Not only a celebration of powerful women but also the idea of family.
Although they are constantly surrounded by other people, the life of a touring musician is likely quite lonely. In a recent conversation, a member of a popular Portland-based band bemoaned the separation he feels from his family while on tour. Not only that, but reintegration is difficult, he explained, dropping back in on lives that have been progressing in a forward manner while he is away.
The sisters of Ibeyi, however, are lucky to tour together, creating concerts that are not only celebrations of powerful women but also the idea of family. The Paris-based twins, Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz, played a sold-out show at Portland’s Revolution Hall last week that not only honored those bonds but also recognized the sisterhood that exists between all women. For 75 minutes, the Diaz siblings captivated the crowd. They didn’t need backing musicians or anyone else to hold our attention. Just the two of them commanded stage, touching on songs from their 2015 self-titled album and well-received sophomore effort, Ash.
Dressed in baggy, bright red painter’s suits, the Diaz sisters kept the mood festive, even when dealing with heavy subject matter. While Lisa sang most of the lead vocals and played the keyboard, Naomi held down the percussion, alternating between drum pad, cajón and bright red percussive blocks. Though they used some backing tracks to augment the songs, the Diaz sisters did everything themselves, moving from instrument to instrument to standing on the lip of the stage and singing together in a cappella harmony.
Lisa played the crowd-stirring frontwoman, chatting with us between songs. Naomi was the more mysterious one, allowing her hands to do the talking while beating on her drums. However, she did take a stirring turn on lead vocals during the encore “Waves.”
So many flourishes demonstrated the devotion the two women possess for one another. Towards the beginning of the show, Lisa jokingly claimed she wrote new song, “I Wanna Be Like You” with Naomi in mind and, later on, she took a rag and wiped the proverbial sweat from her sister’s brow. “No Man in the World” sampled a speech by Michelle Obama and served as a call-to-arms for women to step out from the shadow of men. That feeling also extended to the women in the audience. Up front, a group danced and sang along, shouting out, “Otra!” during the break before the encore. When one especially overwhelmed woman wandered up to the front in tears, Lisa took a moment to lean forward and wink at her.
In a night of highlights, songs such as the stirring “Deathless” and the heartbreaking “Oya” stood out. By the time the sisters closed out the show with a mostly a cappella version of “River,” the crowd seemed ready to join them on the stage. It was a triumphant evening of music, one where the feeling of family and closeness extended to everyone in the venue, whether on stage or in the crowd.