A Look Back
Les Nubians, Floetry and Estelle touch down at Detroit’s Chene Park Amphitheatre
By Chris Campbell
DETROIT’S CHENE PARK has enjoyed an ever-growing reputation as one of the premier outdoor concert venues in the country. The 6,000 seat Detroit riverfront amphitheatre is operated by The Right Productions Inc. — which is a veritable family affair run by CEO Shahida Mausi and her son Sulaiman.
The family and extended family have been connected to the music industry in various ways for decades, so it’s no surprise that they, through their company would be able to attract an eclectic, popular and premier array of acts to perform at Chene Park. Their summer concert season covers all of the musical bases that Detroiters know and love such as soul, jazz and R & B genres.
The recent Les Nubians, Estelle and Floetry concert was another feather in the cap of Chene Park and The Right Productions and exemplified the high quality concerts that happen at the venue.
Les Nubians performs music with no borders, no barriers
First up was the sister act of Helene & Celia Faussaurt aka Les Nubians, as they kicked off the show with an energetic live performance. Les Nubians’ voices, which harmonically snake in and out of each other were full of eclectic and sultry vibes, but also had a high energy vibrancy and timbre. The pair worked through a bevy of French language songs from their first three albums, “Princess Nubiennes,” “One Step Forward,” and “Nu-Revolution.”
Their music is a dramatic portrayal of the coined “Afropean” music genre that the duo help to popularize in their native France. Right at the onset of their performance the audience was raptured by the ease of presentation of the intricate polyrhythms and delicate vocal work of the sisters, who displayed a deft ability to meld a myriad number of music genres into one whole during their performance.
Les Nubians also exuded a warmth during their live set that added a deeper level of humanity to each song, enabling the listener to feel the vibe and intent of each tune, despite the music being sung in their native French tongue.
Les Nubians also exuded a warmth during their live set that added a deeper level of humanity to each song
The pair also managed to keep the audience’s interest, while at the same time swimming in waters that may have been previously inhabited by Afrobeat/Worldbeat acts such as Zap Mama and Angelique Kidjo.
There was a certain majesty to the duo’s set that by the time they performed their signature cut “Makeda,” the audience was open and fully invested into the song stylings and musical journey they were embarking on.
Les Nubians live in concert is an ambitious and sweeping affair with intricate rhythms and mid-to-up-tempo grooves being caressed by enchantingly beautiful sing-song vocals colored by a myriad number of platitudes and revolutionary aspirations that motivate listeners to engage in serious reflection while they get their groove on.
Above it all, Les Nubians prove that despite the difference in language, music is truly universal and that beauty comes in all sounds, rhythms, melodies and hues.
Estelle brings musical authenticity to her live performance
Known for her diverse and wide-ranging musical sound since she released her debut single, “American Boy,” Estelle had in recent years taken time off. But she came to Chene Park armed with new tunes from her recent album release, “True Romance,” along with the hits from her first three releases.
During her set, Estelle worked in cuts from her new album such as “Make Her Say (Beat It Up),” “Something Good,” “Conqueror” and “The Same,” which saw her juxtapose anthemic, motivational torch songs with sensually-textured rhythms.
The chanteuse also sang hits that the audience were very familiar with such as “Back to Love,” “Freak,” “Thank You,” and of course, “American Boy.”
Estelle incorporated a lot of narrative grounded in relationships and the need to learn from those experiences. Her lyrics expounded on the beautiful struggle of overcoming the peaks and valleys of relationship dynamics, and often involved her audience in Q & A stage dialogue or call-and-response-themes.
Estelle incorporated a lot of narrative grounded in relationships and the need to learn from those experiences.
Throughout Estelle’s performance, it was clear that she possesses the rare ability to add character development and added dimensions to her storytelling, all of which gives her voices a well-deserved authenticity.
Floetry reunites and brings it home
It has been nearly a whole decade since there was a release from the British soul duo of Natalie Stewart (floacist) and Marsha Ambrosius (songstress) aka Floetry. The group had disbanded for some years to pursue solo ventures. This tour saw a reunion of sorts and has fueled rumors that they may soon get back into the studio to record another album together.
Detroit has long been a great landing spot for Floetry’s music. With a healthy combination of progressive soul and adult contemporary themes, the duo didn’t disappoint at Chene Park.
Tracks such as “SupaStar,” “Sunshine,” “Butterflies”/“I Can’t Help It” and “Hey You,” thoroughly prepped the assembled audience for their signature tunes of “Say Yes,” and “Floetic.”
The experience of being solo artists has brought a certain polish and refinement to the duo’s live performance as they both each hold their own with each other and with the band. They fully live up to how they are billed in press clippings, “poetic delivery with musical intent.”
Chene Park Amphitheatre is a unique waterfront venue that is the epicenter of live summer entertainment in metropolitan Detroit. With 5,000 seats and 1,000 lawn spaces, the space has been named one of the top 100 concert venues in the world. Call 313.393.7128 for box office, 800.745.3000 for tickets by phone, or visit www.cheneparkdetroit.com for general information.
Chris Campbell is an author, taste maker, DJ and host of The Progressive Underground, a music show that broadcasts on National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate 101.9 FM WDET and is a correspondent for NPR Music (National Public Radio) penning reviews for its “Songs We Love,” and “Heavy Rotation” columns/segments. His books “The Essential Neo Soul” and “The Essential Neo Soul 2.0” chronicled the history of the progressive modern-day soul music movement.