Deriving their name from the Yoruba word for twins ibeji, the acclaimed French-Cuban, London-based twin sibling duo Ibeyi (pronounced ee-bey-ee) — Lisa-Kainde Diaz and Naomi Diaz — can trace the origins of their music career to growing up in a deeply musical home: their father, Anga Diaz, was best known for his work as a member of the intentionally acclaimed Buena Vista Social Club and for collaborating with Ibrahim Ferrer, Ruben Gonzalez and Compay Segundo. Sadly, Anga died when the Diaz Sisters were 11.
Upon their father’s death, Lisa-Kainde and Naomi began studying Yoruba folk songs and the cajon, an Afro-Caribbean drum that their father played throughout most of his career. Interestingly enough, although Yoruba is primarily spoken throughout Nigeria and Benin, the African language has been spoken in some fashion in Cuba since the 1700s, when the slave trade brought Africans to the Caribbean. So when the twins started studying their late father’s music and cultural heritage, they had a deeper understanding of their father as a person, while getting in touch with their ancestral history.
The twins 2015 self-titled debut was critically applauded. Thematically, the album dealt with the past — their father’s life and death, their relationship with each other, their own origins and connecting with their roots. Sonically the album saw them quickly establishing a unique sound that features elements of electro pop, hip-hop, jazz, the blues and Yoruba folk music.
The JOVM mainstays’ sophomore album 2017’s Ash saw the sibling duo writing songs firmly rooted in Afro-Cuban culture and history — but while arguably being among the most visceral, politically charged material of their catalog to date, with the album’s material thematically touching upon race, gender and sexual identity.
Slated for a May 6, 2022 release through XL Recordings, Spell 31, Ibeyi’s third album derives its title from “Spell 31” in The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, which interestingly enough became the premise of the album’s first single “Made of Gold,” a lushly textured song featuring atmospheric synths, buzzing bass synths, skittering tweeter and woofer rattling beats, the twins’ gorgeous and dreamy harmonizing and a guest spot from Gambian-British emcee Pa Salieu.
When the twins returned to the studio to write and record new material, they had felt a sense of chaos, informed by the chaotic state of the world surrounding them. As they got to work, they set out to invoke the age-old teachings of their ancestors to remobilize the power of their birth-given destiny as Ibeyi.
The album reportedly sees the twins on a path to restoration in pursuit of true harmony, healing and magic — all of which, we desperately need right now. The JOVM mainstays commissioned activist and storyteller Janaya Future Khan to write an essay for them, after meeting the activist and storyteller. Khan explains “Ibeyi’s Spell 31 is their boldest offering yet, an antidote to apathy in a divided world.” They explain further, “Spell 31 casts with conviction, transmuting nihilism into sangoma, binaries into endless dualites, moral austerity into abundance. A subversive and halcyonic manifesto from queens of a sovereign land, Ibeyi occupies the liminal, the space between life and death, past and present, right and wrong, and calls for the interior revelations that create the systemic revolutions we long for.”
Continuing their successful collaboration with their long-time producer Richard Russell, Spell 31‘s 10 songs were written, produced and recorded by the duo and features appearances from Jorja Smith, BERYWN, the twins’ father and mother, and the aforementioned Pa Salieu. The album also features a reimagining of Black Flag‘s “Rise Above.”
Along with the album announcement, the JOVM mainstays released Spell 31‘s lead single “Sister 2 Sister.” Centered around a hyper modern production featuring wobbling bass synths, skittering beats, glistening synths and the twins’ gorgeous harmonies “Sister 2 Sister” is inspired and informed by their Afro-Latin roots and their sisterhood: They recall a fond memory singing along to Shakira in the mirror and they talk about how they know they can depend on and rely on each other — even when they’re occasionally when they’re at odds. The song also features a sample of “River” off their self-titled debut.
Directed by Colin Solar Cardo, the accompanying visual for “Sister 2 Sister” stars Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz, along with a collection of beautiful dancers. While incredibly symbolic, the visual touches upon the themes of its accompanying song — with the sisters’ and dancers’, movements conveying the twins’ deep bond.