Miami New Times 05-05-2016 : Page 36

The twins are fresh off an appearance on Beyoncé’s Lemonade . | CROSSFADE | ▼ Music Sound of Santería T For the sisters of Ibeyi, music and religion are inseparable. BY LIZ TRACY 36 36 ypically, getting a peek into the inner worlds of a pair of 20-year-old artists is a task for someone with the patience of the Virgin Mother and the cleverness of Oscar Wilde. But twin sisters Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Díaz of the sonic duo Ibeyi make interviewing easy. They speak excitedly and without guile about their musician parents, their experience of the Parisian attacks, and the Afro-Cuban religion Santería, which inspires their music. Most recently, the two gained additional international attention with their appearance in Beyoncé’s new visual al-bum, Lemonade . But these young ladies don’t aspire to Bey-level fame. Besides, the complex-ity of their music — in influence, intention, and lyrics — harnesses a more deeply cosmic energy than mainstream music might allow. Each song sounds like a prayer and feels like it has the power to change weather patterns. Their Cuban father, percussionist Anga Díaz, who’s known best as a member of the Buena Vista Social Club, passed away in 2006 when the twins were 11. That was when Naomi, the more reserved of the two, followed in her father’s footsteps and took to percussion — cajón and, soon after, batá. Their mother is French-Venezuelan singer Maya Dagnino, who co-writes songs with Lisa-Kaindé — the chat-terbox, primary vocalist, and pianist of Ibeyi. The sisters were raised in the tradi-tion of classical music. Lisa also studied jazz. “Music was always important in our family,” she explains. “They didn’t want us to be musicians, but they wanted us to enjoy music and to live music and to dance to music and to go to loads of gigs Lisa cuts in: “They feel that, through us, they can connect to their roots.” The sisters, though different in personality, are prone to completing each other’s thoughts. “Yeah, they can connect to their roots,” Naomi adds. “We’re not teaching them, because we have a lot to —” “To learn still,” Lisa inter-jects. “It’s catharsis actually — it’s exactly that. It’s actually not just on Yoruba; it’s with emotions and with everything. Our goals are not to teach people at all; this is not our goal. Our goals are to make the best music we can and to enjoy it and to feel good making it.” They say the more they perform their debut album (the only one Ibeyi has released thus far), the more it evolves in their minds. “It feels differ-ent,” Naomi says, “because, for example, it has ghosts... Photo by Flavien Prioreau We were playing the day of and to really enjoy it... I think our happiest the attacks in Paris.” Ibeyi was just about to memories were with music all the time.” go onstage only three hours outside of the In 2015, the two released their eponymous capital city when they heard about what had debut on XL Recordings, and the world got a happened. “It was awful,” Naomi recalls. little giddy over the delicately crafted tunes “At the last minute, we had to call all of that feature elements of gospel, soul, elec-our friends,” Lisa says. “Our mother kept our tronica, hip-hop, and Afro-Cuban beats. Many phones... After every song, she would say, of the songs explore the experience of mourn-‘OK, so this one says he’s OK.’ That was re-ing and pay tribute to their late father and their ally hard. But at the same time, we felt that sister Yanira, who passed in 2013 from a brain we had to sing. We felt that we had to play. It aneurysm. The album, sung in English and was important to play even more that day.” Yoruba, echoed the island-rooted faith of their For Ibeyi, the meaning of those songs and parents: Santería, also known as Lukumi. “It’s the lyrics changed after that night. Though no more our belief than our religion,” Lisa says. one close to them was killed, the community “We were initiated in our mother’s womb.” Naomi and Lisa were so close to was rocked Ibeyi, in fact, are the twin orishas (Earth spirits to its core, and the sisters felt the vibrations. or saints) in Yoruban and Santería mythology. Ibeyi has stayed busy since then. This Orishas are the focus of a few of the spring and summer, they’re playing major fes-duo’s songs. Three specific ones pop up in tivals and shows around Europe and the U.S., the girls’ music: Elegua, the trickster who like Coachella, Sasquatch, and Bonnaroo. “It’s opens doors in the faith; Oya, a female war-really exciting. It’s really terrifying at the same rior who owns the cemetery gates and rules time,” Lisa admits. “You never know who is over the dead and the winds; and Oshun, coming; you never know if they know you, the keeper of rivers, who’s in charge of love or they are just coming to see who you are.” and also represents womanhood. “I think at The sisters are working on songs with their the time, we felt connected with those ones, mother for the next Ibeyi album. Lisa assures and that’s why we wrote a song for them. this will not be a redux of the group’s first ef-But, yeah, we feel connected with all of them fort. “We feel that we have to do something actually,” Lisa says. Many aspects of the re-different. Making exactly the same album ligion help believers stay connected to the will not be fair to anyone and not fair to our departed through ceremony and ritual. Lisa first album, because we love it.” Naomi notes uses these tools to protect the memory of her that the upcoming project will have a heavier father. “He’s here,” she states confidently hip-hop element but that there will be no when asked about him. “He’s just here...” rapping by these two, only by featured guests. She believes what keeps him with her Asked about their growing fame, Lisa is is “not just the religion, but the culture too. humble. “We’re not Rihanna. Our lives didn’t The music too — the rhythms. This history change at all. We still can go out to buy our own of it. We feel that we are connected to him, bread without putting sunglasses on.” With of course, and connected to Cuba. Maybe music, her expectations are simple. “I think our that’s why it’s such a huge part of our music, biggest goal is not that much fame, but it’s being because it’s a huge part of ourselves too.” there for a while — being able to make one, two, Though they lived in Cuba as young kids three more albums, five more albums. Making and visit annually, they learned to speak the enough money to keep writing and to keep be-Yoruba language from a teacher in Paris. ing creative, I think that’s our biggest goal now.” And though the faith so closely associated with their music has generally been secretive, Music@MiamiNewTimes.com Ibeyi is bringing it to the attention of many Ibeyi new minds. “In the U.S. or in London, there 7 p.m. Sunday, May 8, at the North Beach are a lot of Nigerians... When they come, they Bandshell, 7275 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; are happy, because they know,” Naomi says. 305-672-5202; rhythmfoundation.com. M ay 5-M ay 11, 2016 M ONTH XX–M ONTH XX, 2008 MiaMi New TiMes MIAMI NEW TIMES | music | cafe | film | art | Stage | Night+Day | metro | riptiDe | letterS | coNteNtS | | MUSIC | CAFE | FILM | ART | STAGE | NIGHT+DAY | METRO | RIPTIDE | LETTERS | CONTENTS | miaminewtimes.com miaminewtimes.com

Crossfade

Liz Tracy

Sound of Santería

For the sisters of Ibeyi, music and religion are inseparable

Typically, getting a peek into the inner worlds of a pair of 20-yearold artists is a task for someone with the patience of the Virgin Mother and the cleverness of Oscar Wilde. But twin sisters Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Díaz of the sonic duo Ibeyi make interviewing easy. They speak excitedly and without guile about their musician parents, their experience of the Parisian attacks, and the Afro-Cuban religion Santería, which inspires their music. Most recently, the two gained additional international attention with their appearance in Beyoncé’s new visual album, Lemonade. But these young ladies don’t aspire to Bey-level fame. Besides, the complexity of their music — in influence, intention, and lyrics — harnesses a more deeply cosmic energy than mainstream music might allow. Each song sounds like a prayer and feels like it has the power to change weather patterns.

Their Cuban father, percussionist Anga Díaz, who’s known best as a member of the Buena Vista Social Club, passed away in 2006 when the twins were 11. That was when Naomi, the more reserved of the two, followed in her father’s footsteps and took to percussion — cajón and, soon after, batá. Their mother is French-Venezuelan singer Maya Dagnino, who co-writes songs with Lisa-Kaindé — the chatterbox, primary vocalist, and pianist of Ibeyi.

The sisters were raised in the tradition of classical music. Lisa also studied jazz. “Music was always important in our family,” she explains. “They didn’t want us to be musicians, but they wanted us to enjoy music and to live music and to dance to music and to go to loads of gigs and to really enjoy it... I think our happiest memories were with music all the time.”

In 2015, the two released their eponymous debut on XL Recordings, and the world got a little giddy over the delicately crafted tunes that feature elements of gospel, soul, electronica, hip-hop, and Afro-Cuban beats. Many of the songs explore the experience of mourning and pay tribute to their late father and their sister Yanira, who passed in 2013 from a brain aneurysm. The album, sung in English and Yoruba, echoed the island-rooted faith of their parents: Santería, also known as Lukumi. “It’s more our belief than our religion,” Lisa says. “We were initiated in our mother’s womb.” Ibeyi, in fact, are the twin orishas (Earth spirits or saints) in Yoruban and Santería mythology.

Orishas are the focus of a few of the duo’s songs. Three specific ones pop up in the girls’ music: Elegua, the trickster who opens doors in the faith; Oya, a female warrior who owns the cemetery gates and rules over the dead and the winds; and Oshun, the keeper of rivers, who’s in charge of love and also represents womanhood. “I think at the time, we felt connected with those ones, and that’s why we wrote a song for them. But, yeah, we feel connected with all of them actually,” Lisa says. Many aspects of the religion help believers stay connected to the departed through ceremony and ritual. Lisa uses these tools to protect the memory of her father. “He’s here,” she states confidently when asked about him. “He’s just here...”

She believes what keeps him with her is “not just the religion, but the culture too. The music too — the rhythms. This history of it. We feel that we are connected to him, of course, and connected to Cuba. Maybe that’s why it’s such a huge part of our music, because it’s a huge part of ourselves too.” Though they lived in Cuba as young kids and visit annually, they learned to speak the Yoruba language from a teacher in Paris.

And though the faith so closely associated with their music has generally been secretive, Ibeyi is bringing it to the attention of many new minds. “In the U.S. or in London, there are a lot of Nigerians... When they come, they are happy, because they know,” Naomi says.

Lisa cuts in: “They feel that, through us, they can connect to their roots.” The sisters, though different in personality, are prone to completing each other’s thoughts. “Yeah, they can connect to their roots,” Naomi adds. “We’re not teaching them, because we have a lot to —”

“To learn still,” Lisa interjects. “It’s catharsis actually — it’s exactly that. It’s actually not just on Yoruba; it’s with emotions and with everything. Our goals are not to teach people at all; this is not our goal. Our goals are to make the best music we can and to enjoy it and to feel good making it.”

They say the more they perform their debut album (the only one Ibeyi has released thus far), the more it evolves in their minds. “It feels different,” Naomi says, “because, for example, it has ghosts... We were playing the day of the attacks in Paris.” Ibeyi was just about to go onstage only three hours outside of the capital city when they heard about what had happened. “It was awful,” Naomi recalls.

“At the last minute, we had to call all of our friends,” Lisa says. “Our mother kept our phones... After every song, she would say, ‘OK, so this one says he’s OK.’ That was really hard. But at the same time, we felt that we had to sing. We felt that we had to play. It was important to play even more that day.”

For Ibeyi, the meaning of those songs and the lyrics changed after that night. Though no one close to them was killed, the community Naomi and Lisa were so close to was rocked to its core, and the sisters felt the vibrations. Ibeyi has stayed busy since then. This spring and summer, they’re playing major festivals and shows around Europe and the U.S., like Coachella, Sasquatch, and Bonnaroo. “It’s really exciting. It’s really terrifying at the same time,” Lisa admits. “You never know who is coming; you never know if they know you, or they are just coming to see who you are.”

The sisters are working on songs with their mother for the next Ibeyi album. Lisa assures this will not be a redux of the group’s first effort. “We feel that we have to do something different. Making exactly the same album will not be fair to anyone and not fair to our first album, because we love it.” Naomi notes that the upcoming project will have a heavier hip-hop element but that there will be no rapping by these two, only by featured guests.

Asked about their growing fame, Lisa is humble. “We’re not Rihanna. Our lives didn’t change at all. We still can go out to buy our own bread without putting sunglasses on.” With music, her expectations are simple. “I think our biggest goal is not that much fame, but it’s being there for a while — being able to make one, two, three more albums, five more albums. Making enough money to keep writing and to keep being creative, I think that’s our biggest goal now.”

Music@MiamiNewTimes.com

Ibeyi

7 p.m. Sunday, May 8, at the North Beach
Bandshell, 7275 Collins Ave., Miami Beach;
305-672-5202; rhythmfoundation.com.

Read the full article at http://digitalissue.miaminewtimes.com/article/Crossfade/2475842/301098/article.html.

Empty Road Audio

Using a screen reader? Click Here