Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Díaz, the twins behind Ibeyi, make a joyful noise.
Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Díaz are striking Franco-Cuban twins who make music together as Ibeyi. As a result, people tend to focus either on how eerily simpatico the 19-year old sisters are—they tend to finish each other’s sentences—or to make a fuss over their vast differences. Naomi, who sings backup and plays percussion, is quiet and reserved. Lisa-Kaindé, whose soulful voice hovers over her sister’s hip-hop inflected beats, speaks in giddy outbursts as electric as her halo of hair. And even as they share an apartment in Paris with their mother, they also fight loudly and incessantly. “We are always sick of each other,” Lisa-Kaindé says. “But at the same time, we cannot live apart.”
The one place where they always get along is in the studio. “We never fought there,” Naomi says. “We are perfect together making music,” Lisa-Kaindé adds. Their self-titled debut album, which came out recently on XL Recordings (the U.S. tour begins March 24), marries Naomi’s love of contemporary hip-hop and Lisa-Kaindé’s affinity for old-school sirens like Nina Simone. There are also flights of Cuban jazz—their father, Miguel “Anga” Díaz, was a legendary conga player in Havana’s Buena Vista Social Club—and chanting borrowed from Yoruban culture, which is native to their West African origins. (“Ibeyi” is Yoruban for twins.) This might seem like a discordant and overwhelming buffet of musical influences, but in fact the result is a piercing sparseness that feels exotically sui generis. There’s also an unforced spirituality—the sound has a little of Bjork’s mysticism—that speaks to the two tragedies at the emotional heart of the album. The song “Yanira” is an elegy for their elder sister, who died of a brain aneurysm two years ago; and “Think of You” is laced with jazz and partially sung in Yoruban, in homage to their late father, who suffered a heart attack when the twins were only 11. (They were born in Paris and raised in Cuba.) But the album isn’t funereal. In fact, it’s almost stubbornly joyful. “This is a way to say to the people we love that we are happy and enjoying life!” Lisa-Kaindé explains. “I don’t think it’s a sad album at all. And, actually, next time Naomi wants to make a dance album. She said it’s not possible to make people cry every time. We should also make people dance.”