Published Feb 13, 2015Ibeyi 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. Those influences combine with their traditional musical roots to make Ibeyi a unique and beguiling listen from front to back. "Oya" is a minimal, harmony-driven ode that at the two-and-a-half-minute mark is shattered by the sound of broken glass and Naomi storming in on her father's beloved cajón, while first single "River" features hip-hop rhythms that give way three-quarters of the way through to traditional Yoruba chants.
Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi are incredible songwriters, switching from poignant ballads about the search for love ("Singles") and departed family members ("Think of You," "Yanira") to celebratory rhythmic anthems ("Ghosts") with the ease of veterans. Though XL's Richard Russell guided them in the studio and provided outside opinion, Ibeyi is undoubtedly the work of the Díaz sisters as informed by their experiences and, perhaps as importantly, those of their family: their uncle, Eric Collin, wrote the lyrics to "Behind the Curtain"; their mother sings on record, and played mentor during the songwriting process; their sister (the titular Yanira), and their father provide spiritual and musical inspiration throughout.
It's this familial through-line, combined with the sisters' incredible knack for communicating with each other musically, that provides the urgency felt throughout Ibeyi. This is, it's apparent, an album of ideas and feelings that were dying to come out, and Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi have expressed them with beauty and technical expertise beyond their 20 years.