Les Nubians

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Smooth French vocals aside, this debut album from Bordeaux-based singing siblings Helene and Celia Faussart (a.k.a. Les Nubians) doesn't sound much like a product of southern France. Equal parts Sade, Miriam Makeba and Soul II Soul, it's more like a warm and fashionable amalgam of funk, R&B, jazz, soul and softened hip-hop that pays tribute to plenty of other places.

Born in Bordeaux but raised partly in Chad, with a French father and a Cameroonian mother, the young, formerly a cappella artists call their breakout release 'a travelogue-a kind of journey through all different kinds of music of the African diaspora.' The trip is an infectious ride of seductive vocals, grooving bass and laid-back hip-hop with digitized orchestral backdrops and emotion-stuffed, ethereal titles like 'Les Portes du Souvenir' ('Memory's Doors') and 'Si Je T'avais Ecout?' ('If Only I Had Listened to You').

Well suited to this mix is 'Tabou,' an upbeat remake of Sade's 'Sweetest Taboo,' which comes complete with an interlude of half-charged, Bordeaux-style rap that carries itself a bit like LL Cool J in a Riviera deck chair. The main attraction is the Faussart sisters themselves; well beyond their years, these smart and sultry vocalists will make anyone want to run off and purchase a set of Say It in French tapes.

Lyrics about love, womanhood and the preservation of traditions will sail right over English-bound heads, but there's enough seduction, spirit and Afropean groove here to keep you nodding emphatically. Omtown/Higher Octave Music 45997.

FromEscape(Sept., 1999.) Subscriptions: $18/yr. (4 issues) from Box 462255, Escondido, CA 92046.

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