Since releasing their first album in 2015, Ibeyi, the duo formed by French twins Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz, haven’t stopped conquering the world. They’d already seduced Richard Russell – producer of The XX and Adele, who has been with them from the beginning – when Beyoncé fell under their spell and invited them to take part in her film Lemonade, in 2016. The internet went wild. And when Chanel took off for Cuba to show its 2017 cruise col- lection, it was of course to the two sisters, daughters of a Cuban father (the celebrated musician Angá Diaz), that Karl Lagerfeld turned. Because their syncretic music, which mixes sounds from electro and Cuban mu- sic, as well as jazz and soul, embod- ies the quintessence of an age which knows no boundaries nor genres. But also because their heady, mov- ing sound has a soul, which can be felt in all 12 tracks of their second album Ash, an elegant, luminous, committed disc that was one of the musical high points of 2017.
Numéro: Running through your music there’s a strong current of spirituality, in particular the Yoruba religion, which is very widespread in Cuba but which originates around the River Niger. Have you been to Africa?
Naomi: We had an extraordinary experience in Benin. We wanted to go to the Door of No Return, one of the places where slaves left for America – a place where hurt can be felt in the very air. On the way there, a woman came up to us: “You’re twins? I come from the village of twins. You must come with me. We must hold a ceremony.” Over there, when a twin dies, you have to create a figurine and feed it until the end of the other twin’s life. For our arrival, the priests had got out all the figu- rines. The whole village burst into song, lit incense, and the men banged on their chests – just like back home in Cuba. From one con- tinent to another, generations later... We were in tears.
“When I learned that I was one of the daughters of Yemaya, I immediately remembered that as a little girl I used to spend all my time singing by the sea. I dreamed of being a mermaid and breathing underwater. I cherished the feeling of well- being below the water, in a bubble, rocked by the waves in a parallel world. I was a little girl and it blew my brain.” Lisa-Kaindé Diaz
Is it true that, according to the Yoruba religion, one of you is the daughter of the goddess of water and the other the daughter of the goddess of lightning? And how is that decided?
Naomi: It’s the gods who decide, during a ceremony. The priests throw shells onto the ground and read the gods’ answers. “Is this girl the daughter of Osun?” “No.” “Is she the daughter of Ogun?” “No.” “The daughter of Shango?” “Yes.” I was the daughter of Shango, goddess of lightning. And Lisa, was the daugh- ter of Yemaya, goddess of the sea. And where our characters are con- cerned, the gods were spot on.
Lisa-Kaindé: When I learnt that I was one of the daughters of Yemaya, I immediately remembered that as a little girl I used to spend all my time singing by the sea. I dreamed of being a mermaid and breathing underwater. I cherished the feeling of wellbeing below the water, in a bubble, rocked by the waves, in a parallel world. I was ob- sessed by the idea of humans living underwater, of an Atlantis. I was a little girl and it blew my brain.
Naomi: Hayao Miyazaki’s films had a similar effect on us – Castle in the Sky and Princess Mononoke, which our father took us to see when we were seven.
Lisa-Kaindé: Those films set our imaginations soaring. I made a list of the films that changed my life, which one day I’ll give to my children, and those two are on it. They make you cry and make you ten years older in an instant! They’re animated films that don’t take children for idiots. After watching Princess Mononoke, I said to myself, “I want to be that wild girl. I want to have her courage.”