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Ibeyi emerge in SF, live up to SXSW hype

IbeyiPhotos by Diana Cordero // Written by Rachel Goodman //

Ibeyi with Flo Morrissey //
The Independent – San Francisco
April 2nd, 2015 //

Ibeyi, the much-hyped South by Southwest band from Paris, have finally emerged in SF.

The group’s name, meaning “twins” in Yoruba, had to be the most adorable twin sisters I have ever seen perform. I guess one word that kept coming to mind while I was watching them was “precious.” And their set was just that, which is not to take anything away from how brilliant they are.

The sisters came out at The Independent to a crowd that was beyond excited to finally be seeing them perform. They knelt down and picked up the candles on the stage and lit them before starting their first African chant. Add some traditional Cuban drums, and the beats came alive with Naomi Diaz keeping a consistent beat throughout the show. Coupled with sister Lisa-Kaindé Diaz singing in Yoruba (a bygone Nigerian and Santeria language), and the show was already that great.

The show felt at times voyeuristic as we watched the sisters perform chants and folk songs for the Yoruba gods. Lisa-Kaindé talked a lot about the gods, who they were and how they were a part of the songs. It felt like we were almost invading this sacred world, but the way they made the audience a part of it was nothing short of special.

Ibeyi

The blend of Afro-Cuban, French music set to drum beats was a minimalist sound but simple and beautiful. With the piano playing of Lisa-Kaindé against Naomi’s drum beats and the strong vocals, it was so easy to get lost in the music. The sultry dance moves as they glided across the stage just added to the ambiance of their music. As the twins went into their single “River,” they dedicated it to the gods (possibly Oshun and Shango, as one was definitely for the water and the other earth) and had the crowd sing along to “wash my soul again” as they sang “I will come to you river.” The end result was just beautiful as the crowd became a part of their show.

Speaking of which, the crowd was filled with lots of very polite women (someone even complimented Lisa-Kaindé’s dress), who would apologize each time they bumped into you or wanted to squeeze in and take a picture of the band. And it felt all too fitting with the two sisters on stage, who had that same vibe to them. They were all too thankful to be playing and so excited that the crowd was so into them. The audience was electric and sang along to most of the songs as well as continued with the clapping as instructed. Songs like “Oya” stood out with gorgeous piano playing and simple rhythms keeping the beat to warm, strong vocals. Meanwhile, “Ghosts” is nothing short of spectacular. You can just feel the pain in their voices as they harmonize and come together as one — the pianos and drums with their chanting and vocals just makes for a beautiful song.

In short, this is a band to see. While their music itself is simplistic, it’s really something beautiful and magical when the two sisters perform together. They come together as one and take us into a world that we rarely get to see. It’s usually hard to translate that into a live performance, but they’ve managed to do just that. In a nutshell, it’s precious and will take you out of your own world and life for a bit.

Before Ibeyi took the stage, opener Flo Morrissey came out to a very loud audience. She was soft-spoken and picked up her guitar to play a short acoustic set. She had some good songs and her vocals are nothing short of impressive — strong and powerful — but she just couldn’t compete with a crowd that was far louder than her. It seemed most the time you could barely hear her singing, but I’m sure in the right venue she would be pretty awesome to hear.

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