When sister duo Ibeyi visited the NPR offices recently to film their first Tiny Desk Concert series performance, they transformed the office into a spiritual experience for those lucky enough to attend. After breezing through the a cappella "Oddudua," Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and her twin Naomi Diaz admitted to the intimate audience that they were nervous. However, those nerves were quickly pushed aside to make way for their powerful vocals steeped in their Yoruba, French and Afro-Cuban roots.
Accompanied by Yoruban batá drums and keyboards, Ibeyi holds the audience's attention throughout renditions of "Deathless," "Valé" and "Transmission/Michaelion," with the former concluding with a lively call-and-response with the audience. Their voices serve as their most powerful instrument as they belt out lyrics, seamlessly shifting between languages. They provide a bit of context for the inspiration behind "Valé," a song written for their five-year-old niece as a means to remain connected to her. It is a touching yet simple explanation for the beautiful ballad.
Throughout the performance, Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi mostly watch each other, even uniting for the last song to play the keyboard in tandem. Their deep connection is tangible, allowing their vocals to bounce off one another and intertwine in a way that feels otherworldly. With the exception of "Oddudua," all of the songs were taken from the duo's most recent album, 2017's Ash, which featured appearances by Kamasi Washington, Meshell Ndegeocello, Mala Rodriguez and Chilly Gonzalez. As they near the end of their performance, its easy to get just as lost in the music as the two sisters do, closing your eyes and letting the music lull you into a peacefully euphoric state. Check out Ibeyi's Tiny Desk Concert series performance and allow yourself to be taken on a spiritual journey.