The 20-year-old twins of Ibeyi may not always see eye-to-eye, but music has been central to their relationship. Considering the sounds of their bloodline, it’s not hard to see why. Their father is the late Miguel “Angá’” Diaz, a legendary percussionist from the Buena Vista Social Club. Their mother introduced them to Yoruba prayers brought over to Cuba from West Africa. You can hear these cultural influences scattered throughout each track on their new, self-titled album; the trancelike sounds echo chants of spiritual fervor and communion. On the song, “River,” the twins take turns at immersing themselves in water as they stare flatly into the camera. This baptism of sorts ends with both praying in Yoruba to the river orisha, Oshun.
The twins also show love to hip hop with a self-titled mixtape they released last year, which included a cover of Jay Electronica’s “Better in Tune With the Infinite.” Lisa, with her picked out ‘fro and soulful voice plays the piano, while Naomi, the self described more rebellious of the two beats the cajón drum they both learned to play from their father.
We chatted with Ibeyi (via email, due to their busy schedule) about their new album, and how music has shaped their lives.
EBONY: How would you describe your sound?
IBEYI: Contemporary negro spirituals. It’s a sound that reflects who we are entirely. Our Yoruba heritage mixed with the music we have listened to growing up in France: jazz, soul, funk, hip-hop and electronic.
EBONY: Yoruba culture and spirituality play a major influence in your music, from the sound to lyrics. In what ways is the creation of music a spiritual experience for you?
Lisa-Kaindé: I started composing and singing by myself and it became my own way kind of way of praying. Music is also a way of being together, of vibrating together, of loving together; isn’t that what spirituality is all about?
EBONY:You all have admitted that you are quite different, but still
complete each other. What has been one of the most challenging decisions you’ve had to face together as musicians?
IBEYI: Playing in a band together! We have such different personalities and interests so our biggest challenge is bridging the gap of our different characters to become one as Ibeyi.
Lisa: Naomi is sensitive and impulsive; I’m more reflective and calm. She is a gangsta and I’m a grandma. If she goes to the right I’m going to the left. We think differently too, we like different things.
Naomi: But we both are in love with music.
EBONY: What themes do you explore in this first album?
IBEYI: We explore what we have experienced in our 20 years on this earth: life, loss, family, love, faith and hope.
EBONY: It’s hard to believe that you all are just 20 years old. Do you ever feel like you are old spirits? Are there any experiences you can share that molded you?
IBEYI: Life made us a little bit more mature for our age on certain subjects. We think that losing our father at 11 years old was definitely something that made us grow quicker. This life experience made us start thinking about life, and how we wanted to live it.
EBONY: Which Orisha do you most identify with or connect to and why?
IBEYI: In the Yoruba/Cuban mythology, all twins are children of Shango and Yemaya.
Naomi: I am daughter of Shango, the thunder and Lisa Kainde is daughter of Yemaya, the sea. If you knew us, you would realize there is no possible confusion in those assignments.
EBONY: How do you want your listeners to feel when they hear your music?
IBEYI: We would love them to feel hope that no matter what happens to you; life goes on.
EBONY: If you were not making music, what would you be doing?
Lisa-Kaindé: I would be at the university, studying to become a music teacher. That’s something I’ve always dreamed of doing.
Naomi: I really don’t know. Music saved my life.