There is as much room in Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz's passports as there is in The Polo Bar on a Saturday night. Which is to say, not much. The twin sisters, who perform as Ibeyi, were born in Paris, France, and although they spent their first two years in Havana, Cuba, they were raised primarily in Paris (where they're based today). Along with their father, the late iconic Cuban percussionist Miguel "Angá" Díaz, and their Venezuelan-French mother, the duo spent much of their childhood en route between the two places.
The girls' musical education started early. "We've been playing music since we were 7 years old, but I never thought it was going to be a professional path," Lisa-Kaindé explains. She started composing songs when she turned 14, and soon after, Naomi wanted in. "I decided to make music with Lisa when she sang a song she composed in front of an audience. She was 15 and it moved me so much I wanted to be part of that."
Ibeyi's music serves as a reflection of the members' multicultural background. The sisters are as inspired by modern pop, hip-hop, and electronica as they are by their father's heritage: the Yoruba are one of the largest West African ethnic groups. Not only did the duo take a Yoruba name ("ibeyi" means "twins"), they also take cues from Yoruba history in the chants, the rhythm, and their percussion. (Naomi plays the cajón and Batá drum, while Lisa-Kaindé sings and plays piano.) They've been touring almost nonstop since the 2014 release of their EP Oya, which featured their soulful, darkly captivating breakout track "River."
This year's release of their self-titled debut album (out now on XL Recordings) sees them on the road yet again, bringing their hypnotizing sound to an even larger group of fans. "We're very happy to meet the people and share with them our songs and our love for music," Naomi says of their live shows. "This album talks about our lives, and it's amazing to see that people relate to it. The energy we get from them gives us the energy to keep going."
Ibeyi features both recent cuts as well as the songs that Lisa-Kaindé has been working on since she was a teenager. "I added the rhythms and knew I wanted only the two of us playing, using electronic sounds and hip-hop beats on the record," Naomi explains. The album weaves together themes of loss and life (the tracks "Yanira" and "Think of You" are odes to their late sister and father), casting a haunting spell that stays with you long after you stop listening. The sisters allude to the ghosts of their past, while still staying optimistic about what's to come. "Music helped us go through loss. Music heals," Lisa-Kaindé explains. "We all need a time and space with no frontiers."
Styled by Helen Rendell. Makeup by Alana Wright.