The two sisters have just come from an appointment at the U.S. Embassy to obtain a visa. “I answered the immigration guy’s questions with the same coldness he showed me,” said the intrepid Naomi. Sweet Lisa-Kaindé lectured her: “You shouldn’t have!” Their band, Ibeyi (which means “twins” in Yoruba, the language of a large ethnic group in Nigeria), was slated to perform on stage in New York on May 1 to celebrate the release of their third album, Spell 31, due out five days later. This album was recorded in England, between producer Richard Russell’s studio in Dorset and cosmopolitan London, which Lisa-Kaindé now calls home.
They’re building on the success of their first two albums, Ibeyi (2015) and Ash (2017), and the recognition of their peers – from Beyoncé, who had them make a cameo appearance on her visual album Lemonade, to Orelsan, who featured them as guest singers on the track “Notes pour plus tard” (“Notes for Later”). Now, the Diaz sisters have created a record steeped in the current London sound. On Spell 31, the sisters feature British drill rapper Pa Salieu and soul singer Jorja Smith. The 27-year-old fraternal twins have gained worldwide fame, including renown in the English-speaking world, a rare feat for French artists.
An enduring project
Like their previous work, Spell 31 expresses their Cuban and Yoruba roots. The song “Sister 2 Sister” celebrates their experience as twins. “It was a really special song to write,” said Lisa-Kaindé. “I told myself, ‘We’ve been making music for 10 years, and we’ve never written a song about the two of us.’ We had written songs for our father, our older sister [who passed away in 2013], our mother, our lovers… but we had never taken the time to celebrate each other even though, after all, this whole thing is based on us being twins.”
Their musical project has withstood everything: the whirlwind of success, constant touring, emotional concerts, lockdowns, you name it. Through it all, their egos have not exploded in midflight like the Gallagher brothers of Oasis. On the contrary, they stand firm in their sisterhood. Lisa-Kaindé said, “It’s a very tough job, full of doubt, fear and also extraordinary, unique moments. It can drive you crazy because there are ups and downs all the time. Together, we check in on one another. We talk each other down. We’re stronger.”
On the artistic side, the twins, born on December 13, 1994, have big shoes to fill: Their father was Cuban percussionist Anga Díaz, a member of the bands Irakere and Buena Vista Social Club. Unfortunately, they were only 11 years old when he died. Nine years later, they recorded their EP Oya, drawing on the education instilled by their mother of Venezuelan and Tunisian descent. She made them go to conservatory after school (vocal jazz and piano for Lisa-Kaindé and classical percussion for Naomi ), as well as the rich tradition of Yoruba folk songs and yearly trips to Cuba while living in Paris’s 14th Arrondissement.
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