Lisa-Kaindé Diaz discusses staying in the moment, the importance of pulling from your roots, and the new album
Ibeyi is made up of twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz. Born in Paris, they spent some of their formative years in Havana, Cuba, but the duo’s music grows out of more widely spread roots. They sing in English, French, Spanish, and Yoruba, an ancestral Nigerian language. Their father was the famed Cuban percussionist, Anga Díaz, a member of the Buena Vista Social Club, and their mother is French-Venezuelan singer, Maya Dagnino. Unsurprisingly, music comes naturally to the twins.
In 2015, they released their self-titled debut album, which charted in nine different countries. And though they have not ‘broken’ in America as of yet, they count Beyonce and Alvin Ailey as fans. At the end of September, Ibeyi unveiled their sophomore LP, Ash, and now they are set to embark on a U.S. tour beginning October 28.
ARTISTdirect’s Christopher Friedmann caught up with Lisa-Kaindé Diaz to discuss staying in the moment, their eclectic musical taste, and the new album.
Christopher Friedmann: We’re talking because you’re about to release your new album, Ash. Just to start, how’s the mood in camp? Are you excited, anxious, nervous?
Lisa-Kaindé Diaz: A little bit of all of them. I’m excited, I can’t wait. At the same time, I’m nervous. Also it’s been like… we can’t wait for it to be out now. It has been a long time and we’ve been holding it for a long time and now we just want it to be out. We are so excited, we can’t wait, and we can’t wait to go back to the live shows and sing this album with people.
CF: Your debut self-titled LP was a considerable success. Did you find any added pressure when working on the follow up?
LKD: Yes, but we tried to not think about that when making the second one, but yes definitely. It’s really different. The first one, you do it and you don’t even think about people listening to it. You just think about yourself and about how much you love music and about how you want your album to sound for it to be 100 percent you. And I think we tried to reproduce that feeling, knowing that people would hear it, that people would buy it, and wanting people to like it, but we tried to just write that album the best we can, and introduce it the best we can.
CF: This new record is concerned with the present. With all that’s going on around you, how do you manage to stay in the moment?
LKD: That’s actually really hard, to try and stay in the moment, but you know, singing is like meditation, being at shows is like meditation, performing in front of an audience is like meditation because you are in the reaction of the audience. You are in what is happening now, and just now. You are not thinking about the future or the past. The live shows are like meditation, singing is like meditation, actually, creating is like meditation, making an album is like meditation.
CF: You pull from a variety of different worlds of sound from Afro-Cuban to pop to soul. Why is it so important for you to stay eclectic and continue to pull from your roots?
LKD: Because that’s what we like as musicians. We like to experience and to experiment with different music and just never stop. We like to incorporate new things our ears heard and to try new things our brains want to try and to go in certain emotions we just lived, I think that’s what we love to do. It’s exciting. It’s what keeps us going, and maybe that’s what makes you do cool albums and makes you continue wanting to do albums.
CF: You sing in various languages, English, French, and Yoruba….
LKD: And in Spanish now.
CF: What does employing a variety of tongues allow you to do as a songwriter?
LKD: It’s funny because we don’t really think about it. We don’t intellectualize it. It flows. How can I explain that? For example, I don’t think, “Okay, I’m going to write a Spanish song now.” It just comes in Spanish or it comes in Yoruba or it comes in English or in French, but I definitely can sense that there is a difference, and it’s all about sound. We, for so long, found our sound in English and Yoruba, and it took us awhile to find our sound in Spanish.
We wrote loads of songs in Spanish, but they didn’t sound like Ibeyi, but one day it just happened, and it’s quite… just incredible. It’s an incredible feeling.
CF: Speaking of that, how do you put a song together? Can you take us through some of your songwriting process?
LKD: I always write at the piano, almost always, so it’s piano voice, and then I usually show it to Naomi, and she likes it or she doesn’t. If she likes it, then we continue working on it. If she doesn’t like, then I put it aside, and we don’t work on it. Then Naomi puts some rhythms on the song, and then we get to the studio, and then, in the studio with our amazing producer, we produce the song.
CF: Yea, so Richard Russell produced the album, and he is also the XL Recordings label owner. What made him the ideal person to work with on the record?
LKD: He actually worked on our first album, too. I couldn’t tell you. Tt’s just him. It was meant to be, I think. We found him and we found each other, Rich, Naomi, and I, and we have a really collaborative way of working. When we are working on the album, there are the three of us all the time in the studio, 24 hours. We work together. We play everything together, and we experience together. I don’t know. He just gets us. He’s incredibly generous also with his knowledge. He is a brilliant producer.
CF: This album certainly deals with political elements. How do you view the voice of the artist in today’s society?
LKD: I would say it’s essential because when I’m lost in my personal life, I always try to find answers in a book or in a song or in a painting or in a movie. I never look at politicians or people in finance or whatever. I don’t look at people that actually are ruling the world today for inspiration or for answers. I always find answers with art or with musicians and I think that’s so important. Also, I don’t think artists have to talk about what is happening in the world, but I think if they want to, and feel strong enough to do it, it’s so wonderful and important.
CF: Over the course of your career you’ve had a fair breadth of experiences, but I was wondering if you could tell us of the most grounding moment that you’ve had so far, a moment that reminds you why you do all this?
LKD: I would say doing the first album and doing the second album, us in the studio, were definitely life changing moments. But there are plenty of them. I would say coming to America and playing in front of an American crowd, and seeing the reaction of people on stage was pretty incredible. Brazil was incredible too. Naomi would say Prince, when we played and Prince came to see us in Minneapolis, that was a life changing experience.