Jun 19, 2017
Lisa and Naomi. Introducing a New World Wonder.
Ibeyi are Lisa-Kainde and Naomi Diaz; the Afro-Cuban twins from France infusing entrancing electronic sounds with ancient African religion.
Ibeyi means twins in the Yoruba language, a language spoken by their Nigerian ancestors. The twins' father was grammy-winning Afro-Cuban percussionist Anga Diaz, who was also a member of the famed Buena Vista Social Club and their mother is French-Venezuelan singer Maya Dagnino. Lisa is the lead vocalist and pianist while Naomi takes after their father playing the traditional Spanish/Cuban percussion instruments the cajon and bata drums.
The then 19-year-olds came on the scene after signing to XL Records in 2013 with a poignant and powerful visual for their single, “River” in 2014. In the video they are seen baptizing each other as they stare intensely into the camera singing the lyrics, “Come to you river, I will come to your river, I will come to you river. Come to you river, wash my soul” they then punctuate the video honoring Oshun, who is the river goddess in the Yoruba and Afro-Latino Santeria spiritual traditions. It was an unnerving, but refreshing first impression.
People think Cuba is just salsa ... but there’s a whole other culture we need to keep alive.
Their debut album, the self-titled Ibeyi is also largely self-produced with only their label head, Richard Russell, adding more electronica to their Afro-Cuban and neo-folkloric sounds.
In a musical climate that sometimes thrives on the opposite, the twins center reverence for a higher power throughout their work. Ibeyi opens their album singing in Yoruba, with a song dedicated to Ellegua, who is said to be the most important Orisha (a minor god or emissary to the Supreme God) in Santeria, because without his blessing nothing can succeed or transpire. The album is full of references to other Orishas and songs that honor their lost loved ones; such as “Thinking of You” for their late father.
We walk on rhythm/and we think of you."
They also heartbreakingly lost their older sister a few years ago and sing an elegy to her with, “Yanira.”
"Singing saved me," says Lisa.
I realized I could lose everyone, spend my life crying, but at least I could survive.
At only 20 years old, Lisa-Kainde and Naomi have found a way to merge their heritage and their love of modern influences into a completely new sound while making spiritual music in a climate where we all need some healing.