WD You mentioned the women who raised you. How did your upbringing influence your work?
ND We grew up with a mom and a grandma. Our dad left when we were 11 years old, but our grandma and our mom are really strong. They were always like, “You can do whatever you want.” Lisa said to my grandma when she was really young, “Grandma, I want to be the next president of France.” And she said, “You have my vote.” She didn’t say, “You know it’s hard for women” or “It’s gonna be complicated,” she said, “You have my vote.” That the way we were raised.
ND We grew up between Paris and Havana. But most of our time in Paris.
LKD That also influenced us a lot. Because it’s two cultures that are totally different. Two backgrounds that are totally different.
ND Because Cuba and France are really different.
WD Did you ever struggle with that duality?
LKD I probably struggled one year. I remember one year where I was struggling but I was struggling with everything. I was struggling with myself more that. It was not about Cuba or France or anywhere, it was more me. And then I met the good people and surrounded myself and was like “I’m good!”
ND People always want you to chose and we never chose. And but here in America I feel like you have to chose, it’s terrible.
LKD Yeah, it’s almost like if you have to abandon what you were in order to be what you are. In order to be an American, when actually there are a lot of different ways to be an American. But it’s important not to forget that.
WD I think that it’s a very recent thing too in American where to some degree it has to do with labels. Here people are so obsessed with identifying with a certain thing. Everything has to be in categories and boxes and I think part of what we want to work on breaking down is getting rid of some of those categories.
LKD It’s even worse than that. It almost feels like, you can’t survive if you’re not in a community. Which means that community really stays separated instead of joining forces because you’ve been told that there’s no way you can survive without that. But I think, things can change. Then you have some crazy things like black people not wanting to march for gay rights or gay people not wanting to march for transgender rights.
ND And if minorities don't help each other—
LKD It’s never going to work. It’s something that quite bothers me. But it happens at every level. You can seen that for example with women. There’s loads of women with power that would not help other women, that would shame other women because they’ve been told that if they got there they were lucky and they were the one and they could not survive with another one coming. And there’s going to be competition. And this is the mold we need to break, as communities, as human beings. And this is what is interesting for us as musicians: What links people? What unifies people? That is what we are interested in and that is what we see every night at our shows. We see people of every shape and color and every age for an hour and a half singing the same thing.
ND And believing in it.
LKD And they are making just one voice. And then you wonder at the end of the show, why can’t this exist outside? It must. Because it works here. So not why outside?
WD And in some ways that is the answer to the question we were talking about in the beginning of this conversation: As a creative person, how can I possibly make a difference? That is something art can do that so many things can’t: It can unify.
LKD Yeah, art does. And what I love about art is that it touches you and it touches others, but it doesn’t ask you where you’re from to do it.
LKD I think what scares me, about America especially, is that we tend to not learn from our past mistakes and I see the same things happening again. When you see footage from segregation, and then you see the same footage today, you’re like, what happened? How is this still here? But we are hopeful. We feel that hopefully the next generation will get it right. It’s again the same thing. It comes down to education. We need to educate our kids to make sure they understand and they know their history.
WD And how do your spiritual beliefs impact your work?
LKD We don’t sit at the piano and say, I’m going to write a spiritual song. That would not make any sense. Spirituality means being here and in the moment and being in the word you’re going to say. I think, art is that. Performing a song is that. You’re not ahead or looking backwards. You’re really in the moment and it’s like meditation.
WD What is your creative process like with the two of you? Is it often that you’re on the same page?
LKD I think it’s the opposite.
ND She starts and I finish.
LKD We confront each other. But it’s always really peacefully. But we confront ideas and we confront our words. It’s like, it has to have a confrontation in order to find the middle.
ND And it’s more about music and rhythm for me and I don’t write. But, sometimes if I don’t like what she writes we don’t do the song.
LKD We both need to be happy. If not, it’s not Ibeyi. And if we were doing albums separately, they would be really really different from what we are doing. We feed each other. I think this relationship would still work while we are both growing separately and feeding each other.
WD Tell me about the album artwork for Ash.
ND J R. First of all, we love his work. He’s one of the beautiful people I know on this Earth in my family because he really helps everybody. He just does things, you don’t even know what he does. He’s just helping everybody. He’s creating hope and art for everybody. We love his work. We love the human. He’s one of our really really good friends. We didn’t want to ask him and one day he was in the studio and said, “Well let’s work together.” It was a collaborative work and we found the idea and we shot it in the studio. It’s not photoshopped. It was glued to our faces. He did our picture in black and white and he cut it and we glued it. Lisa’s is part of mine and mine part of hers.
Banner image photography Luca Repola