“Our Music Is Magic”: Ibeyi Return With a Mystical Ode to Their Ancestors

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Ibeyi. Photography by Rafael Pavarotti

The French-Cuban duo talk witches, growth, and the inspirations behind their hypnotic new single, “Made of Gold”

Afro-Cuban French duo Ibeyi have always been ahead of their time – but for once, it feels like the world is finally catching up. Twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz are the type of artists who connect music to the very essence of their being. For almost a decade, they’ve enticed the likes of Beyoncé, Prince and Michelle Obama with their hypnotising storytelling, which is not only heard but felt in their music; from their self-titled debut album in 2015, to their acclaimed 2017 project, Ash. Four years later, and the pair are back with Made of Gold, the first single from their upcoming third album. 

In this new era, Ibeyi – which, in the Yoruba religion, refers to a spirit represented by a pair of twins – act as vessels for their ancestors by communicating their messages through music. Made of Gold, featuring Gambian-British artist Pa Salieu, is inspired by the poem Spell 31 from The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead. Showcasing their perfect harmonies, the song celebrates magic, the divine power in ancestry and the strength of their bloodline. This mythical theme is translated beautifully in the arresting visuals, conceptualised by the sisters and directed by Daniel Sannwald. 

Here, Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi discuss the making of the song, the importance of growth, and staying true to their purpose in an industry clouded by transient TikTok hits.

Sagal Mohammed: Congratulations on the new single Made of Gold, it’s such a beautiful song. What inspired it? 

Lisa-Kaindé: Do you know what’s incredible? It’s the first song we wrote in the studio. It was originally meant to be about love, but I was talking to a photographer during a session about how sad I was that we lost so much knowledge about witches. All the knowledge that only witches had when they were burnt is gone, and it made me think about all the lost knowledge of our ancestors when they were enslaved. They were forced to forget so much of their culture, which meant it couldn’t be passed down to generations. It just made me so deeply angry and sad. I kept saying to her, don’t you realise we’ve lost it all? We lost the seeds, we lost the stories, we lost the Gods. And just as I was saying this, it’s like everything just aligned, because Richard, our producer, then spotted a book on the floor. I picked it up and it was a book of spells. It said: “Oh you with a spine, who would work your mouth against this Magic of mine. The sky encloses the stars, I enclose Magic, I enclose Magic.” 

It’s like something in my head twisted at that moment and I realised this song isn’t meant to be about love, it’s going to be about our ancestors and reconnecting that power that has been handed down in an unbroken line. The link is not destroyed because we’re made of gold. 

SM: That’s incredible. Will you be continuing this theme throughout your upcoming project?

Lisa-Kaindé: Yes, this whole body of work we’ve been creating is all about that magic. Our music is magic. It’s all been made through finding signs, putting them together, and understanding what our ancestors are sending. Sometimes things don’t make sense, but then you find that one link that changes everything.

“Stop apologising. When you’re young you’re always apologising for being yourself, but we’re done with that” – Lisa-Kaindé

SM: You’ve got Pa Salieu on the single, which feels like the perfect feature for this song. How did that come about? 

Naomi: It’s crazy because his manager just happened to be right outside our studio one day while we were recording. Richard bumped into him while on his way out to grab a coffee, and they got talking. He mentioned he was in the studio with us, and Pa’s manager said he’d love to work with us, so it just happened naturally. 

Lisa-Kaindé: It was so magical and easy. We played him Made of Gold and he was immediately in. He just loved it and understood it really well. It was meant to be. 

SM: This is your first big release since your sophomore album in 2017. How do you think people will react to the new music? 

Naomi: They’re not ready! 

Lisa-Kaindé: They’re not, but at the same time I feel that the world is finally ready for us and the music we make. So much has happened over the past couple of years that has meant that people are now ready to hear everything we’ve been talking about for years. Our albums have always been about our culture, death, love, passion, magic and healing, which is the most important subject right now. While a lot of people have been drawn to it in the past, the majority have probably felt it was too difficult to hear.  We talked about things like the #MeToo movement before #MeToo in our song No Man Is Bigger Than My Arms. You should have heard the interviews we did back then: we were constantly asked why we hate men. It was a completely different world. We also did a song called Deathless about police brutality way before the rest of the world woke up to the realities Black and Brown people have experienced and been aware of our entire lives. 

Right now, we’re in a time where talking about these things feels right all of a sudden because people are seeking that kind of energy and intensity for once, which is really exciting. 

SM: How do you think you have evolved as artists in the four years since your last album? 

Lisa-Kaindé: I think we’re ready now. Four years ago we still had a lot of work to do on our confidence and our ability to say we’re here. 

Naomi: I also think age, honestly. In two years we would have been in this industry for ten years. We started when we were 18. 

Lisa-Kaindé: As we’ve grown we’ve also started to appreciate our past work a lot more. You look back and think, this is good. This isn’t frivolous work, this is real. We’ve been doing real work for almost ten years now so we suddenly realised that we should be proud of it and stand for it, and stop apologising. When you’re young you’re always apologising for being yourself, but we’re done with that. 

SM: TikTok is obviously a huge part of the music industry right now, and there’s a lot of pressure on artists to make songs that will go viral online. Have you felt any of that? 

Naomi: We love TikTok, and I always say do you. If you want to make a TikTok song and it feels right then do it. If I ever felt it was right for us, I would do it too. 

Lisa-Kaindé: I’ve seen so many actors and celebrities making TikToks and you can just see that they hate every second of it. That’s when I’m like this is not you, it’s your team. For us, we want to grow. We’re obsessed with the idea of building something that grows and gets deeper and bigger and more beautiful. So we do feel pressure, but I think if we didn’t then that would be really scary. Feeling the pressure means that we care. Ultimately, we’re in service of the songs and we want to help the songs be heard by as many people as possible. 

SM: Finally, what are you most excited about for this new album and the future? 

Lisa-Kaindé: I’m excited for everything to make sense. I think the visual makes sense with the music. It’s like everything is now part of the same entity. 

Naomi: We want our music to be in as many homes as possible and to really connect with it. I’m also just so excited to be back on tour, seeing people who love us and being able to interact with them again. 

Made of Gold is out now on XL Recordings