Ibeyi’s self-titled debut album blends modern electronic, pop and soul sounds with French-Cuban and West African tradition.
Ibeyi showcases the musical talents of 19-year-old twins Naomi and Lisa-Kainde Diaz. Daughters of famous Cuban musician and member of the Buena Vista Social Club Anga Diaz, Ibeyi do not shy away from their family roots.
The album is heavily influenced by their family’s traditional Yorùbán and West African culture and spirituality. Lisa-Kainde’s sings both in English and Yorub, and Naomi plays traditional Cuban percussion instruments, the Cajon and the Batas. These traditional sounds are woven through dreamy, melancholic vocals and electronic beats. It’s a blend of old and new influences that’s the real strength of the album.
The album quickly establishes its cultural heritage with opening track Eleggua, which features a harmonious incantation to a Yorùbán warrior god. Oya blends haunting vocals with modern electronic instruments, and on this track you can hear the influence of label mates The xx and SBTRKT.
Lead single Mama Says is stripped back to let Lisa-Kainde’s raw vocals shine, reminiscent of old-school soul masters like Nina Simone. The vocals describe love and loss with a darker edge: “The man is gone / and mama says / she can’t live without him.” The song ends with a Yoruba chant that lends a real sense of depth and history.
While mostly sticking to the gloominess of its doom soul stylings, Ibeyi does have some lighter moments. River is one of the album’s more upbeat tracks, with a catchy hip hop beat and electronic base. Faithful is a nod to a pop-folk vibe while the Diaz’s delicate harmonies beg for loyalty from their lover.
Ibeyi demonstrates that history be made fresh and new in the right hands. While the album has some slow moments, it’s clear that Naomi and Lisa-Kainde Diaz have enough raw talent to go the distance.