Ibeyi: ‘Once we put a song out, it’s not ours anymore’

My Life In Music: Ibeyi | Soho House

The soulful sisters tell Soho House about the artists that influenced them, their first gig, and the moment that shaped their love for music

Monday 5 December 2022   By Gisselle Babaran

French Afro-Cuban musical duo Ibeyi are currently booked and very busy. When we meet with the twin sisters – Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz – they’re in the middle of a sound check at one of London’s most iconic music venues, KOKO, as they prepare for their show later that evening. At the moment, the pair are on the road in the midst of their highly anticipated, six-month global headline tour to promote their latest studio album, Spell 31.

Taking inspiration from the ancient Egyptian Book Of The Dead for the album’s name, the project explores and builds on ideas around healing, ancestry and sisterhood. Much like their two previous albums, 2015’s Ibeyi and 2017’s Ash, Spell 31 is charged with a spirituality and mysticism that directly speaks to the sisters’ cultural identity as Afro-Cuban women. This homage to their heritage, alongside their various musical influences, is what continues to enthral their ever-growing global fan base. 

Here, we caught up with them both to find out more about the artists and music that inspire them, as well as the up-and-comers we should be paying attention to. 

Can you plot the exact moment when you first discovered your love for music?
Lisa-Kaindé Diaz: ‘I think it started when we watched our dad play when we were two in our pushchairs. Both he and our mum had music around them all of the time. But the moment I knew I wanted to sing was when I went to my first gig, and I felt a visceral pain of not being on stage and being a part of what I was looking at.’ 

Which artists’ albums did you first buy?
Naomi Diaz: ‘Shakira, of course.’
LKD: ‘Anastasia.’ 

What’s your comfort track?
ND: ‘It changes all the time, but at the moment it’s “Parabel” by Superpoze. He’s a French artist who composes and produces music for movie soundtracks.’
LKD: ‘For me, it’s anything by Nina Simone.’ 

Do you ever listen back to your own music?
ND: ‘Yes, but more when we’ve just released something.’
LKD: ‘For me, I’ll listen to our music a lot before it gets released. Once it goes out I don’t see it as mine anymore. Also, I can’t change it then, which makes me want to listen to it less.’ 

Who are your key musical influences?
LKD: ‘Artists like Amy Winehouse, James Blake and D’Angelo.’
ND: ‘Lauryn Hill, among so many others.’

If you could play any other instrument, what would it be?
ND: ‘Piano and guitar.’
LKD: ‘Bass.’ 

If you had to pick a soundtrack to your life, what would it be?
ND: Spaces by Nils Frahm – especially the track “Says”.’
LKD:MTV Unplugged No. 2.0 by Lauryn Hill.’

Which new artists are you most excited about right now?  
LKD: ‘I love Saya Gray – she’s half Japanese, half Canadian. She’s a bass player too and has played for Daniel Caesar.’
ND: ‘Ezra Collective.’

What’s your pre-performance ritual? 
LKD: ‘Drinking honey, lemon and ginger tea.’

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