beautiful about Native Sun is the way it makes you feel that hip hop, afrobeat, R&B, and traditional African sonorities and rhythms truly belong together—as if they were never really separate in the first place.” – Afropop Worldwide