When Ibeyi released Ash in September 2017, they were confirming what they had already proved in their self-titled debut album from 2015: that their talent and storytelling is limitless.
With the uncanny eyes of their album cover as their stage backdrop, the twins glided onto the stage in their red jumpsuits and opened the gig with powerful harmonies. There’s something special about sister relationships, take a look at Haim, and Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé are no exception. As their music mesmerises you, it’s not until they bring out their backing singers that you realise these two women having been commanding the whole stage and performing it all themselves. If you think how much praise a duo like Royal Blood get for being just the two of them, take a moment to appreciate Ibeyi.
Yes it was snowing outside, but the vibes warmed up the venue. During ‘I wanna be like you’ Lisa synthed out whilst Naomi showed us the versatility of a drum box/cajón , and that Michelle Obama speech was well heard sampled in ‘No Man is big enough for my arms’, as the backing singers encouraged the audience to chant along. The visual dynamic between the two sisters felt so poignant, Naomi with her long braids, and Lisa with her natural fro, during the beautiful acoustic piano and vocal performance of ‘Waves’ – an angelic sound in itself.
If you heard the Culture Cult radio show on Ash: https://www.mixcloud.com/QuestRadio/culture-cult-week-1-not-worth-your-time-week-1/, you would already know the multiple ways in which the sisters blend English, Yoruba, Spanish and French and they did not avoid the catchy beats of ‘Me Voy’. They dedicated ‘Mama Says’ to their mother who was in fact there that night, and must have been undoubtedly incredibly proud. There were definitely fans in the pit of the venue, but even standing at the back by the bar everyone was getting into the melodic rhythm of singing ‘I will come to you river, wash my soul’ in ‘River’, but we took a step back as we were taken in by the sisters closing Yoruban singing. Towards the end of the set, it felt like the crowd were holding out for one of Ibeyi’s hardest hitting messages in ‘Deathless’. They recently performed this track on the Late Show with Stephen Colebert, and I can guarantee you’ll watch it to the end if you’re listening to the lyrics.
Of course, this review could talk about what it means to have two black women performing a sold out show in London, but it could also talk about many things. However, no one puts it better than Ibeyi themselves, so if you’re looking for inspiration or if you’re looking for music that considers race, relationships, and the female experience, you know who to listen check out.
And to listen to my radio show exploring Ash just pop on to the mixcloud, and prepare yourself for your next favourite duo: