Ibeyi. Live gig review. Broadcast, Glasgow. Feb 2015
Just like comic book superheroes, bands need a good "origin" story to grab the interest. Maybe the murder of your parents as a child or being descended from a Viking god. Perhaps something that makes you a bit different, to stand out from the crowd, such as being bitten by a radioactive spider or possessing a healing factor.
It seems like Ibeyi were created by someone with a vivid imagination. They are 20 year old French-Cuban twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz. Their father is Cuban musician Anga Diaz, percussionist with the legendary Buena Vista Social Club. After his death when they were aged 11 they took up playing his instrument, the cajón, a box-shaped percussion instrument you sit on and slap. Their Venezuelan mother taught them the Nigerian Yoruba language and songs, brought to Cuba by African slaves. Now they have their debut album out, on groovy label XL Recordings and sing in Yoruba and English with Lisa-Kaindé calm and soulful on keyboards and Naomi antsy and lively on percussion. With a backstory like that it is no surprise to find that playing live they are incredibly charismatic.
I didn't know much of this when I turned up to see them at their sold out show in Broadcast on Sauchiehall Street last night. I had read a good review of their album and picked it up last week and liked it, and when googling them found they'd be playing in Glasgow a couple of days later. Other people had been following them for a while longer it seems. The group of girls standing beside me who had come down from Dundee to see them, told me all about who their father was and when they played the lead track on their album, River, the crowd largely sang along.
The sisters are clearly different personalities and the music seems a bit pulled in two directions at times. When Naomi plays percussion on "Mama Says" it starts on the cajoné then goes onto chest slaps and finger clicks and you feel she just wants to rip loose, but her sister draws her back (I'm guessing that really is their mum in the video for that one).
When called back for an encore they admit that they don't have any more songs so give us a more a capella version of "River" with everyone in the room singing along this time. We've had a good time, they look like they've had a good time, but where they go from here will be interesting.
On a side note there are more and more venues in which it is nigh on impossible to see much of the act if you don't have the physique of a basketball player. This is largely due to the fact that all the people over six foot in height seem to feel it is their place to stand at the front of an audience these days, whereas in the past they skulked slightly embarrassed at the side. I'm not necessarily saying "down with tall people" but maybe forcing people over a certain height to kneel would be an idea, or possibly higher stages in some venues? Just a thought.