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Ibeyi Bring Their Yoruba Spirituals to London

Olivia Rose Walton | OkayAfrica   in  ·
February 25, 2015

Photography by Sydelle Willow Smith. Words by Olivia Rose Walton

After putting out two of Okayafrica’s Top Songs and Top Videos of 2014, French-Cuban twin duo Ibeyi released their self-titled debut album on XL Recordings last week. On Thursday, the 20-year-old sisters (Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Díaz) brought their Yoruba spirituals to Bush Hall in London, where UK/South Africa-based photographers and writers Sydelle Willow Smith and Olivia Rose Walton were on hand to document.

Once my sister sat me down in our mother’s house and said, “Stop doing that other shit and listen to this.” No, I’m serious. She played “Oya,” off Ibeyi’s EP. It turned the room into a cathedral, into a dark patch in a forest, into the ocean—for the length of the song we were in some other place.

A few months later I’m walking to Bush Hall in Shepherd’s Bush, London, late for Ibeyi’s show, trying not to let the rain into the neck of my coat. At the venue—warped mirrors on the walls under Edwardian ceilings, a small stage at one end—my friend is at the very front, leaning on the stage. The lights dim, and the girls come on. They stand front and center and begin to sing their haunting song, each sister’s voice twisting around the other’s until you can’t hear where one ends and the other begins. You can hear in their voices the gods and goddesses they are singing to. Their song stops, and they take their seats, laughing. The audience here is all smiles. A woman to my left has her hands up in half-prayer. She knows what we are waiting for.

 

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