Twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz were born in Cuba—their father was the great conguero Miguel “Angá” Diaz, who worked with musicians from the Buena Vista Social club, among others—but raised in France by their mother, French-Venezuelan singer Maya Dagnino. Since dropping their debut album in 2015 they’ve carried on the musical legacy of their parents as Ibeyi, a sophisticated pop-R&B duo that’s seamlessly forged a sultry sonic melting pot driven by sharp observations on identity, racism, and feminism.
The duo taps into its rich heritage on all three of its albums, blending R&B with French chanson, Afro-Cuban son, hip-hop, and art-pop (there’s no missing the influence of Björk on their latest album Spell 31). They even deliver a radically transformed take on the Black Flag hardcore classic “Rise Above,” turning the furious rant into a soulful protest against systemic racism, with guest MC Berwyn invoking the murder of George Floyd. The album’s opening track “Sangoma” invokes the titular Zulu healers in South Africa, promising to take listeners through the music that follows with soothing guidance. The album concludes with “Los Muertos,” a somber roll call of deceased artists and family members that have impacted Ibeyi, including trumpeter Roy Hargrove, Prince, and Cuban bassist Cachaíto Lopez.
As Pitchfork said of the album, “Ibeyi continue to celebrate and probe diaspora, building bridges between the sounds and traditions of their transatlantic heritage. There’s a quiet audacity to their growing syncretism, which here casually yokes together Egyptian funerary lore, South African sangomas, Santería rituals, and British rap.”