Ibeyi Concert Review (SXSW 2015)

June 2, 2015

Looking at the stage you know that this is not going to be an ordinary performance, with a piano, synthesizers, cajon and bata drums set up, I knew this was going to be a little different. The uniqueness of the instruments and the standing room only space at Central Presbyterian Church made me curious as to what I should expect. Ibeyi, the Yoruba word for twins, Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz, made their way to the stage. Their smiles and timidness gave incite to their personalities. However as they began playing, their body language showed their passion for the music. Head bobbing along with the beat of the cajon, listening to harmonic melodies sung in English and Yoruba, I was transported to an exotic place.

The song that most impacted me was the one dedicated to their mother, entitled “Mama Says”. The song begins with snaps and pats, and soon incorporates the cajon, drawing in the listener. In this song, Ibeyi took me inside a home where a mother was attempting to survive on her love for her partner. There was no money, but her focus was on not being able to survive without him. I was reminded of the countless survivors of domestic violence who suffer through financial, emotional and physical abuse simply because they feel that they cannot live without this person.

While the church added an air of spirituality to the performance, their song Oya, took it a little deeper. The song was dedicated to a goddess who cares for the dead and while the song was sung in Yoruba, one could feel the reverence in the way they sung it. To me was a reminder of how when the time is for death has arrived we must meet it with open arms, having no regrets as to the life that was lived. Something that stood out was how at the conclusion of their show Ibeyi walked down and back up the center isle of the church singing in acapella a song dedicated to twins, and closed their show by blowing out a candle that had been burning throughout their performance. While I am sure there is some significance to why they did this, it was a great way to draw the attention of the crowd back.

Overall the sounds of Ibeyi were entrancing. Maybe it was the harmony, maybe it was the cajon drum, maybe it was listening to the Yoruba language, but whatever it was, I was left with a yearning to learn a more about their sound and their culture. 

- Isabel Martinez.

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