By: Elorm Nutakor
From the moment I listened to the first track of their self-titled debut album, Ibeyi became one of the highlights of my week. For those who don’t know (which is a lot of people), Ibeyi (ee-bey-ee) is a French/Cuban duo composed of twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz. They are signed to XL Recordings which is currently composed of artists like Jack White, Radiohead, Fka Twigs, and Vampire Weekend. In relation to these big names, Ibeyi is right up there in terms of talent and musical content.
The sisters of Ibeyi were born in Cuba and speak both English and the Yoruba language, which originated in Nigeria. In fact, Ibeyi actually translates from Yoruba into “twins.” Lisa- Kaindé and Naomi are the daughters of Anga Diaz, a percussionist for the Buena Vista Social Club; I mention these names as If I know who they are, but I really I don’t have the slightest clue. Regardless, the Diaz family is very musically talented. When their father died, Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi began to play their father’s signature instrument, the cajón, as well as studying Yoruba folk songs. Their music is flooded with their Yoruba cultural influences and they often use the Yoruba language in many of their songs. While I love their English lyrics, there is something so captivating about the way they sing in a tongue foreign to my own. After listening to the album for a bit, I may try to find out what the Yoruba lyrics actually mean, but until then I’ll appreciate the mystery for what it is.
Ibeyi’s self-titled debut album is not hard to get into; it is minimalistic, downtempo, and experimental — yet completely accessible. I have yet to play their songs to anyone who has not liked them. Instrumentally, Ibeyi does a lot with a little; the background and melodies are often carried by pianos and synths as well as harmonies that creep into and invade the listener’s consciousness. Their synthetic instruments are subtle, while their traditional elements such as clap, snaps, congas, and other acoustics stand out. Other than the singers’ voices, the superb percussion really distinguishes the album’s sound. I remember thinking that I’d only sample a couple tracks from the album. About thirty minutes later I was trapped (in a good way) as I approached the end of the album. From the harmonies that begin the album to the well-deserved applause they give themselves at the end, Ibeyi does not cease to amaze. While so many big artists will be dropping projects in 2015, I’m glad to know that there are gems to be uncovered this year as well.