Les Nubians get 'Up Close and Personal'

French-African neo-soul duo previews new music on acoustic tour

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Les Nubians come by their worldly flavor with honesty. Sisters H̩l̬ne and C̩lia Faussart originally hail from Paris, spent time in the Central African country Chad, returned to France and are now based in Brooklyn, New York. Les Nubians' musical blend of neo-soul and R&B draws from an even wider musical scope that includes hip-hop, soul and electronic music. The sum of the duo's far-reaching influences results in a totally organic sound. H̩l̬ne suggests this is partly due to their mixed family heritage. "Because of our origin a French father and a Cameroonian mother we never felt inclined to be stuck in any kind of box," she says. "We wanted to do music that looks like us, and that speaks to us. Because we're doing music for ourselves first.?۝

Les Nubians' award-winning debut album, 1998's Princesses Nubiennes, introduced the duo's sophisticated, world music take on soulful rhythm and blues. Three more albums followed, with the latest, N?_ Revolution, released in 2011, and a fifth album is in the works.

The Faussart sisters are currently on the road previewing some of their new songs in a short run of acoustic shows dubbed the "Up Close and Personal Tour." C̩lia believes the approach gets at the root of the songs. Acoustic form is "how a lot of our songs give birth, get to exist," she says.

But when the album comes out, listeners expecting an acoustic set are in for a surprise. Sessions for the as-yet-untitled album are taking place in Detroit, under the guidance of producer Pirahnahead. "He's from the electronic music scene," H̩l̬ne says. "But he's more than that. He's a musician before everything.?۝

Les Nubians are absorbing the influence of the Motor City. "Detroit is this beautiful city that came back from its ashes so many times," H̩l̬ne says. "It has amazing soul, and encountering all this beautiful energy in our music is turning really, really beautiful.?۝

Early Les Nubians albums featured the sisters singing primarily in French. These days the sisters alternate effortlessly between their native language and fluent English. The decision to record English language vocals evolved naturally. "As we live in English, sometimes the songs come in English," C̩lia explains.

The decision to move to Brooklyn coincided with the sisters' departure from a major label to become independent artists. H̩l̬ne explains the move with one word: artistry. "Through the years we developed relationships with artists and musicians, and most of them were located in Brooklyn.?۝

New York City's status as one of the planet's primary business, social and cultural hubs was a draw, too. "We're talking about being citizens of the world," C̩lia says. "So I think it was good to come here with our children, for them to be able to experience the diversity of possibilities.?۝

The sisters see the acoustic tour as a way to connect with fans. "You don't know where you're going if you don't know where you're coming from, and it's following this principle," H̩l̬ne says. "We want to tell the story of Les Nubians to our audience. If they know where we're coming from, they will understand where we're going next.?۝

Les Nubians play City Winery on Wed., July 12. $40-$46. 8 p.m. 650 North Ave. N.E. 404-WINERY1. www.citywinery.com/atlanta.