From the moment we cross the threshold Hoxton Hall on Saturday evening (May 14), the sense of the evening as a party was undeniable: “The good things are here. I can feel them”, the message on the bracelet given to all participants. A replacement photo (or, if you prefer, a “photo you put your head in”) of the album cover for IbeyIrecently released their third album Spell 31 placed in the entrance. A DJ playing an array of nostalgic R&B club bangers.
Free flyers are lined up along the merchandising stand; the front is adorned simply with a logo of the group’s name and an image of a seashell, white on a black background. On the back, a frankly adorable childhood photo of the twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz. Other photographs from their childhood are featured inside, combined with snaps from the recording sessions that spawned their third album that we’re all here to celebrate, photos of handwritten notes on the track listing and the album cover, and behind-the-scenes shots from video shoots.
All these elements are interspersed with a handwritten note entitled “Why Ibeyi? ” in which Lisa written with beautiful openness and poetry about their origins, their family – both living and sadly deceased – and what creating art together means for the pair of twins who have captivated audiences around the world since their first releases when they were barely out of their teens, in the middle of the last decade.
Fittingly, Naomí’s contribution to the brochure takes the form of vibrant, abstract and energetic paintings, perfectly encapsulating the relationship between the twins – “our differences have become our salvation, our learning, our guide and our compass, and have made unique as a group”. writes Lisa; “I needed her passion, her rhythm, her instincts… and in turn I pushed her and challenged her, asking her to kiss me, with my calm, my pragmatism”.
It’s a relationship and a dynamic that plays out not only in the creative process, or in the art itself, but also very clearly in how they interact on stage – whether it’s with each other, with their band or with the audience.
When Naomí isn’t sitting astride the cajón sharing triumphant looks with the drummer, or standing behind the mounted bata drum adding her signature percussive flair that provides the heartbeat of Ibeyi’s music, she dances or struts to front of the stage, growling playfully at the audience as she brings a hand to her ear or waves for more cheers from an already adoring crowd.
Meanwhile, Lisa’s performance shines with its passion and pain, the combined delicacy and strength of her soulful voice, which she usually takes lead throughout the show.
This being an event to mark the release of the new album Spell 31 – a scintillating record that shimmers with joy and compassion – the setlist is full of new tracks: among them Pa Salieu’s collaboration and the first single ‘Made of Gold’, ‘Creature (Perfect)’, and towards the end of the show the beautiful , heartfelt sisterly love letter ‘Sister 2 Sister’, with coordinated dance moves as the two sing while gazing fondly into each other’s eyes.
There is also a special appearance of Jorja Smithjoining midway to perform ‘Lavender & Red Roses’, a song that seems to invite her into the family affair as part of the vocal harmonies rather than just a standalone guest verse – a creative move that adds to the family feeling and collaboration.
In Lisa’s handwritten words “Ibeyi is our goal, it turns our darkness, our pain, our anger into light. It allows us to share our hearts, to connect with ourselves, our ancestors, our dead, to connect as sisters and with the world”, and this transformation, this sharing and above all this connection had been laid bare. along a truly magical evening. .
One that ends, fittingly, with the Yoruba chant at the end of set-closer ‘River’, performed together a capella, front and center, in what is perhaps the purest distillation of emotion. , of the spirituality and the feeling of unity that had imbued each moment with what had preceded it.
Spell 31 is now available via XL .