Photos taken by Corgam in San Francisco

November  ·  18   ·   2017

The entire room over at The Fillmore seems to levitate, lifted up by the energized chanting of the crowd who sings along Lisa and Naomi’s Yoruban-infused pop anthems. “River” is blasting. A thousand voices sing in unison the outro of their most popular song, which pays homage to Oshun, the River Goddess. The moment is electrifying, it seems as though Yoruban deities have entered the venue, impregnating it with their divine musicality. The crowd succumbs to their feet. For those unfamiliar with this band, google it.

The duo certainly carries themselves with the Cuban flow, beyond their exotic appeal, their charismatic personalities infuse the room with a truly Caribbean trait. Lisa-Kaindé is the duo’s spokesperson, with such eloquence she drives the Ibeyi engine, both as musical director and lead singer but even as narrator, gracefully introducing the songs that make up their repertoire. Naomi on the other hand, barely talks during the introductory segments, but her "voice" is strongly felt as she is the engine’s fuel, the percussive machine which enables their sound to the route of uniqueness with the intricacy of her rhythmic patterns which truly echo the Cuban culture they proudly carry through.

Ibeyi is often put under the “world music” category, which feels restrictive. Beyond their clear Yoruban influences, their two records are the combination of sounds, mostly electronic beats, drum & bass, trip-hop & hip-hop, even a little bit of reggaeton as well as innegable rhythm and blues, soul and gospel smartly crafted by the golden touch of legendary producer Richard Russell whom they consider key figure in helping find their sound. Some songs reminiscence Massive Attack, Portishead and even early Bjork, but the overall blend produces the best pop music in the contemporary sphere.

Although complementary, Lisa underlines their difference in personalities. Naomi is the free-spirit, whereas Lisa, as the conductor, seems to be more contained, alert, in charge. This contrast is also found in the music they make together. Their self-titled debut album is introspective, personal and often dark, yet arranged in such way they invite to dance and sing along; which is exactly what they accomplish in their powerful live performances. "Ash", their most recent full length, sounds brighter, more up-tempo and also a bit less personal as they discuss global themes that can easily function as the soundtrack of the times we live in. “Deathless”, the first single (which features Kamasi Washington) resonates with the March of Our Lives movement, with a powerful chorus that shouts “whatever happens, whatever happened, we are deathless”With a sample excerpt given by Michelle Obama’s speech in 2016, “No Man is Big Enough for My Arms” addresses gender issues, specifically, as Lisa Kaindé points out during the introduction of the song, it’s a song inspired by women but in this day and age, it is a direct message to Donald Trump and his inagotable public displays of misogyny. 

Although queens of the stage, they both reveal a certain naïvaté, but ultimately, they seem to appreciate one another. “I wish I had that wild spirit, that sense of freedom, I wish I had those green eyes, I wish I knew how twerk like you” said the endearing Lisa as she introduced the song “I wanna be like you” which she wrote to honor her sister’s sense of liberty. Catch Ibeyi live as they tour the States again this spring.