“In our Cuban culture, it’s natural to talk about our dead”
The Franco-Cuban twins end their tour tonight at the Olympia in Paris. They look back to the beginning of their album “Spell 31”, full of voodoo culture, and the souls they summoned there: their father, as well as Prince, Roy Hargroove, Rémy Kolpa Kopoul…
One, voluble, vocalizes fervently. Another, louder voice, twerking and beatboxing… Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz, 28-year-old twins, are easy to recognize. Both on stage, where they have been running in their tandem for ten years, and in the video, where one answers us from London, the other from Paris. The osmosis of the Ibeyi brothers (“twins”, in Yoruba), the Franco-Cuban sons of the late Miguel “Angá” Díaz (Irakere, Buena Vista Social Club), the most voodoo of Havana’s percussionists, is less attractive. A mix of soul, subtle trip-hop and spoken word, their mix of singing makes you dance, in a celebration of the orisha gods that is more energetic than ever on the album Spell 31. they present this Friday, February 3 at Olympia, the last leg of their European tour.
Spell 31…where did this wizarding title come from? [« spell » signifie « sort »] ?
Lisa-Kainde: This was while writing the song Made of Gold. I lack inspiration. With our producer, Richard Russell, we were bringing the books into the studio, and he suggested that I open the one at my feet. This is the Egyptian Book of the Dead, a collection of incantations used by the Egyptians when embalming their dead. I came across incantation 31, which reminds me that our dead still live within us. To connect with this magic is to reconnect with our ancestors.
Is this album more spiritual than the first two?
Naomi: This need to connect with our father is a more intimate, spiritual process.
Lisa-Kainde: We are half Cuban and in our culture it is natural to talk about the dead. It’s a way for us to be with them.
In this album, your father’s voodoo culture is everywhere. Does he continue to inspire you musically?
Lisa-Kainde: Each new album is a way for us to get closer to him, to thank him for what he has passed on to us. More than the Yoruba rhythms of his music, which clearly pregnant us, above all he taught us how to mix, without restrictions, the important thing is to find the music that vibrates us. Our ambition has always been to create a sound that belongs only to us.
You grew up in France. How did mixing this music come about?
Naomi: In the conservatory, from the age of 7, we tried all the instruments. I chose classical percussion, Lisa prefers piano. At home, we listened to hip-hop, jazz, funk… My father did not create a hierarchy between music. When he was 10 years old, he gave us a record of our choice. I chose Shakira and Lisa, Anastasia. We listened to them over and over again and my father was very happy. After he died (in 2006), my mother sent us to sing in a Yoruba choir in Paris, so that we would not be cut off from our roots.
“The song ‘Los Muertos’ is our Taj Mahal, our personal pantheon.” Lisa Kaine Diaz
On Los Muertos, name your father, but also Prince, Roy Hargrove and even Rémy Kolpa Kopoul…
Lisa-Kainde: This song is our Taj Mahal, our personal pantheon. Rémy was my father’s friend, he called us “the little ones”… Los Muertos is even a double tribute, because our father did it before us, by citing in one song all the percussionists counted for him.
How did you work with English producer Richard Russell?
Naomi: Usually, we write the songs, then we produce them with Richard. At this moment, we did the opposite. We spent ten days with Richard at his home in Dorset, England, having fun trying different products. Lisa came with us, a little confused at first by their number, but it worked! It’s amazing. The third entity in a twin duo is always complicated, but Richard is perfect in the role. From the first album, he understood how we worked.
In music, how is this twin expressed?
Lisa-Kainde: Naomi is the rhythm, the children call the drums. It also breathes light when I am in the dark: it pulls me out of it, it brings moments of joy, of rejoicing, where we dance and have fun.
Naomi: Lisa, this is the tune. And he is hardworking. The more he works, the less anxious he is. Me, the opposite. Each in its own way is a control freak. He’s more thoughtful, I’m more instinctive. For Lisa, it’s in the head, for me, it’s in the body. We are the ying and the yang, we complete each other.
And on stage?
Naomi: On stage, it’s very different. We wish all strength to pass. It’s like an open-air temple where you can twerking, a mixture of celebration and reflection.
What special plans do you have for Olympia?
Lisa-Kainde: We will not be two, as was the case for ten years, but four, with a drummer and a bassist-keyboardist. The show, which mixes the repertoires of our three albums, will be stronger, stronger, with samples of discs and intimate videos projected on the screen. We will make noise, too loud.