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13.05.2022 #music

Ibeyi

Yin & Yang of Pop

“We are not anyone’s token. But we feel an artist should represent their generation”

The music of Franco-Cuban twins behind the duo Ibeyi is a subtle blend of their unique background and finds its rhythm between fiery energy and peaceful spirituality. Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz draw their creative power from their Venezuelan-Cuban-Tunisian roots. Right down to their name, Ibeyi, which translates as “twins”, borrowed from the language of their ancestors, Yoruba. Their universe, imbued with the sounds of the world, is the fruit of this culture mix. Nourished by various influences, the twins, as confident with voice, piano, or on percussion, bring together soul, hip-hop and jazz. The strength of their identity makes hearts bit faster, and Beyoncé is no exception. Long before being offered a role in her visual album Lemonade, Ibeyi was already one of the Queen of Pop’s favorite artists. Ambassadors for the House of Chanel, Ibeyi made the fashion crowd dance at Karl Lagerfeld’s cruise show in Cuba. They have also performed in collaboration with some of the most prominent artists of their generation (think, Orelsan and Jorja Smith). At only 28 years old, Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz are definitely the talents to keep on your radar. Now they are releasing their third album Spell 31, the perfect opportunity to discuss with the twins the powerful themes that punctuate their new tracks : sorority, feminism, commitment, ethnicity. An intense moment of poetry in the heart of Belleville.

When did music become a part of your life?

Naomi Diaz: It’s always been there. Even in the pram, we were already going to concerts. Between our grandmother who rocked us with Venezuelan melodies, our father who played Latin jazz with the Buena Vista Social Club, the Magic Flute that we would listen to at night, then hip-hop, electronic music, Amy Winehouse, and the conservatory… It’s in our genes.

And when did you realize that you want to make a living out of it?

Naomi Diaz: To tell the truth, it came very naturally. For us, composing is like a game. When you are a child, you have fun, and as time went by, writing became an important part of our lives. For example, whenever I had a strong emotion, I went to the piano. We didn’t know what we were doing.
Lisa-Kaindé: We never wanted to make a living from it. At first it was just for fun, then one day someone offers you to produce your album and then it becomes serious. Although at the beginning there was something very naive, we got through the recording process with ease. Today we still play, but everything has become more intense.

Right from the start, you have been blending your origins, between Yoruba, which is one of the three national languages of Nigeria, but also Cuban and English. How do you compose?

Naomi Diaz: Lisa starts by writing, and I’m more into production. For me, musicality prevails even if one day maybe …
Lisa-Kaindé: I’m sure you’ll write eventually! For me, it’s vital. I’ve been writing diaries since I was seven, every day. And for languages, there is something very visceral. English was almost a given, especially with the discovery of Ella Fitzgerald, Adele or Amy Winehouse. The lyrics evolve according to my emotions.

How does it feel to be supported by Richard Russell, a producer who has accompanied musicians like Bobby Womack and Damon Albarn?

Lisa-Kaindé: Very simple, with him there is something quite natural. We are equals, without frills. When you’re 18, if you are not Beyoncé, nothing changes in your life. Today we feel honored after ten years of trust.
Naomi Diaz: We don’t have this obsession with the star system, we just need to share a feeling and a strong exchange in our way of thinking, our vision of things and our love of music.

Your lyrics are addressing more and more burning issues. What place do you give to political commitment in your music?

Naomi Diaz: We’re not anyone’s token. We don’t want to evangelize anyone, but we feel an artist should represent their generation. How can you not evoke certain current issues?
Lisa-Kaindé: This approach was the fruit of our education, but we never really stopped to think about how to be activists. This word is very strong. It should not be misused. We just hope to rekindle flames and raise awareness, but activism comes later.
Naomi Diaz: For us, with Yoruba, sung in communion, the spiritual aesthetic is cultural. Everything we are, is a blend of our identities. Today, we are nourished by these multiple energies that create the Ibeyi’s DNA. And the family spirit remains primordial, in fact when we are in Paris, we are often at our grandmother’s house, and Lisa is often at the “Deux Amis” in Oberkampf.

Do you live in Paris now?

Yes, but in the future, who knows? (Laughs). We love Paris for its soul, our grandmother and the sense of style.

Fashion has an important place in your lives. If you had to choose a silhouette for everyday life and for performing, what would it be?

Lisa-Kaindé: It’s hard to choose. I like the Dior Men’s suits by Kim Jones, or the oversized pieces by Acne Studios. It’s feminine and masculine at the same time, it’s like my suit of armor, and it reminds me of Janet Jackson, I am her biggest fan.
Naomi Diaz: To me, streetwear is the perfect uniform, especially when I mix it with 16th arrondissement style touches, like a classic shirt. And my style icon is Rihanna.
Lisa-Kaindé: For jewelry, we are Chanel devotees, the beauty of the pieces overwhelms us. At the moment we love layering them, when they clink together, they becomes music.

We often see you at the Fashion Week… 

Lisa-Kaindé: True, we do love to go to the shows whenever we get the chance. It’s nice to be surrounded by these inspiring personalities from these fascinating worlds.

Like Jean-Baptiste Mondino who enjoys turning you into his models!

Lisa-Kaindé: Jean-Baptiste is very inspiring, being on a shoot with him is just a pleasure. He knows all about music, and he has collaborated with artists we love. Only a few shots, and his eye is enough to sublimate the moment.

 

Interview: Camille Laurens

Photos: Jean Picon

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