Ibeyi, the downtempo soul duo comprised of French-Cuban twins Lisa-Kaïndé and Naomi Diaz, have been everywhere in the last month. Five days ago, they opened Chanel's controversial fashion show in Habana, singing "River," their hypnotic ode to Oshun. Less than a month ago, they were sprinkled throughout Beyoncé's visual epic, Lemonade, amongst fellow Afrofuturist goddesses. But last night, the spiritual twins made a much more local debut. With lulling hymns and haunting percussion transcending the sold-out crowd at North Beach Bandshell, Ibeyi lead us to ascension.
Ocean waves crashed in the distance as Lisa-Kaïndé, hija de Yemaya, and Naomi, hija de Chango, took the stage in their monochrome gowns and Orisha beads. They stood still, facing each other against a sparse backdrop, chanting"Eleggua," the Orisha known for crossroads — the endings and beginnings of life. Orishas, a type of minor gods, appear in some of the duo's songs, which borrow heavily from Yoruban and Santería mythology.
"We are Ibeyi," Lisa-Kaïndé said as she opened her arms wide, a soft and warm smile washing over her.
Despite innate similarities and a clear spiritual connection, the twins are vastly distinct. Lisa-Kaïndé plays the piano and provides a majority of the songs' vocals. The Orisha who chose her, Yemaya, shares a similar narrative. She is represented as the ocean, a spiritual mother of all. As Lisa-Kaïndé sang "Yemaya," her dulcet melody floated belly up
Naomi exudes a more carnal energy. If Lisa-Kaïndé is the melody, Naomi is the syncopated percussion. She sits hunched over a cajón or behind a batá drum for most of their set. Her Orisha, Chango, is, fittingly, the patron of drumming, and is known for masculine beauty and passion. In between songs, Naomi
This is a safe space for the twins. Toward the set's midpoint, they sang, "Yanira," which they dedicated to their older sister who died in 2013 of a brain aneurysm. It's a bittersweet catharsis for the sisters,
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"Weatherman, when the thunder bursts I turn to you," sang Lisa-Kaïndé right before the sound stopped working. Like a bolt of lighting from Chango, the stage was left acoustic for about ten minutes. But this only made the crowd fall deeper in love with the sisters. Lisa-Kaïndé announced they would improvise as Naomi stood up and air-hugged the crowd.
"This will be a unique experience," Lisa-Kaïndé said, giggling.
But, in an instant, the sound returned. The artists closed the show out with a surge of energy, and performed a surprise cover of Spanish rapper Mala Rodriguez's "Por la Noche." They encored with "River," their tribute to the restorative wiles of Oshun, and thanked everyone involved with the show, including its host, the Rhythm Foundation. This was not just a concert — this was a soul cleanse.