Release Date: Feb 17, 2015
Record label: XL Recordings
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Ibeyi is both the band name of French-Cuban fraternal twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Díaz and the literal term for twins in Yoruba, a culture based in Nigeria and Benin that migrated to Cuba during the 1700s. This history is an inextricable part of their debut record's sound: Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi's father, Miguel "Angá" Díaz, made his name in seminal bands like the Afro-Cuban All-Stars and Buena Vista Social Club and, along with their mother, instilled in his daughters a love of music both traditional and modern. Their self-titled debut is less a juxtaposition of those two musical styles than a seamless blend; Lisa-Kaindé prefers soul singers like Nina Simone and Ray Charles, while Naomi likes Kendrick Lamar, hip-hop, ragga, dancehall and electronic music.
Ibeyi crept into view around the middle of last year. With almost no online footprint, they seemed both innocent and mystical in an unsettling video for their album’s second single, “The River.” The twin sisters, Lisa-Kainde and Naomi Diaz, appear in a closeup shot throughout, taking turns having their heads forced underwater while the other sings. Like the first single, “Oya,” “The River” is an expression of the Diazes’ Afro-Cuban heritage, introduction material that helped frame their debut from the onset as an enticing mix of Yoruba spiritual music and electronic R&B, either hand drenched in rhythm.
Ibeyi is the self-titled debut album from Cuban-born, French-raised twins Lisa-Kainde and Naomi Diaz. The daughters of Cuban percussionist Miguel "Angá" Diaz (who was a performing member of the Buena Vista Social Club) and Venezuelan mother Maya began making music upon their father's passing in 2006. After XL label boss Richard Russell caught their video for "Mama Says," he tracked them down in Paris' Montparnasse neighborhood and signed them.
It may only be February but it already feels unlikely that 2015 will produce an album that is so deeply and intrinsically indebted to the themes of family and belonging as the self-titled debut by Ibeyi. Over the course of 13 impressive tracks French-Cuban twin sisters Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Diaz offer a fresh and revitalising demonstration of the ability of music to offer emotional strength and help overcome bittersweet loss. They may only be 19 years old but their lives seem to have already been disproportionately touched by incident, sadness, joy, tradition and a wide-eyed appreciation of the world.
"Ibeyi" is the Yoruba term for the divine spirit that exists between twins. It is also the name of 20-year-old French-Cuban duo Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Díaz. Currently based in Paris, Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi grew up on both sides of the Atlantic. Their father was Cuban conguero and master percussionist Miguel "Angá" Díaz of Irakere and Buena Vista Social Club.
The Diaz sisters (Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi), together known as Ibeyi, have given us an album of pop-folk-soul idiosyncratic that is, at times, brilliant enough to make one feel reductive in calling it anything so generalizing. Yes, we can tentatively call it pop — the melodies and the personality are there. Folk seems reasonable enough, too: Ibeyi bring percussion and language from the Yoruba/Afro-Cuban tradition.
Contemporary, ancient, tropical and cosmopolitan: Ibeyi’s debut album pulls off an audacious series of culture clashes. The rhythms of this record unite Afro-Cuban instruments and forms with 21st-century digital production, courtesy of XL boss Richard Russell. All the while, Yoruba chants brought over to the new world in the African diaspora rub up against jazzy soul informed by Paris and hip-hop, sometimes all on one song (Behind the Curtain; Mama Says).
Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Díaz have experienced an awful lot of pain for twins that are barely out of their teens. Aged just 11 their father, famous Cuban percussionist Miguel Díaz, passed away, grief compounded when their elder sister Yanira suffered a fatal stroke in 2013. It’s an incredible amount of anguish to deal with but on this self-titled debut Ibeyi confront their trauma head on and emerge from it with their heads held high.
French-Cuban twin sisters Ibeyi have been dubbed “doom soul”, and form a kind of gloomy triptych alongside two other recent XL signees, techno producer Powell and grime MC Vocalist. The doom soul moniker is a slight misnomer; the themes that run through their eponymous debut LP are mysticism and Yoruba spirituality (their name means twins in the Nigerian language). After opening track Ellegua – a haunting Santería prayer – and Oya, which is reminiscent of Volta-period Björk, there’s an expectation of further experimentation and exploration.
Ibeyi is the duo of twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Díaz, who were raised in Paris by parents of Afro-Cuban, French, and Venezuelan lineage. (Their late father was the renowned percussionist Miguel “Angá” Díaz of Buena Vista Social Club). They are cosmic soul sisters in the spirit of Erykah Badu and Seattle’s THEESatisfaction, and their new self-titled debut is a hypnotic collision of cultures and influences, of tradition and innovation.
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A tremendous hullabaloo’s been made about French-Cuban twins Ibeyi, who signed to XL Recordings in 2013, and for good reason. Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Díaz, daughters of prominent percussionist Anga Díaz, combine their heritage – familial, geographical and ancestral (they also have roots in the Yoruba culture of West Africa) – to create a mesmerising fusion of pop, electronic experimentalism, Cuban folk, French jazz and acoustic R&B that spans for language barriers. We’ve heard some snippets of their eponymous debut record in the lead up to its release.
Twin sisters Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Díaz landed a record deal after XL label chief Richard Russell watched a YouTube clip of one of their performances. It's not hard to see why the 19-year-olds - who grew up in Paris and Cuba - might inspire excitement: their music combines African-American spirituals, West African folk, Cuban fusion and grimy hip-hop beats, and gives it all a glossy pop finish. Ibeyi mirror their strong musical and cultural lineage with songs steeped in personal and familial history.