Review and photos – Ibeyi at the Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, Nov 15 2017
– review by Taisuke Tanimura, photos by Kirk Chantraine
Ibeyi at the Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, Wednesday night. The French-Cuban twin sisters Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Diaz released their second album Ash last month.
Rocking onstage in matching red jumpsuits with big diamond pendants (which were also available at the merch booth), the siblings opened with “I Carried This For Years”, the opening cut from Ash. Things sounded slightly off initially, but the sound quickly got back on track and the rest of the show was a real treat.
The arrangements were minimal, with Naomi helming the piano and Lisa-Kaindé expertly handling the percussion (their father was the legendary percussionist Miguel “Angá” Díaz of Buena Vista Social Club fame). This allowed their voices to take center stage and their lyrics to shine. The fact that they can cram so much meaning and power into simple phrases shows how much work goes into crafting them. Tracks like “No Man Is Big Enough For My Arms”, with its Michelle Obama sample (“The measure of any society is how it treats its women and girls.”) pack a punch precisely because they lay things out so devastatingly starkly.
This was especially evident during “Deathless”, a powerful track written about Lisa-Kaindé’s experience of being arrested at 16 because the police officer assumed she was a drug dealer. The sisters led the entire crowd into an extended coda, getting everyone to chant the chorus over and over again like an incantation. The venue was less than half full, but the swell of voices made it sound like a full house. There was something powerful about hearing all those people chanting “We are deathless!”
Naomi was chatty all night, sharing anecdotes about her family and how inspiration from many of their songs comes from them. My favourite was when she explained that “I Wanna Be Like You” was inspired by Lisa-Kaindé and how she dances and smiles. “Valé”, another cut from Ash, was written for their niece who lives in America, “because there’s nothing better to connect you to a person than a song.” Aww.
The pair’s star has been steadily rising ever since their debut last year, and last night was confirmation that all the hype is valid.
Opening for Ibeyi was theMIND (aka Zarif Wilder), who hails from Chicago and has affiliations with Chance The Rapper and his crew. His debut album Summer Camp is out now.