A Sister Act Taps A Ghostly, Afro-Cuban Groove As Ibeyi, Lisa-Kainde and Naomi Diaz make soulful, percussive music rooted in their Yoruba heritage.
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A Sister Act Taps A Ghostly, Afro-Cuban Groove

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A Sister Act Taps A Ghostly, Afro-Cuban Groove

A Sister Act Taps A Ghostly, Afro-Cuban Groove

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LISA DIAZ: Ibeyi means twins in Yoruba. And when we start thinking about how we wanted the band to be called, our mother said Ibeyi.


That's Lisa Diaz, the French-Cuban 19-year-old who makes up one half of the musical duo Ibeyi. The other is her twin sister Naomi. Their self-titled debut album came out last week. It is a series of reflections on love, death and family that spans countries as well as genres


IBEYI: (Singing) Come to your river. I will come to your river. I will come to your river.

MARTIN: And while twins they may be, identical they are not.

NAOMI DIAZ: We are opposites. I'm more sensitive.

MARTIN: Is this Lisa talking?

N. DIAZ: No, Naomi.

MARTIN: Oh, this is Naomi. OK.

N. DIAZ: Yeah. I'm more sensitive. Lisa is more reflective.

L. DIAZ: No, we are really different. Actually, we are different physically and mentally, too.

L. DIAZ: I think...

N. DIAZ: When you see us, you can see that we're different.

L. DIAZ: Yeah.

N. DIAZ: One has an Afro, the other has...

L. DIAZ: Long, straight hair.

N. DIAZ: ...Long, straight hair.

L. DIAZ: No, but in the music, I think you can feel that we have two different tastes in music. Naomi is more hip-hop, rap. And I'm more down tempo. And that's why it's good. We are mixing our two world and our two tastes in music.


IBEYI: (Singing) My ghosts are not gone. They dance in silver shade. And gives the black core of my heart, making words, making sounds, making songs.

MARTIN: How long have you been making music together? Is this always something you have done together?

N. DIAZ: No, we start playing together three years ago.

MARTIN: And what did that feel like when you first started to sing together? Instantly, did it seem like a good fit?

L. DIAZ: It was weird to work together and to rehearse together. But I think singing together just fit...

N. DIAZ: Yeah. It's a perfect match.

L. DIAZ: ...And felt great it away.


IBEYI: (Singing) My, my, my soul.

MARTIN: Let's talk a little bit about your connection to Yoruba, the language and the culture. This is something that is pervasive throughout this album. That comes through your dad. Is that right?

L. DIAZ: Actually, that comes to our dad and...

N. DIAZ: Our mom.

L. DIAZ: ...Our mom, too. Our dad is from Cuba, and, of course, when the Yoruban slaves were shipped to Cuba, the Yoruba culture in Cuba remained. And so we grew up listening to Yoruba chants, and our mother took us to a Yoruba choir when we were, I think, 14. Yeah. I think it was 14. And we start singing them and learning them. And we loved it.

MARTIN: And when you say sing them, are there specific songs that are particular to Yoruba?

L. DIAZ: Yes, they are religious songs actually.

MARTIN: Is there one that the two of you really like and feel connected to that you could share with us?

L. DIAZ: Yeah. We can sing one.

N. DIAZ: We can sing one.

L. DIAZ: We can sing "Elegua." It's a song for the divinity Elegua, which is the one that opens and closes the path. And in the Yoruba ceremonies, we always sing for Elegua when we open the ceremony, and we always sing for Elegua when we close the ceremony. So this is "Elegua."

LISA AND NAOMI DIAZ: (Singing in Yoruba).

MARTIN: Your dad was a famed musician, a Cuban percussionist, Anga Diaz. He played with the Buena Vista Social Club among other bands. And he did pass away in 2006. Did you know who he was when you were growing up? Did you know that he was a big deal?

N. DIAZ: No.

L. DIAZ: We realized I think when we were, like, 14 maybe. We realized it when we started talking with our musician friends, and they used to say, oh, I love Steve Coleman. And we're like, oh, yes, my father played with him.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

L. DIAZ: Really? And I love Roy Hargrove. And we were like, yeah, Roy, we know him. And then we realized that, yeah, he was a big deal.

N. DIAZ: He was a big deal.

MARTIN: (Laughter) It's obvious that both your parents had such an impact on your musical upbringing. There's a particular song on the album that I want to play. This is called "Mama Says."


IBEYI: (Singing) The man is gone, and Mama says there's no life without him. How can I tell her the way I feel? I'm afraid she'd be hurt and sink.

L. DIAZ: This song is about - not only about grief and not only about one man, but about every man in my mother's life. And I think every children gets angry when he sees his mother or her mother...

N. DIAZ: Sad.

L. DIAZ: ...Sad. And it's something really important to say I'm angry to see you sad.

MARTIN: How did she respond the first time she heard it?

L. DIAZ: Oh, we both cried. Yeah. We both cried. And she said she liked, a lot, the song. And it was really important for me.

MARTIN: Because it just felt like something you couldn't say otherwise. You needed a song to help you say it.

L. DIAZ: I think I could say it otherwise, but, you know, I think she needed a song in a way. I think we all need a song.


IBEYI: (Singing) Have you gone behind the curtain? Big eyes so far or very near. Oh, my baby. Baby today. I am here.

MARTIN: Lisa and Naomi Diaz. They make up Ibeyi. Thank you so much for talking with us you two.

N. DIAZ: Thank you.

L. DIAZ: Thank you very much.


IBEYI: (Singing in Yoruba).

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