Ibeyi is simultaneously hopeful and defiant, a safe haven of soulful harmonies topping a potent mix of reggaeton, jazz, and electro R&B as rare as twins Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Díaz themselves.
Even over Skype from Paris, the latter principal songwriter and lead vocalist exhibits the poetic tone and warm demeanor evident in the pair’s music. Yoruban culture blankets their sound alongside Santería, the sisters’ religion, so the first and final song from last year’s sophomore full-length Ash supplicates Eleggua.
“He’s the god that opens and closes the path,” explains Díaz. “I think it’s very important to start with a song that means a lot to you. The first song on the album has to be really tight.”
The in-between tracks are similarly fitting, organized storytelling as a form of protest driven by beats that summon dance – courtesy of Naomi who’s in charge of rhythm and drums.
“When we were doing the first album, Naomi said to me, ‘The second one there’s going to be more hip-hop and more dancing songs.’”
They followed through. “Me Voy” features Spanish MC Mala Rodríguez and takes on the reggaeton rhythms the sisters grew up on in Cuba, while “Away Away” meshes traditional Yoruba drums with Auto-Tune. Other songs including “No Man Is Big Enough for My Arms,” which samples Michelle Obama, and “Transmission,” featuring mother Díaz reciting Frida Kahlo and Claudia Rankine reading from her novel Citizen: An American Lyric, take on a more subversive tone.
“We were doing the album during the American election when Trump had said ‘grab them by the pussy,’” recalls the singer. “Michelle Obama did this absolutely amazing speech in response to that awful sentence and we were touched.”
Read More with Lisa-Kaindé Díaz at austinchronicle.com/daily/music.