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French-Cuban twin duo Ibeyi: Visual Questionnaire #14

French-Cuban twin duo Ibeyi: Visual Questionnaire #14

Twin peaks

Text: Aravin Sandran


You might say that the Cuban-born, Paris-based twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz have music in their blood. After all, they are the daughters of the late Miguel Anga Diaz of Buena Vista Social Club. After their father passed away when they were just teenagers, the women went on to perform in and around their Parisian neighbourhood and documenting them on YouTube. Life as they knew it took a dramatic turn for the best in 2013 when XL Recording's head Richard Russell caught a glimpse of the pair singing "Mama Says" online and decided to sign them to the record label under the name Ibeyi, which directly translates from the African dialect of Yoruba as twins. 

The following year, the women released a few singles including "River", a deeply moving Afro-electro track that has racked up over 21 million views on YouTube because of its intense one-shot MV where the twins are repeatedly held underwater by two faceless men. Yet, it was not until 2016, when the twins appeared in Beyonce's visual album Lemonade that the world took notice of their unique cultural sensibilities. 

In advance of their debut in Singapore on 20 April at Victoria Theatre, Lisa-Kaindé Diaz sheds light on some of the amazing women who have had an impact on them such as Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and Canadian musical icon Celine Dion.

The greatest inspiration for songwriting and music-making: Our greatest inspiration for songwriting is life, experiences, travelling and meeting people. It can be anything  a stranger who you interact with for a second, a book, a sentence or a movie. For me, the most inspiring thing is love and people  people that I love."

Most played song right now: "Recently, it's been Amy Winehouse. I realised a few months ago that I was not listening to her album as much as I used to and it made me really sad because she's such an absolutely fantastic artist. I want the world to never forget her and her albums Frank and Back to Black. For Naomi, I'm sure she would answer reggaeton or dancehall!"

A person who you admire and respect: "There are a lot of people I admire and respect. One of them is Betye Saar. I would love to meet her one day. When I saw her art for the first time at the Tate Modern, I thought "That's my head!" Every time I see her art, it's like she went into my head and saw a corner of my brain  that's how I compartmentalise my ideas and my secrets in my head."

The most impressive concert you've attended: "That's actually a good question. I would say Meshell Ndegeocello's shows. What I love about her is that every show is different but so her. Every time I don't know what I'm going to see but every time I cry and feel so close to her. She's an absolute goddess."

One artist who you would love to collaborate with: "The beauty of art is that you want to collaborate and create with loads of people. One is a painter who goes by the name of Mendive. He collaborated with our father, Anga Diaz, on his album cover. I would also want to ask MIA to create a music video for Ibeyi as I love all the visuals she's done for herself."

Somewhere you wish you could perform: "I actually wish I could perform in space. We would go there with Naynay and play for the astronauts among the stars and the universe."

Your relationship with Cuba at the moment: "Cuba is home, like Paris for us. We have a house there and we go every time we have days off. Naomi is going in a few days, and our mother is there at the moment. We have family and childhood friends there. We are so proud of our Afro-Cuban roots."

Your proudest achievement in your career so far: "Hands down our two albums and the moments that we have created including when we lived in the studio with Richard [Russell] and Naomi when our mother was there. The feeling of creating something you love, of pure joy, that is hands down the best moment of our career so far. Following that, I would say the live shows, getting to sing in front of all of our fans, getting to sing together and make them feel something. That for us is the biggest thing we've ever accomplished. Can't wait to do and tour more and grow this family."

 

Best meme to encapsulate your experience working with Beyonce on Lemonade: "Literally how I felt when I saw Beyonce and heard her voice in real life for the first time when we met. It was such a beautiful moment."

Your style icon: "I have always loved looking at my mother dressing up. She has an incredible sense of style. I love to take a little bit from everybody and wear weird things. Clothes are a wonderful way to recreate yourself all the time."

 

The process of shooting the MV for "River": "It was really hard for us. We were really holding our breath underwater. We did it 12 times without stopping! Naomi needed oxygen at the end of the day. She said she couldn't breathe. It was really dramatic. We felt that we were doing something powerful and we were so happy to be there. The director Ed Morris is our visual soul mate. The way he came up with the idea and shot it was so perfect. We shot "Mama Says" after that with our mother, so there were two music videos that were shot on the same day."

Current obsessions: "My only real obsession is Celine Dion - forever!"

 

Ibeyi will be performing for the first time in Singapore on 20 April at Victoria Theatre. 

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