ibeyi are the twins whose striking beauty and mystical music will leave you feeling spiritual
The 20-year-old Franco-Cuban siblings' music will move you to tears.
You'd have to be completely and utterly soulless not to feel anything when listening to Ibeyi. Make that a live performance and the diagnosis is even more serious. We were first introduced to Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Díaz at their XL Records showcase and ended up rooted to the spot, on the verge of tears. They'll do that to you.
Having grown up between Paris and Cuba, their past can be heard in both their sound and their name, which means 'twins' in the Yoruba language. "We've learned that you shouldn't be afraid of mixing every single type of music that defines you." They tell us that it's something they learned from their late father, the famed Afro-Cuban percussionist Angá Díaz, who played with the Buena Vista Social Club. Though he died when the girls were just 11-years-old (followed shortly, and tragically, by their older sister), his creativity clearly influenced them. "We went to a lot of his concerts and watching him made us see that to be a musician is an amazing life to live," Lisa-Kaindé says. With Naomi playing the cajón or batá, and Lisa-Kaindé on piano, Ibeyi weave together impeccable harmonies as their musical energy - always completely in sync - dances its way through pop, soul, blues and trip-hop, enhanced with traditional Yoruba prayer. While this side of their heritage shines through, they credit their technical knowledge to their education at music school in Paris, where they live with their Franco-Venezuelan mother/manager. "She understands us very well," Lisa-Kaindé says. "It's really good because you need someone…" she pauses. "That you can trust," says Naomi, seamlessly finishing her sister's sentence. Sometimes they come out with the exact same answer at the exact same time.
"We feel each other," explains Lisa-Kaindé. In the Yoruba culture, twins are blessed because they keep the devil away, and the mother of twins is respected and celebrated for bringing them into the world. "I am the daughter of Yemayá, and Naomi has been chosen by Shango. Yemayá is the sea and the mother of all Orishas. She is calm but at the same time she can sink you. And Shango is the god of thunder and he's impulsive and tough and strong." To those unfamiliar with the Yoruba language, the heart-wrenching cries throughout their eponymous debut album are incredibly powerful, particularly in Mama Says. "There's something special about those chants. You can feel that there's something going on." Lisa-Kaindé tells us. What was first brought over to Cuba from Nigeria and Benin on slave ships is now making its way into the wider music world, moving and educating listeners as it goes. The girls are kind, sensible and — their amusing sisterly bickering aside — very mature for their age. We wonder what the most rebellious thing they've ever done is. "Starting Ibeyi," says Lisa-Kaindé. "One day Naomi said, 'Let's do this.' And I was like, 'Oh, my God, no!'" Naomi finishes the story, which is really just beginning: "I said, 'We have to do it, because if we don't, in 20 years we'll be like WHY?!'"
Text Francesca Dunn
Photography Sam Nixon
Styling Ruth Higginbotham
Hair 'Kiki' Takanori Yoshizato
Makeup Mayia Alleaume at Calliste
Lisa-Kaindé wears rollneck The Kooples. Skirt Sandro. Naomi wears body suit COS. Jeans vintage Levi's