Twin sisters release their second album, “Ash”

Maya Dagnino

Naomi Díaz, left, and Lisa-Kaindé Díaz, right, of French-Cuban musical duo Ibeyi. By Maya Dagnino (Ibeyi) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Two twin sisters, 12 distinct songs.

Sisters Lisa-Kaindé Díaz and Naomi Díaz, who make up the duo “Ibeyi,” changed the world of music when they released their second album, “Ash,” on Sept. 29, 2017. “Ash” is made up of 12 tracks, each different from the previous.

While Lisa-Kaindé provides the lead vocals and piano, Naomi offers harmonies and percussion with the cajón and batá drum. They are both currently 22 years old, having started Ibeyi when they were only 19 after the release of their first self-titled album. Their music, including the tracks in this latest album, were heavily influenced by their life experiences.

The Díaz sisters were born in Paris, France, but spent a fair amount of time in Havana, Cuba. Their father, Miguel “Angá” Díaz, was a renowned Afro-Cuban jazz percussionist until he passed away in 2006. They formed Ibeyi in 2013 after retaining a significant amount of musical influence from their father. Naomi Díaz began to learn her father’s signature instrument, the cajón, when she was only 11 years old. As children, the twins spent a fair amount of time together practicing Yoruba folk songs. Yoruba music is the traditional music of the Yoruba people of Nigeria, Togo and Benin, and it places an emphasis on advanced drumming patterns.

Their style of music is directly related to their roots with them unexpectedly transitioning from English, French, Spanish and Yoruba. The fusion of having a Grammy award-winning father and a mother who manages their musical careers initiated their passion and enthusiasm for music.

Their group name, “Ibeyi,” translates from the original Nigerian Yoruba to the English word “twins,” which properly represents the duo. While they have incorporated their heavy Yoruba and French influences into their music, a large portion of it can also be categorized as Afro-Cuban as they fuse their father’s musical influence, jazz elements and samples of traditional instruments. Their music falls into a vast array of genres like soul, R&B, trip-hop, electronic and experimental. Aside from their Afro-Cuban and Yoruba influences, they were also inspired by artists like Frank Ocean, King Krule and James Blake.

As they’ve matured over the years as artists, so has their content with regard to social impact. Their first self-titled album features moving songs discussing the overwhelming weight of loss and all of the complications involved in experiencing loss. They lost their older sister and father at a young age, and they wrote about the elements of coping with those tragedies in tracks like “River” and “Mama Says.”

Released under the label XL Recordings, their newest album, “Ash,” explores the complications for women in the current political and social climate. This theme can be seen in the fifth track, “No Man Is Big Enough for My Arms,” which, in its simplicity and arrangement, promotes and highlights the solidarity of women. The duo does this through looping a recording of Michelle Obama’s New Hampshire 2016 speech where she responds to Trump’s sexual assault allegations.

The song starts with the sisters’ eerie acapella harmonies, and is then followed by a clip from Michelle Obama’s speech where she says, “The measure of any society is how it treats its women and girls.” The combination of Michelle Obama’s speech with the hauntingly beautiful vocals and instrumentation of the twins allows that point to be universally communicated with the necessary depth and urgency the message demands.

With powerful songs like “No Man is Big Enough for My Arms” on “Ash,” the Díaz sisters took the unique elements from their first album and built upon them with their personal growth and recognition of prevalent societal issues. This allowed them to create a strong, cohesive album to share with the world.