Ibeyi: French-Cuban Cutting-Edge Music

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Ibeyi is a French-Cuban musical duo based in France. Cuban-born twin sisters Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Díaz sing in French, English, Spanish (with some Yoruba, the West African language still present in Cuba’s African-based religions). The twins’ father was the well-known Cuban percussionist, Anga Díaz, a member of Buena Vista Social Club. Apparently, when their father died, the twins learned to play his signature instrument, the cajón, and continued studying Yoruba folk songs.  

Jennifer Sefa-Boakye writes: “Ibeyi’s vocal range, which wavers from the raspy and wraith-like to the sonorous and divine, is ideal for their sonic palette which revels in the phantasmagorical groove of liturgical Yoruba songs.” [I can’t help but wonder what would happen if these gifted ibeyi paired up with “Les Twins” for a music and dance production; I bet it would be captivating, to say the least.]

Here is a description by Anastasia Tsioulcas for NPR:

The video for Ibeyi’s song “River” is, frankly, more than a little unsettling. Twin sisters take turns staring flatly into the camera, singing expressionlessly, in between being repeatedly submerged underwater. Are we witnessing a baptism or a drowning? It’s unclear. But the song is so darkly beautiful and beguiling that I’ve been watching it non-stop.

This emerging duo, whose name is pronounced “ee-bey-ee”, is comprised of the 19-year-old, French-Cuban twin sisters Naomi and Lisa-Kainde Díaz. They’re the daughters of the groundbreaking Cuban percussionist Miguel “Anga” Diaz, and they root their sound in the Yoruba traditions they inherited from their father. (Their band name actually means “twins” in Yoruba — and twins are both astoundingly common in West Africa and especially prized in Yoruba culture.) “River”‘s bed is a deep percussion groove — Naomi plays the wooden-box cajón and the double-headed, hourglass-shaped batá — but the duo’s voices float sweetly above the drums, edged with the faintest hint of metallic overtones. Though they’re based in France, the Díaz sisters sing “River” mostly in English, before raising their voices up in the Yoruba language in a paean to Oshun, the Yoruba river orisha spirit and the patron deity of Cuba in the Afro-Caribbean Yoruba tradition. Ibeyi is brand-new to the scene (they are signed to the record label XL, the home of Vampire Weekend and Adele, with only a digital EP out now), but I can’t wait to soak up more of their music.

Listen to “River” here:

For original article, see http://www.npr.org/event/music/338564114/ibeyi-river

For original information, see http://www.npr.org/event/music/338564114/ibeyi-river and http://www.okayafrica.com/news/ibeyi-oya-xl-recordings/

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