News Brief

Ibeyi’s 'Ash' Is An Empowering Soundtrack to the Elements and the Fight for Equality

Ibeyi’s music encapsulates Afro-Latino culture and tradition into a united harmony in their latest album, 'Ash.'

“I carried this for years," the twins chant, carefully, then more forcefully, in the opening of their sophomore album, Ash.


The chant is part battle cry, part anecdotal lesson passed down from generations, part famous last words uttered before one's dying breath. Or, eerily, it can be the revelations of a person who speaks to souls long gone, who senses that humanity is in need of assistance.

Ibeyi's music transcends the twin bodies they share: it breathes life into generational trauma and oppression that people of color face, it remedies the aching stretches of old spirits begging not to be forgotten or removed, it encapsulates Afro-Latino culture and tradition into a united harmony. It personifies the world's warnings of danger and destruction—both man-made and natural—but assures us there is pulchritude in demise.

With echoing, repetitive choruses blending in and out, Ash sounds like a family of melodies, not merely two women. Earlier, I thought to myself that Ibeyi wouldn't be as stunning were it a solo artist and not a duo. Together they conjure the power of many histories and past lives, all by channeling the forces from their indescribable connection. It's beyond sisterly bond, beyond familiarity; it's the magic of sharing a womb with another woman, of being created in the same space and time as another—of splitting souls within a cocoon.

This spellbinding relationship the twins share lends them ethereal, future and past telling vibrations. Their lyrics feel relevant yet timeless, as if ancestors are speaking and singing through them, revealing secrets of human mistakes and earthly sorrows. Listening to them gives joy, awakening and celebration, along with a sense of foreboding. Perhaps because our world is not perfect, and Ibeyi can sense the stirring in the ground.

Right now is equally the most exciting and exhausting time to be alive. Exciting because communities of color, of different genders, sexualities, abilities and ethnic backgrounds are coming together to dismantle white male heteronormative supremacy. Exhausting because the push back against these alliances is relentless. Trump has been the most daunting and dangerously idiotic president I have witnessed, and the fact he's still in office is puzzling and problematic. Despite political and social exhaustion, we are experiencing environmental exhaustion: the ferocious hurricane that ravished the Caribbean is a warning from the earth that we shouldn't take in stride. But I fear we will.

With “Deathless," a song about Lisa-Kainde's wrongful arrest as a teen, and “No Man is Big Enough For My Arms," Ibeyi places activism and social awareness at the forefront of their lyrics. “Whatever happens, we are deathless," they belt, reaffirming that we, people of color, have an wavering ability to resurrect from the cultural, metaphorical and literal deaths our people endure. In “No Man is Big Enough for My Arms," Michelle Obama's words of feminism, social change, gender equality and education are the backbone for Ibeyi's urgent outcries. Their muscular vocals weave around Michelle's statements, sending support and blood to an ever evolving movement of intersectional feminism.

Yet, it is the symbolism within their stories of water, earth and ash that purge into the core of power and healing in a visceral way. “Waves," a minimal, almost bare track positions Ibeyi as twin bodies of water communicating with an unpredictable, stubborn earth. “I am water under the ground," they confess, but not to our dismay. As women, being water beneath something sounds passive and oppressive. But here, this is a transformative and empowering state: water must move from one place to another, must change form. It's true evolution is something massive and groundbreaking: waves.

Ibeyi has found consolation in water in many of their melodies, from earlier hits such as “River", to Ash's “Transmission/Michaelion." I could write a whole dissertation on the artistic utilization of water as a metaphor for healing, persistence, peace, spirituality and more, for our histories are connected to water—from being unwillingly transported to foreign lands by boat, to respecting the creative and sustainable necessity of this life giving substance. For Ibeyi, it's all of these and more: it's their form, their element, their restorative and destructive wholes.

Ash, however, is the solid remnants of fire; the drifting particles that don't go away, the evidence that a flame has been ignited. Our world is dangerously close to experiencing some sort of grand epiphany: whether it is an apocalyptical divide of our own making, or an environmental transformation that leads to our undoing. If we are set aflame by the heat of our voices, the flicker of social inequality and the embers of protest and persistence—then our ashes will be the prevailing particles that symbolize our progress. But if our world is crumbling because of neglect, ignorance and denial about environmental changes, our demise may be inevitable.

“We can feel something's wrong. Can we keep going on? We are ashes, moving around," the twins sing in the final, title track. Is Ibeyi preparing us for imminent political warfare, or environmental and spiritual renewal?

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C Natty/emPawa

You Need to Watch C Natty's New Music Video For 'Ojah'

Video Premiere: Check out the striking first release from Mr Eazi's #emPawa30.

C Natty arrives in style with his new single "Ojah."

The track, which is the first release from Mr Eazi's new group of #emPawa30 artists, sees the Nigerian artist delivering a highly-infectious and grooving concoction over jazz-leaning afrobeats produced by Killertunes.

The new music video for "Ojah," which we're premiering here today, is equally as stunning and follows the story of someone who doesn't take others' advice. C Natty told us the following about the DK of Priorgold Pictures-directed video:

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News Brief

South African Hip-Hop Producers Tweezy and Gemini Major Set for Instagram Live Beat Battle

Two of South Africa's hip-hop super producers Tweezy and Gemini Major will face-off in upcoming Instagram live beat battle.

After Instagram live beat battles such as Swizz Beatz versus Timbaland and Mannie Fresh versus Scott Storch amid the lockdown to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, it was only a matter of time until the hip-hop community across the world followed suit.

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Image courtesy of Adekunle Adeleke

Spotlight: Adekunle Adeleke Creates Digital Surrealist Paintings That Celebrate African Beauty

Get familiar with the work of Nigerian visual artist Adekunle Adeleke.

In our 'Spotlight' series, we highlight the work of photographers, visual artists, multimedia artists and more who are producing vibrant, original work. In our latest piece, we spotlight Adekunle Adeleke, a Nigerian visual artist, using digital mediums to paint dream-like portraits of Africans. Read more about the inspirations behind his work below, and check out some of his stunning paintings underneath. Be sure to keep up with the artist on Instagram and Facebook.

Can you tell us more about your background and when you first started painting?

I am a self taught artist. I started drawing from when I was really young. I mostly used graphite pencils and paper. But about six years ago, I think it was 2014, I wanted to start getting into color. I was a university student at the time and I lived in a hostel with three other people, so I couldn't go traditional so [instead], I started making paintings digitally, first on my iPad and then on my laptop with a Wacom. I have been painting ever since.

What would you say are the central themes in your work?

I personally think my work celebrates beauty (African beauty to be precise) and occasionally absurd things. I really just want to make paintings that are beautiful.

How do you decide who or what you're going to paint?
I do not have an exact process. I do use a lot of references though. Sometimes, I had an idea of how exactly the painting would look, others I just make it up as i go along.

Can you talk about a particular moment or turning point in your life that made you want to pursue art or a creative path?

I am not sure–I did not actively pursue art in a sense. I was just doing it because it was fun and I wanted to. Then people all of a sudden wanted to put me on projects and offer to pay for my hobby. I have thankfully been able to make art and also work in a separate field—which I also enjoy–by day.

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News Brief
Photo by Dominique Faget/AFP via Getty Images.

Former Somali Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein​ Passes Away

Somalia has declared a 3-day mourning period following the death of the 83-year-old politician from the coronavirus.

The former Prime Minister of Somalia, Nur Hassan Hussein, passed away yesterday at the age of 83 according to reports by the Anadolu Agency.

After receiving treatment over the past few weeks at a hospital in London, England, the former politician passed away after having tested positive for the coronavirus. The Somali government has recently declared a nationwide 3-day mourning period following Hussein's death.

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