meet ibeyi: the soulful melody making sisters

Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz are Ibeyi – the French/Cuban twins who mix traditional Yorùbá sounds with modern party funk.

Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi are twins who celebrate their differences, whether it be on stage in their band Ibeyi or in the studio. Born and raised with music (their father was one of the talented percussionists of Buena Vista Social Club) Naomi plays the cajón, a box like drum traditionally from Peru, and the batá, a traditional Yorùbá drum, while Lisa writes and sings. Their roles in the band might differ but their ambition is singular: to translate their most intimate feelings into sensual and soulful melodies. While recording their second album in London, Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi share their inspirational moments and tips to make it in the music industry.

What are you doing today?

Naomi: We're recording our second album in London right now. We're very excited and happy to be making new music. Music is great because you don't have to describe it or explain it, you can love music that you don't even understand, as long as you feel the emotion. Our new album has hard beats and vocal harmonies.  

What are your main musical inspirations at the moment? Do you have different tastes?

Naomi: Right now I’m jamming to  Young MA, Kendrick Lamar, Ms Lauryn Hill, some reggaeton.

Lisa-Kaindé: I’ve listened to the same artists for a while Ocean Size, James Blake, Bon Iver… But I'm inspired as much by photography or books as by I am by music. For example, Francesca Woodman inspires me a lot these days, as well as the book Widow Basquiat, which explores Basquiat’s relationship with his muse .

How do you go about writing a song? How does it start?

Naomi: The urge to write can arise anytime, anywhere. From an emotion that leads to a melody, but sometimes it also comes from sitting down in front of the piano searching and working. 

What was writing the new album like?

Lisa-Kaindé: We kept composing while we were touring, so when we got to the studio we already had around 20 songs.  We also made some new ones in the studio that started as a drumbeat jam. Anything can lead us to a new song. A book, a film, a rhythm, an emotion, a picture, a word. Sight is a dominant sense in composing. I am influenced by pictures, movies, documentaries. I guess we are part of the "image" generation. 

You talk about very intimate feelings in your songs – love, loss, memories. Is music-making a healing process for you?

Naomi: We always talk about what we experience, about the questions we ask ourselves, about what we see around us, what moves us.  What heals us is not what we talk about, but the creative process itself. Nothing feels better than finishing a song in the studio and then being able to play and share it onstage. We are the luckiest people on earth. Music is a huge part of our lives, since we were little. It makes us feel happy and blessed.

You sing in English and Yorùbá. What are your own connections to those two languages? 

Lisa-Kaindé: We learnt English through music and films. A huge amount of the songs we’ve listened to since we were kids are in English. When we first signed to XL we used to write songs in English but didn't speak it very well! We had to learn fast in order to communicate in the studio with our producer and then the people coming to our shows. We have always listened to Yorùbá chants at home with our parents. We fell in love with them and started studying them at the age of 15 with a group of bata percussionists. But singing in Yorùbá is a way of honouring our father and our ancestors. A way to keep on spreading this profound and beautiful oral legacy.

What is your favourite memory from childhood? 

Lisa-Kaindé: My favourite childhood memory is a ritual we had, Naomi, our mum and I, dancing in our living room. We used to do that often when we were very little, until we were around 17 years old. We laughed a lot and felt enormous joy. Our first memory of listening to music is probably one of our dad's shows. We have pictures of ourselves in concerts halls, we weren’t even 2 years old!

Naomi: Our family hugs with our mum and dad. Deep love.

What would be the main differences between the two of you ? 

Naomi: We are complementary opposites: melody & rhythm, water & fire, reflection & spontaneity, yin & yang… But we both have one thing in common, we can't live without music. Music binds us. 

Do you argue sometimes?

Lisa-Kaindé: Yes! We argue all the time about the stupidest things!

You grew up in Paris. Does this city inspire you? 

Lisa-Kaindé: When we were kids every summer we would go to our grandparent’s village in Cuba, we realised spending time with our cousins and friends there how lucky we were to grow up in Paris. Firstly, it's really one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but also what we enjoyed the most growing up was going to see all kinds of live music shows and going to see movies, from all over the world.  

What do you feel when you are both on stage in front of the audience? 

Naomi:  We feel the energy that binds us as twin sisters and the audience. The more we feel it, the happier we are. It takes every fear away and it's the closest thing we have experienced to freedom.

What would you say to younger girls who want to become musicians? Or what would you both say to your younger-selves ? 

Believe in your dreams and be true to yourself. Don't worry you are going to be loved. And don't forget to hire a good lawyer (laughs)

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