The French-Cuban musical duo Ibeyi write a new beginning through songs of love, life, death, and rebirth.
Sometimes, when you begin to feel the familiar stirring of emotions, music is your superhero. And if you’re lucky enough to find someone to share it with, then you’re bulletproof.
In the case of 20-year-old twin soul sisters Lisa-Kainde and Naomi Diaz, they have found solace in music and a perpetual accomplice in each other. The French-Cuban musicians bring soul and crackling energy as Ibeyi, which is a Yoruba term for twins.
Their self-titled album boasts of a ragbag of genres (jazz, hip-hop, downtempo, and electronica), languages, and raw emotion. They fuse traditional and contemporary sounds with religious references and a staggering array of musical influences. These disparate parts are assembled in a way that makes perfect sense, creating the kind of music that dismantles the heart and seeps into your veins.
The intoxicating beauty of Ibeyi lies in its sparse instrumentation and most gorgeous spillage of emotions. Lisa-Kainde takes the lead, armed with a piano and her powerful voice that drips with raw passion. Naomi supplies the rhythm and beats with percussive instruments and backup vocals that meld beautifully with her sister’s.
It opens with a prayer to the orisha of the roads, Ellegua, whose blessing precedes all ceremonies. It is an apt introduction to an exceptional album that celebrates love, life, death, and rebirth. Prayers and chants are seamlessly interspersed with songs about love and mourning, strangers and lovers, and family and faith. The haunting track “River” calls for a cleansing of the soul to the orisha of sweet waters, Oshun, while “Stranger / Lover” touches on heartbreak and healing. “Oya” is a hypnotic ode to the orisha of the winds and tempests, while “Singles” tackles the fear of loneliness and being alone.
But the most compelling aspect of the album is that it is a house haunted by ghosts of loved ones lost but not forgotten. Instead of running away, Ibeyi invites their ghosts to sit down and have a chat with them. In “Think of You,” they wax poetic about the sound and spirit of their father, the late Cuban percussionist Miguel “Anga” Diaz. They sing about their mother’s anguish and grief over her husband’s passing in the heartbreakingly beautiful “Mama Says.” Ibeyi wonders about fate while they mourn the loss of their sister, who inspired the track “Yanira.” Surrounding themselves with their ghosts allow them to learn more about themselves, the world, and the value of life. They are not consumed by their past for they know when to let go and move forward.
The album ends the same way it began. Lisa-Kainde and Naomi sing their praises to Ibeyi, the orisha of the divine twins. It is an affirmation of the self and a joyful celebration of life.
Listening to the entire album is a cathartic experience. Even more so for Lisa-Kainde and Naomi, who relive the heart-wincing ache of loss and longing but emerge with renewed purpose and strength of spirit each time. They are polar opposites, who have found a way to come together and love each other through music. It is their way of finding peace and writing “a new beginning.”
Love and all its forms permeate Ibeyi’s mesmerizing album. “We ain’t got nothing without love,” the Diaz twins sing in the track “Ghosts.” The heart remembers what it aches for, but it knows when to let go and start anew.