Sibling groups like Tegan and Sara, Disclosure, and Destiny’s Child (two-thirds of them, at least) have made their mark on American musical pop culture, but none draw inspiration from international locales like Ibeyi. The word “ibeyi” literally means “twin” in Yoruba, a Nigerian language that was brought across the Atlantic in the 1700s due to the Spanish slave trade. The sibling duo of Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz keep their heritage alive by singing in four different languages - English, French, Spanish, and Yoruba. They grew up in a very musical household - their mother, Maya Dagnino, is a singer and their father, Anga Díaz, was a Cuban percussionist and member of the Buena Vista Social Club. To say that they had great expectations placed on them is an understatement, but XL Recordings saw their potential and released their self-titled debut album when they were just 20. Their latest album Ash continues to bridge the gap between French influences, Afro-Cuban rhythms, R&B, and soul in a way that not many are attempting today.
Although Ibeyi created intricate musical soundscapes on their albums, the duo opted for a more intimate and immediate experience at 9:30 Club. The two provided virtually all of the music on stage, utilizing very few backing tracks and performing without any other musicians. On stage, they placed keyboards and large wooden percussion blocks at the front corners, and another set of keyboards alongside a cajon at the back center. They switched between these two setups throughout the night, but for a song or two, they went front and center to belt out some powerful a cappella harmonies. And to call the duo powerful and confident would be a vast understatement. Every cajon slam and two-part harmony was purposeful and visceral, especially on the world-beating “Deathless” (written about Lisa-Kaindé’s arrest by a French officer when she was 16) and the Michelle Obama-sampling “No Man Is Big Enough for My Arms.” That's the power of Ibeyi - Just as Afro-Caribbean groups found inner strength in their musical traditions, Ibeyi finds theirs by blending their musical lineages with contemporary music to create something that is equal parts cathartic and resilient.
Opening for Ibeyi was Chicago-based theMIND, whose personal lyrics draw musical inspiration from Frank Ocean and Blood Orange. His latest release is “Ms. Communication,” a collaborative track with Da-P.