Scratch an Intro to Anthropology class, and you’ll get a theory about twins. We human-types, with our varying degrees of scientific knowledge, have long labored to make heads or tails of this dualistic biological phenomenon. If you left it up to pop culture and creepalicious directors like David Cronenberg, you’d be convinced that twins were ominous tricksters with profoundly fucked-up senses of self.
Just as many cultures, however, celebrate twins as something near sacred, beings that share the same soul. This is very much the case in the Yorùbán culture of Nigeria and its diasporic reach—care of the 18th century slave trade—into the Caribbean.
We may now have proof positive that twins not only share a soul, but they touch something close to divine with the impending debut of French-Cuban duo Ibeyi. Comprised of twin sisters Naomi Diaz on percussion and back-up vocals and Lisa-Kaindé Diaz on piano and lead vocals, Ibeyi come from a formidable lineage.
Daughters of the late Cuban percussionist Anga Diaz of Buena Vista Social Club fame, Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé are Cuban music royalty. They are also the products of their multi-culti times, combining Yorùbán tradition and language with hip-hop, electronic music and modern pop to produce a beautiful and hypnotic sound that’s guaranteed to make more than a few hearts melt at SXSW come March.
Ibeyi have released a handful of videos from their upcoming self-titled album, scheduled for release on Feburary 17, 2015. Their most recent videos, “River” and “Mama Says,” capture the minimalist leanings of their work with repeated incantations and an elemental concern for our mothers and the healing possible when we “take it to the river.”
These initial outings by Ibeyi show incredible promise. It’s an elegant combination: Naomi’s spare percussion as steadying heartbeat and Lisa-Kaindé’s voice, reminiscent of trip-hop antecedents Martina Topley-Bird and Skye Edwards, providing all the comfort our weary selves may need. In the press, Ibeyi have described their songs as “contemporary negro spirituals.” I have high hopes that come February, we may all find a little soulful sustenance in their work.
God bless the Afro-Cuban child. Ashe.