words by Patty Riek
photos by Jon Bauer
Ibeyi brought their Spell 31 tour to August Hall on Sunday, March 12. Meaning both twin and magic in the Yoruba language, Ibeyi draws on the Yoruba story of the power of twins. Twins Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz are, indeed, magical.
Opening the show with images of an electrical storm foreshadowed the energy level of the show. Most of the way through “Deathless,” Ibeyi stopped to explain the song was written to take out their rage. Not sensing enough cathartic release of rage from the audience, they instructed, “Feel your own power!”
Energetically working their way through Spell 31, the sisters shared the vocals with Lisa sometimes on keyboards and Naomi on traditional Afro-Cuban drums. Musically pedigreed, their father Anga Diaz and mother Maya Dagnino, Ibeyi meld their ancestral musical heritage into their own style. Singing in English, French, Spanish and Yoruba, Ibeyi’s work pays tribute to their ancestors in “Made of Gold”: “Your history walks through them golden lines/Your blood carries diamonds/When/they thought they cleared that spirit away/We are the reincarnation/”My spell made of gold, gold, gold.”
The juxtaposition of the past and the present recurred throughout the show. Before playing “Ghosts” from their first eponymous album, Lisa thanked the fans who had been there since they were “babies” at 18 and welcomed those who had just joined them as images of the younger sisters were superimposed over pictures of the cosmos. A sororal love letter, “Sister 2 Sister,” on Spell 31, celebrates the beauty and complexity of growing up with siblings. While singing, home movies of the twins as children were cut with the video from “Sister 2 Sister.” Singing,“Our love is underwater/I’ve cried all over you/Slow down, now we’ve grown/Let’s start new” was perhaps an allusion to the next song they performed: “River” from the 2015 album.
Midway through the show the drummer and keyboardist/guitar player left the stage for two, slow, stripped down, pieces beautifully performed by just Lisa and Naomi: “Waves” and “Mama Says.” The simplicity of these two songs highlights Ibeyi’s musicality. The lights, the energy, the videos were all entertaining, but the underpinning of their vibrant show is sheer musical talent: two sisters, a keyboard, Cuban drums and their voices.
Opener, Ojerime set the stage for Ibeyi with a jazzy R&B set. Her sultry voice belied the feelings of loss and disappointment. Crooning about being “lost on the edge,” feeling “like nothing” and acknowledging “back-stabbing,” Ojerime gives beautiful voice to the vicissitudes life often presents.