The Ibeyi Duo and the Influence of Yorùbá in the Global Music Scene

Ibeyi is an Afro-French Cuban musical duo of twin sisters, Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz. Here’s everything you need to know about this electrifying fusion of Yoruba, French, and Afro-Cuban origins.

Ibeyi. (Credit: David Uzochukwu)

In the Yoruba language, Ibeyi (also known as Ìbejì) means “twins.” In the music industry, Ibeyi is synonymous with the rhythmic greatness of a powerful duo.

While Naomi plays the traditional Peruvian/Cuban percussion instruments cajón and Batá drum. Lisa, the lead singer, plays the piano. Together, they fuse jazz with traditional beats and instruments.

Ibeyi Background


The twins were born in 1994 in Paris. Their father, Anga Diaz, was a well-known Cuban percussionist. Maya Dagnino, their mother, is a French-Venezuelan singer who doubles as their manager. She introduced them to the Nigerian language – Yorùbá.

Though now only spoken by a few in Cuba, the language’s reminiscent chants, and the twins’ harmonies, make their music such a mystical beauty. Growing up, the sisters also studied Yorùbá folk songs.

Singles, Albums and Promotions


In 2013, they signed to the record label, XL Recordings. Two singles, ’Oya‘ and ‘River,’ were released and in 2014, they began to get attention on the video for “River” – their debut album’s second single. This was later followed by the video for another single, ‘Mama Says.’

Their eponymous debut album was released in 2015, paying tribute to their father and Yanira, their elder sister.

Ibeyi featured on Beyonce’s Lemonade

The twins have a knack for making stunning appearances too, which include a feature in the short film for Beyoncé’s album Lemonade (2016). They also appeared as guests on jazz composer and multi-instrumentalist Alfredo Rodriguez’s Tocoro album.

Ibeyi ‘Ash’ album cover

In September 2017, they released their second, sensational album ‘Ash.’ The album is a blend of electro-acoustic, Afro-Cuban, and Yorùbá sounds with evident influences from Kendrick Lamar, Nina Simone, Jay Electronica, and Erykah Badu.

The duo has also attributed more influences to musical greats Frank Ocean, James Blake, and King Krule. However, their father remains the biggest influence of all.

Contrasting Personalities

Left: Lisa. Right: Naomi

Naomi is the more fashion-minded of the two, though either one could make any outfit look good. Their fashion sense also seems to mirror their musical influences.

While Lisa’s pitch is characterized by soulful vocals, Naomi is harder and electronica-edged. Lisa writes the music and lyrics, wears a magnificent afro, and prefers simple, well-cut clothes.


Naomi is the party-starter. She handles the rhythm and has an affection for hip-hop and funk. She also plays the cajón. Their contrasting personalities indeed explain their unique blend.


The music of the Paris-based duo shows a strong and spiritual connection to their Yorùbá roots, as also seen in their name and themes.

There is something special about Yorùbá. Everyone gets it; you can feel it. We grew up listening to those chants. We are singing religious prayers. We went to the choir with our mother. – Lisa-Kaindé.

Yorùbá Culture and the Modern Music Scene

This does not only apply to Ibeyi, the creative influence of Nigeria is felt around the globe. The uniqueness of Yorùbá culture and spirituality is one that has gained wide acceptance and found its way into the modern-day music scene.


We saw Beyonce channeling the Yorùbá fertility goddess Ọṣun at the 2017 Grammys and in her visual album Lemonade. Last year, Lupita Nyong’o headlined a miniseries on Americanah, the award-winning book by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.


The country’s rich heritage and creative influences are also seen in the fashion world. Rihanna, and Solange Knowles, to mention a few have worn designs from Nigerian designer Deola Sagoe. Angela Simmons, Thandie Newton, and others have been styled by Nigerian designer Jewel By Lisa.

Below is a selection of stunning visuals by Ibeyi, beginning with the breath-taking “River.”

What fascinates you the most about Ibeyi and the influence of African culture in music?


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