Ibeyi gives Vancouver electrifying performance

Ibeyi at the Commodore Ballroom, 11/15/17

Photo by Jessica Vandergulik

“When I was six or seven years old. Maybe seven or eight…I told my grandmother I wanted to be the first female, French president,” said Lisa-Kaindé to the crowd at the Commodore Ballroom on Wednesday (Nov. 15). “And my grandmother said to me ‘You have my vote.’”

This was but one of the many personable and inspiring stories from Ibeyi’s concert this past week. 

Ibeyi is comprised of French-Cuban twins Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Díaz. The two first performed in Vancouver in April 2015 at the Fortune Sound Club to a sold out show. They returned this year with a lot to prove and did not disappoint. Together they delivered an electrifying performance that outshone their predecessor and left the crowd on a musical high.

Ibeyi started the night with an acapella version of fan-favourite, “Eleggua.” Although sung in Yoruban, the crowd did not hesitate to softly mouth the words in time with the sisters. It wasn’t long after that that Lisa sat behind her piano and Naomi seated herself on top of her cajón.

The two combined electronic beats, Afro-Cuban instrumentals, jazz chords and pop vocals to provide a minimalist yet unforgettable sound. As each individual bobbed their head in time with Naomi’s infectious percussion in “Away Away,” it became apparent that these songs were just the warm up. The real treat came during “Mama Says.”

Ibeyi @ Commodore Nov.15 / 2017
Photo by Jessica Vandergulik

“Mama Says” was written for their mother after the death of their father and former Buena Vista Social Club Member, Miguel “Anga” Diaz. Pained by the loss, the twins wrote the song about their experience.

Lisa sang but one line, and much to her surprise, the crowd – in full force – sang the second. Her eyes doubled in size. She turned to the audience, smiled coyly and said, “sing to me”.

No one hesitated in giving the lead vocalist what she had asked and this set the tone for the remainder of the night. After this, there was no mouthing of words. As they performed song after song, the crowd’s unwavering love for the two fed them the energy needed to carry the 90-minute set by themselves.

Unforgettable moments of the night included their dedication of “Vale” to their niece. Lisa and Naomi’s primary place of residence is in Europe, while their niece lives in the States. Saddened by the distance, the duo explain that they composed the song to feel close to her.

Another key highlight came when both rapped Mala Rodriguez’ verse on “Me Voy” together.“Although fluent, “Me Voy” is the duo’s only song in Spanish from their repertoire while Valé is sung in English.” With regards to “Me Voy,” the reason for its creation was simple.

“Naomi wanted to make something you all could dance to,” said Lisa to the front row. “So you must dance for her!” And so they did. Like a ripple effect, it travelled backwards and towards the edges of the crowd.

Unmistakable praise was given to their performances of “Deathless” and “No Man is Big Enough for my Arms.” Not for their smooth vocals or percussive beats but for their memorable and applicable messages of self-love, justice and female empowerment.

Lisa dedicated “Deathless” to anyone who ever felt like they’ve been treated unfairly. It was here that she delivered the aforementioned quote at the beginning of this review to remind the audience that each and every person is capable of being and doing anything they want.

In “No Man is Big Enough for my Arms,” the lyrics caution those who do not recognize a woman’s worth. In it there exists a prominent quote from Michelle Obama. “The measure of any society is how it treats its women and girls.” The twins prompted the crowd to sing louder. Concert-goers willingly complied until their collective voice was nearly hoarse.

Ibeyi @ Commodore
Photo by Jessica Vandergulik

Needless to say, the chemistry between the sisters is instinctive. Throughout the night, Lisa repeatedly conversed with the audience while Naomi took on the role of the unabashed hypeman during their more fiery and impulsive performances.

In true Ibeyi fashion, their harmonies blended effortlessly in each song. None more noticeable than in their encore performance of “River.” Although a departure from the rather relaxed and spiritual atmosphere they created during their 2015 concert, Ibeyi left the crowd with visible goosebumps.