Ibeyi – Ibeyi (XL Recordings, 2015)
When XL Recordings released Pay Close Attention – their 25th anniversary compilation which showcased the mind-blowingly diverse and game-changing work the label has released – Nevy and I talked about how listening to it really puts into perspective XL’s massive influence on years and years of quality music which transcends genre, place and time.
Well, in compilations to come, XL Recordings will definitely be including music by Ibeyi – the young French-Cuban twin sisters, whose song-writing maturity and production are almost unbelievable.
The Orishas have their back, for sure, because these two are next level.
But I’m getting ahead of myself! Let’s start from the beginning.
Ibeyi are Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Díaz, who were born in Cuba and raised in Paris. The sisters’ father is the great Cuban percussionist Miguel ‘Angá’ Díaz, who played with Buena Vista Social Club alongside Ibrahim Ferrer, Rubén González and Compay Segundo and who passed away in 2006.
Their ancestry is Yoruba – an ethnic group of southwestern Nigeria and southern Benin, whose language and tradition was brought over to Cuba and South America on slave ships and whose people have the highest fraternal twin rate in the world.
Their Venezuelan mother passed on the traditional Yoruba chants and prayers she grew up with to the twins, who have now implemented them in the goose bump-inducing music they make.
‘Multicultural’, ‘multifaceted’, ‘multilingual’, multi-anything would be a gross understatement if used to describe Ibeyi – ‘ibeyi’ itself being the Cuban spelling of the Yoruba word (‘ibeji’) for ‘twins’.
A cultural legacy as rich as Ibeyi’s, further enriched and developed through the artistic prism of two barely 20-year-old artists influenced by jazz and soul as much as by hip-hop, dancehall and electronica – it’s not surprising that simply resorting to the ‘multi’ prefix wouldn’t be enough.
Stripped down sound, zero gimmicks, pure music – piano, cajón, Batá drum, synths, voices, Yoruba chants, and, very beautifully, silence. It’s otherworldly. It’s chilling and intense. It’s consummate.
It’s a special thing when you find music that is so deliciously complex, engaging and connected to other parts of life – from history, to mythology, to concepts and ideas – and Ibeyi’s music is just that. Their songs have had me absorbed with Orishas – the Yoruba spirits which reflect manifestations of God – and this has been a pleasant educational consequence of feeling so deeply moved emotionally that I needed to go beyond passively listening to the music.
The Orishas are everywhere in ‘Ibeiy’. There’s Eleggua – the Orisha of the crossroads of life, of beginnings and opportunities. There’s Oya – the female Orisha of the river Niger, goddess of a lot of things, which probably explains why she’s my favourite so far and why ‘Oya’ is one of my favourite songs on the album.
And while getting into research mode is not a prerequisite for enjoying Ibeyi’s stunning self-titled album, I dare you to resist the temptation to start googling around, thirsty for more background into the spiritual experience that is the twins’ music.
But enough words. Listen to ‘Ibeyi’ and feel it all. Buy ‘Ibeyi’ from iTunes here and stream the whole album below.
AND I highly recommend listening to Ibeiy’s mixtape ‘EE-BEY-EE’ which, I was delighted to find out, starts with the Bulgarian folklore classic ‘Prituri Se Planinata’ performed by the Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares aka The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices. I’m embedding the mixtape below the album stream – it’s worth it!
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