This article is part of AQ’s debut culture supplement, Cultura. To see the rest of the issue, click here
It wasn’t long after they released their eponymous debut in 2015 that the French-Cuban duo Ibeyi was catapulted into pop music consciousness by none other than the Queen B herself, Beyoncé. The reigning queen of pop anointed the then 20-year-old twins, Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Díaz, by posting a clip of their track “River” to her Instagram feed, piquing the curiosity of her millions of followers. Set against cryptic VHS images of a brooding Beyoncé, the fifteen-second clip features an ethereal chorale looping under a creaky rhythm track and a spiritual, chanting lead vocal; it is a perfect example of what makes Ibeyi’s music so compelling.
The album, produced by XL Recordings owner Richard Russell, is built on a foundation of sparse drum machines, traditional percussion and a lonesome piano. This subtle backdrop blends with the sisters’ stark and delicate voices, sampled and layered against snaking, prayer-like melodies that shift between English and Yoruba. The album demonstrates the wide-ranging musical and spiritual sources that have influenced the twins, daughters of Buena Vista Social Club percussionist Angá Díaz. Strains of Afro-Cuban son, jazz, soul and folk are quietly woven together to tell stories about family, love and death.
It is a dark and hymnal listening experience. One wonders if Beyoncé’s rabid social media fan base is ready for such a journey.
Suen is a musician and composer based in Los Angeles. He currently performs with hip-hop artist Childish Gambino, New York electro-pop band Passion Pit, and Australian singer-songwriter Jarryd James. He will be releasing an EP of original material as Savio Savio in summer 2016.