Daily Discovery is a feature that will highlight a new or recently discovered artist that we’re excited about. See the rest of our Daily Discoveries here.
XL Recordings are celebrating their 25th anniversary this year with a special label history spanning compilation (which we helped them announce with this unreleased Odd Future footage), and looking back at all the artists they’ve broken and albums they’ve released is a firm reminder of the label’s great taste. French-Cuban twins Ibeyi are next in line.
They just released their debut EP, Oya, via XL and have recorded their debut album with the label’s founder, Richard Russell. The two twins, Naomi and Lisa-Kainde Diaz, are daughters of the late Cuban percussion legend Anga Diaz, and mix the traditional Yoruba music of their heritage with modern styles and influences that range from electronic music to dancehall. Their first two songs, “Oya” and “River,” which was released today, are at once timeless and modern. There’s a spiritual, soulful element to the music that makes it feel as if it comes straight from the heart, and the unique blend of influences makes it stand out in today’s crowded marketplace.
Listen to “River” and read our interview with Naomi and Lisa-Kainde Diaz below.
How long have you been in contact with XL and how did you first get involved with the label?
We were first in touch with XL nearly a year ago when they received a link to the live video of “Mama Says” taped by French magazine Monodmix. XL came to see one of our concerts in Paris. We then met Richard Russell in London and started working with him right away on the album.
Why did you decide XL was a good fit for your debut album? What can you tell us about the album?
We were immediately impressed by the diversity and originality in XL’s artists. We also liked the fact that XL has already worked with younger artists.
This album was made in an intimate way. There were never very many people in the studio. Most of the time there was only Richard Russell, our producer, John Foyle, the sound engineer, and both of us.
It is a very personal album, dedicated to our father, and our older sister.
What has it been like working with Richard Russell?
Meeting Richard Russell was so important for us.
Naomi: It was artistic love at first sight! I feel that we share the same views on music, so we got along very well regarding the album’s artistic direction. He is such a talented person, with whom I was also able to share my love for hip-hop. Thanks to him, I knew I could trust myself musically.
I needed to feel and share trust with the person producing this album, and Richard Russell allowed us to experiment, with total trust, with complete faith in our music.
Lisa -Kainde: I needed to feel and share trust with the person producing this album, and Richard Russell allowed us to experiment, with total trust, with complete faith in our music. He also made me realize the importance of sound, and detail. We were in sync. An unforgettable experience. An amazing human being.
Can you talk about the influence your father has had on the music you make?
N: My dad, though he left us too early, left us many lesson on life. Among others, my love of rhythm, and the fact that, like him, I am a percussionist.
Our father is here always with us in spirit. That is one of our strengths, that keeps us moving forward!
LK: I admire his record Echu Mingua. It is a blend of so many genres of music that he felt so strongly about. Blending and mixing is what makes up most of our musical identity.
N & LK: Our mother has also played a major role in enriching our musical culture. We always joke that she is a musician without an instrument. It is thanks to her that we are musicians today, and thanks to our father that we knew we could be musicians.
Can you give us some background about the two of you—did you used to live in Cuba and then move to France or have you always lived there? Do you visit Cuba regularly?
We lived in Cuba till we were two, then we moved to Paris, so we could go to school in France. Cuba is still a big part of our life, we visit every year.
Yoruba reached Cuba with the African slaves who were shipped there. It is a culture and a religion that originates in Benin and Nigeria. It is a real part of our heritage, and our music.
Can you explain a little about the Yoruba culture and what it means to you?
N & LK: Yoruba reached Cuba with the African slaves who were shipped there. It is a culture and a religion that originates in Benin and Nigeria. It is a real part of our heritage, and our music. We grew up listening to Yoruba songs, it is in our roots.
What music outside of the Yoruba culture has influenced your sound? What do you listen to currently?
N: I listen to a lot of hip-hop, ragga, dancehall, soul and electronic music. And funk, of course.
LK: Naomi’s musical influences greatly influenced the album’s production. She is a lot more in tune than I am of the newer musical trends. I listen to the oldies. I like jazz, blues, soul. Nina Simone and Meshell Ndegoncello are the greatest, for me.
How would you introduce your music to someone who had never heard it?
It is hard for us to describe our music. If we had to we’d say we do contemporary Negro Spiritual, since our music is based on prayer.
Your debut tracks, “Oya” and “River” are both being released with videos—is the visual element of your art important to you?
Before we set out to make the album we really hadn’t put together ideas for the visuals for our music. Once we signed with XL we worked with their creative team and Jamie-James Medina (The xx, FKA twigs, Hot Charity) and they helped us bring to life the stunning visual for “Oya” – which was made by ScanLab.
For the “Oya” video we thought it would be cool to let the music be accentuated by the visual and not our appearance. We wanted an organic video that would leave space for music. For “River” we talked about the idea for a one take video. The song River is dedicated to Oshun, the river Goddess. The video is like a baptism that purifies. We worked with director Ed Morris, who came up with this idea.
Do you think you have a special chemistry making music together as twins?
Yes. We especially use music to communicate. It is harder in daily life, but on stage, in front of the audience, everything organically flows. We don’t even have to talk, just feel, look at each other, then we know.