Now, if you’ve been following me on Instgram, Twitter and/or Facebook you’d know that the past 24 hours or so for me in the JOVM world have been insane and ridiculous amount of debauchery — thanks in part to attending High Waisted‘s High Waisted at Sea 4. There’ll be more on that show at some point in the future, as I have to catch up on a shit-ton of photos, posts and correspondence. But more important, let’s get to the important business of the day, right?
Over the past three or four years, the French-Cuban twin sibling duo Ibeyi (pronounced ee-bey-ee) have become both internationally applauded and JOVM mainstays. And as you may recall, the duo comprised of Lisa-Kainde Diaz and Naomi Diaz drives their name from the Yoruba word for twins — ibeji.
But perhaps more important, the Diaz sisters are the daughters of renowned percussionist Anga Diaz, best known as a member of Buena Vista Social Club, and for collaborating with Ibrahim Ferrer, Ruben Gonzalez and Compay Segundo. Anga Diaz died when Lisa-Kainde and Naomi were 11, and upon his death, they studied Yoruba folk songs and the cajon, an Afro-Carribean drum, which their father had specialized in throughout most of his musical career.
Interestingly enough, while Yoruba is primarily spoken throughout Nigeria and Benin, it’s been spoken in some fashion in Cuba since the 1700s when the slave trade brought Africans to the Caribbean. And when the Diaz sisters began studying their late father’s musical culture and heritage, it gave them a greater understanding of him and where he came from, but it also put them directly in touch with their ancestral history. Unsurprisingly, the Diaz sisters’ self-titled full-length debut, which was released to critical praise back in 2015 thematically deal with the past — the loss of their father, their relationship, their father’s and their own origins and roots; in fact, their sound and aesthetic managed to seamlessly mesh contemporary electro pop, hip-hop, jazz, the blues and traditional Yoruba folk music in a way that reminded me quite a bit of Henry Cole and the Afrobeat Collective‘s Roots Before Branches in the sense that both albums conscientiously made a deeply spiritual and musical connection between the African Diaspora in the West and the motherland.
Now, up until recently some time had passed since I had written about the Diaz sisters but as it turns out, they had spent the better part of last year writing and recording the material that would eventually comprise their highly anticipated sophomore, full-length effort Ash, which is slated for a September 29, 2017 through XL Records. The album’s first single “Away Away,” lyrically and thematically 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. Of course, sonically speaking, the track further cements their reputation for resoundingly positive messages sung with their gorgeous harmonizing paired with slick and swaggering electronic production. However, the material overall reportedly finds the Diaz sisters writing some of the most visceral, politically charged material they’ve released to date — and while being firmly rooted in Afro-Cuban culture and history, the material thematically centers on the present — who the Diaz sisters are now, after a year in which the world has turned upside down, and issues of racial, gender and sexual identity are at the core of our most vexing political issues.
“Deathless,” Ash‘s second and latest single finds the Diaz sisters collaborating Kamasi Washington, who contributes a saxophone lines that mange to be mournful, outraged, proud, bold and riotous — within a turn of a phrase. Thematically speaking, the song is inspired by an outrageous and humiliating experience Lisa-Kainde had when she was 16 — she was wrongly arrested by French police for a crime she didn’t commit. Throughout the song is a sense of fear, knowing that the police could practically do anything they wanted without reprisal; of righteous rage that’s palpable yet impotent in the face of a power that can crush you at will; of the burgeoning recognition that you can never escape racism or unfair treatment; and the shame of being made to feel small and worthless while knowing that it’ll happen repeatedly throughout your life. As Lisa Kainde explains in press notes I was writing Deathless as an anthem for everybody!” For every minority. For everybody that feels that they are nothing, that feels small, that feels not cared about and I want them to listen to our song and for three minutes feel large, powerful, deathless. I have a huge amount of respect for people who fought for, what I think, are my rights today and if we all sing together ‘we are deathless, ’they will be living through us into a better world.”
Sonically speaking, the song pairs the Diazes’ gorgeous, bluesy singing and harmonizing with an uneasy yet ambient production consisting of whirring electronics, stuttering boom bap-like drum programming, punctuated by Kamasi Washington’s imitable horn sound.
Directed by Eric Morris, the recently music video features highly symbolic visuals as it features the Diaz sisters giving birth to their dopplegangers in a what that resembles Russian nesting dolls — and naturally, it emphasizes the continued struggle for minorities and women to get a fair spot at the table.