Live Review: Ibeyi

11 March 2016 | 6:20 pm | Chris Havercroft

"Ibeyi bring something new to the traditional sounds of their roots."

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The theme of the last couple of weeks has been of singers paying tribute to their loved ones in song. William Fitzsimmons had a set of songs about his deceased grandmother, Sufjan Steven about the passing of his parents and Ibeyi played songs from their debut album which pays tribute to their father and sister who were both killed.

It is eerie subject matter for the twins sisters Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz who make up Ibeyi, but they package them up in delicious vocals and energetic beats. Walking onto the stage, the duo faced each other as they sang Eleggua - an a capella tune in Yoruba, the Nigerian language their ancestors spoke before they were brought to Cuba.

Modern electronica is added to the traditional sounds of the French/Cuba duet, with Lisa taking the lead role behind the piano but it is impossible to separate which of the talented duo is blessed with the finest voice. The pair may be seated whilst they play their instruments but they take every opportunity to stand and dance during the songs to make the spectacle engaging for the crowd who would be excused for just letting the divine harmonies take all of their attention.

Naomi plays traditional Spanish/Cuban percussion instruments cajón and Batá drum, but on Mama Says she also slaps her legs, clicks fingers and beats her chest in a more tribal take on the art of hamboning. The jazz infused Stranger/Lover may have been downbeat in its tempo, but it delivered the most winsome chorus of the evening.

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The lion's share of the songs came from the self-titled album and were all given more grunt with the driving and dynamic percussion, but they did go off script a couple of times with a new song titled Fly that is more straightforward in its delivery and a clever take on rapper Jay Electronica’s Better In Tune With The Infinite.

There are enough artists who push the boundaries of taste, but Ibeyi bring something new to the traditional sounds of their roots. The fact they do it in such a polite fashion and with voices of the gods makes them a delightful proposition.

Originally published in X-Press Magazine