LES NUBIANS / “Tabou” (Roots Remix)
Newspaper columnist, playwright and poet Donald Marquis once said, “An idea isn’t responsible for the people who believe in it.” I agree with that. And, not only do I agree, I believe Marquis’ line of reasoning should be extended. In this case, we might extend it to music, as in: “A CD isn’t responsible for the people who like it.”
Back in 1998, two sisters (biologically, I mean) calling themselves Les Nubians released their debut album, Princesses Nubiennes. A few people whose opinions I usually trust told me I should give the album a listen. Despite their opinions, I resisted. I hadn’t yet heard of Don Marquis or his quote. Unconsciously, I made the CD responsible for the people who seemed to like it.
After last week’s flub, I’m going to phrase this delicately. I won’t describe the people who are willing to spend nine bucks on garden-variety romantic ‘comedies.’ I’m not going to describe the people who spend their hard-earned money (or not-so hard-earned, for that matter) on organic produce. And I’m not going to describe the people who drive convertible Volkswagens with the little plastic flower next to the stereo. But let’s just say that those are the same people who seemed to loooooove Helene and Celia Faussart BKA Les Nubians.
I recall, in fact, one particular person (who happened to be a melanin-challenged member of the fairer sex—don’t bother writing in, I’m not responding this week) who literally followed me around a large record store attempting to convince me to purchase the Princesses Nubiennes album. The longer she kept it up, the more I resisted. Eventually, I had to make up some cockamamie story and duck into the manager’s office just to get away from her. By then I’d pretty much decided I was never going to listen to that damned album.
One bright, sunny day a couple years later, I stopped by at my older sister’s apartment. We were hanging out in her sunroom and she was speaking to me about something or the other but I was barely able to pay attention because some of the most lush and gorgeous singing and playing I’d heard in quite a while was playing in the background. As most of you already know, I pride myself on knowing at least a little something about all forms of black music, especially anything modern, and it was obvious that the music Asante was listening to was both black and modern. What wasn’t obvious was who it was singing and/or playing. In fact, I was completely clueless. I stayed quiet for as long as I could, running through my mental list of known artists and playing the ‘six degrees of separation’ game with myself. Which got me nowhere. Finally, although it hurt me to ask, I gave up the guessing game and popped the question. The conversation went like this:
Me: “'Sante, what are we listening to?”
Her: “Les Nubians.”
Me: “No shit?
Me: “Well. I guess the granola-munching, tree-hugging, convertible-driving chicks were right.”
I bought the Princesses Nubiennes CD the next day, and although I love nearly every song on it, this week’s feature selection is actually a non-album B-side. The way I see it, everyone reading this falls into one of two groups: 1) Those who already own the Princesses Nubiennes album and therefore have no need to download a song from it; and, 2) Those who should own the Princesses Nubiennes album and therefore should have no need to download a song from it either.
The feature track—an alternate version of Les Nubians’ French-language cover of Sade’s “Sweetest Taboo”—is subtitled ‘Roots Remix,’ but it is actually a remake. The original version appears on the album; for the new version, Les Nubians enlisted the The Roots band to provide all-new and all-live instrumentation. The result is something that sounds a bit more conventional than Les Nubians’ usual (which is to say, unusual) style, but I love it just the same.
And, just to encourage you few unfortunates who’ve never heard (or heard of) Les Nubians to purchase some of their music, here are some bonus tracks. “Sugar Cane” and “Demain” are from their 1998 debut. Just keep in mind that as good as these tunes will undoubtedly sound to you, the first Les Nubians album is best experienced all at once, as an album. “Saravah” is from their 2003 release, One Step Forward, a collection that is both more scattered and more ambitious than its predecessor. It also happens to be blessed with one of my all-time favorite cover photos.
—Mtume ya Salaam
I appreciate these sisters
It's alright. Not great enough for me to want to go back for more. In fact, this is not about Les Nubians, but rather about me. Like escargot, they are an acquired taste that I just don't find all that delightful even though I can "see" how people would dig this concept, but if I’ve got to look at music to dig it than that is not the kind music I dig.
Part of it is just my aversion to French derivative stuff, for reasons I’ve not bothered to discern, I have never been much moved by that particular culture in general. Like you take the French Caribbean: Martinique and the like, for all their beauty, even Haiti in all it’s tough historic glory, none of that is my vibe even as all of that is something I appreciate. But appreciation is not the same as digging something, as liking, as enjoying.
So I appreciate what these sisters are doing—and I’ll just leave it at that.
—Kalamu ya Salaam
This entry was posted on Sunday, October 16th, 2005 at 2:12 am and is filed under Cover. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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