This weekend will be the among the busiest weekends I’ve had in some time, as I’ll be covering The Meadows Music and Arts Festival, so I don’t know how much I’ll be able to post — but it’ll be absolutely fucking worth it; however, in the meantime, let’s get to the business at hand, right?
Now, 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 derive their name from the Yoruba word for twins — ibeji. The Diaz Sisters’ self-titled full-length debut was released in 2015 to critical praise, and the album thematically focused on the past — the loss of their legendary father Anga Diaz, their relationship with each other and their origins and a connection to their roots, with the album sonically meshing elements of contemporary electro pop, hip-hop, jazz, the blues and traditional Yoruba folk music in a way that brought Henry Cole and the Afrobeat Collective‘s Roots Before Branches to mind.
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 single found the Diaz sisters collaborating with Kamasi Washington, who contributes 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 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.”
“Me Voy,” Ash’s latest single finds the Diaz sisters collaborating with Mala Rodriguez, the Latin Grammy Award-winning rapper known for sensual and provoking lyrics, in a slickly produced and sensual club banger in which Naomi Diaz’s bata is interacted with big, club rocking beats and swooning electronics finds the Diaz sisters singing lyrics completely in Spanish for the first time. As Naomi Diaz explains “English, Spanish and Yoruba inspire us to write different kinds of music and lyrics.” “We needed to sing in Spanish to set a sensual tone for this song. When women feel sensual, not only is it sexy, but also powerful,” adds Lisa-Kaindé Diaz.
Directed by Manson and produced by Canada, the recently released music video features Ibeyi and Mala Rodriguez playing prominent roles. Beginning with the women hanging out together and singing the song, splits time between the women dancing sensually to the beat in front of strobe light or singing the song in a surreal, Adam and Eve-like backdrop.