Live Review: Ibeyi

KING TUT’S – 10/11

Last stop on the British part of their tour, French-Cuban Ibeyi embrace the crowd at King Tut’s with their vocal harmonies.  The sisters play the piano, batá, cajón and drum machine, blending their strong voices with the steady beats, carefully enhancing the sounds with a loop pedal.  After a slightly shaky first few songs the set gradually grows more stable as the sisters become more attuned to the audience.

Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Diaz are twins, which is what Ibeyi means in the West African language Yoruba.  Although brought up in Paris, there’s a distinct sense of their Afro-Cuban roots in the music. In the live set the sisters leave their instruments at times, to approach the audience singing stripped down acapella songs in Yoruba.  There’s a perceivable melancholy trail in their melodies and lyrics.  As the twins explain on stage, Ibeyi’s debut album is dedicated to their deceased sister and father.  The idea is to celebrate the memory of their loved ones through music.  The clap-friendly rhythm of the songs, and their encouragements for the audience to sing along, makes for an interactive and intimate performance.  Despite the best effort of many people, the completely packed venue unfortunately does not really allow for much dancing space for the enthusiastic audience.

Ibeyi treat us to most of their self-titled debut record, as well as the promising new song ‘Fly’.  They show off as particularly strong in their cover of a Jay Electronica single, which they have named ‘Exhibit Diaz’.  Here they mix the piano, sampling, electronic beats and beautiful vocals to display the very best side of them all.  Elements like these, breaching genres and including added instruments, promise for an even more varied dimension of Ibeyi’s music in the future.  The stability of their talents, instrumentally and vocally, does however occasionally make you forget the fact that they only just released their debut album earlier this year.  It will be very interesting to see where they take their music from here.  Ending their set with a crowd-pleasing sing-along version of their hit ‘River’, the audience becomes a part of the celebration of music.  Ibeyi’s performance begins with their two voices on their own and ends with all of our voices trailing off into the night.

[Lara Sindelar]

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