If you’ve been frequenting this site over the past three or four years, you may recall that I’ve written quite a bit about the critically applauded French-Cuban twin sibling duo, Ibeyi (pronounced ee-bey-ee). Comprised of Lisa-Kainde Diaz and Naomi Diaz, the sibling duo’s name is derived from the Yourba word for twins ibeji — and interestingly enough, the Diazes are the daughters of Anga Diaz, best known as a percussionist for the world famous Buena Vista Social Club, and for collaborating with Ibrahim Ferrer, Ruben Gonzalez and Compay Segundo.
Anga Diaz died when the Diaz sisters were 11 and upon his death, they studied Yoruba folk songs an the cajon, an Afro-Caribbean drum, which their father had specialized in throughout most of his musical career. Interestingly, while Yoruba is a dialect primarily spoken throughout Nigeria and Benin, it’s been spoken in some fashion in Cuba since roughly the 1700s when the slave trade brought Africans to the Caribbean. And in some way, it would seem that when the Diazes started studying their father’s instrument and his musical culture, it gave them a greater understanding of him, his music and their ancestral past. And with the release of their 2015 self-titled debut, the Diaz sisters quickly gained an international profile for a sound that draws from contemporary electro pop, hip-hop, jazz, the blues, and traditional Yoruba folk music in a fashion similar to Henry Cole and the Afrobeat Collective‘s Roots Before Branches; in fact, much like Roots Before Branches, Ibeyi’s work makes a musical and deeply spiritual connection between the African Diaspora here in the West and with Africa that’s both modern and incredibly timeless.
Now, it’s been a couple of years since I’ve last written about the Diaz sisters, but after touring to support their self-titled debut, the sisters spent the better part of 2016 writing and recording their highly-anticipated, yet still untitled sophomore effort, slated for release through XL Records later the year. And the album’s first single “Away Way” will further cement their growing reputation for pairing slick and swaggering, contemporary electronic production with the Diazes’ gorgeous harmonizing and resoundingly positive and resolute messages, complete with traditional Yoruba chanting.
As Naomi Diaz explained in an email to the folks at The FADER, the song “reflects on at time when Lisa was gazing out her window and thinking about the permanent follow of creation and destruction.” Her sister Lisa-Kainde adds “We are witnesses of the world’s craziness (which is sonically symbolized by the sirens in the track) and we wonder if the promises of better days will be kept. The chorus of ‘Away Away’ represents a burst of positive energy, us taking a conscious step towards movement and action because only the people can make good on that promise. The song culminates with a Yoruba chant for the Orisha Aggayu, a ferryman known for providing strength. Aggayu in nature ignites a violent eruption of volcanos, however, with the intention that the lava ultimately refertilizes the soil to create new life.” Lyrically and thematically the song focuses on accepting pain as a part of life, and recognizing that it’s a necessary part of life, while celebrating life for its complicated entirety.
Directed by Christian Beuchet, the video features the Diazes goofing off dancing, singing and immersing themselves in the song’s positive energy and throughout the entire video they radiate an infectious, mischievous joy and comfort within each other.