The electro-tinged soul of these Franco-Cuban twin sisters resonates like a sweet spell. Lisa-Kaindé Diaz (pianist) and Naomi Diaz (percussionist), 27, united under the name of Ibeyi, bewitch the planet. Their first disc seduced Michelle Obama and Beyoncé. They deliver a dancing, pop, R’n’B, afro and multicultural third album. A tornado with two voices.
Madame Figaro. – Your melodies float like candlelight over lively music. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Naomi. – Our father, Anga Díaz, was an experienced Cuban percussionist. He was playing with Herbie Hancock, Buena Vista Social Club… He died when we were 11. We started singing at that time, and we attended the Paris Conservatory for ten years.
Lisa-Kainde. – He engraved values in us: the freedom of our choices, the conviction that we should never build barriers. We sing Yoruba melodies (from West Africa), because the slaves deported to Cuba managed to pass on their songs, when it was forbidden. Our voices carry the stories of thousands of people who were here before us.
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The title of your album, spell 31, is a reference to a prayer from book of the dead Egyptian. Why this picture?
L.-K. – Our father used to say: “Listen to the elders! In the contemporary world, the trend has reversed: the elderly are considered a burden. Our era loves erasing history. We wanted to do the opposite by juxtaposing contemporary sounds and traditional Cuban and African songs. This creates interesting polyphonies.
NOT. – There is something spiritual in this album. We recorded it in London, where Lisa lives, in an atmosphere of creation surrounded by musical instruments, esoteric books, cups of tea… Playing and singing is a necessary ritual in our lives. The magic of music is a drug, a spell.
How would you describe your differences and similarities?
L.-K.– I’m sickly shy, whereas Naomi is extroverted. She burns. She dances as she breathes.
NOT. – Lisa, it’s a soft, pure, jazzy, angelic voice. But in reality, Lisa is anything but smooth: she’s bubbling inside. It is she who holds the foundations of Ibeyi.
Billie Eilish adores you, and British soul star Jorja Smith wanted to record a song with you for this album. What unites the younger generation of female pop singers?
L.-K.– We want to change the way a woman is perceived in music. One of the first to do so was Joni Mitchell: she established herself as a musician in the misogynistic world of jazz, where women were allowed to sing, but not to play an instrument. The contemporary pop stars all play an instrument, compose and write their texts.
Like Rosalía or Jorja Smith, you sometimes adopt a hypersensual aesthetic. How do you explain this provocation?
NOT. – This word, “provocation”, is interesting. Why ? The world of soul, pop and rap, driven mostly by men, has always portrayed women in this way. Gainsbourg, whom we adore, did it too. Was it provocation? Simone de Beauvoir wrote: “The two sexes have never shared the world equally.” Today, women in music affirm on their own their freedom to play with their sensuality if they feel like it, or to dress in streetwear if they feel like it.
Spell 31, XL Recordings. In concert on May 17, at Lafayette Anticipations, in Paris.