Pierre Kwenders wins Polaris Music Prize

The Polaris Music Prize jury rewarded author, composer, performer and DJ Pierre Kwenders on Monday evening for his album José Louis And the Paradox of Love, an interpretation as intimate as it is modern of the dancing rhythms of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he is from. This is only the second album performed (mostly) in French in the history of this prize inaugurated in 2006. Kwenders becomes the seventh artist – or group – from Quebec in 17 years to win the Polaris rewarding « artists with created renowned Canadian music albums”, to which a $50,000 grant is attached.

A fully deserved award for the musician who, since his first album The Last Bantu Emperor (2014), has woven a musical web around him including the Moonshine collective, which organizes dance parties in the United States, Europe and South America, in addition to offering musical programs on the famous Rinse web radio stations. FM and NTS. live, both British. The Scrapbook José Louis And the Paradox of Love goes in the same direction: a personal work propelled by African rhythms addressing the entire planet through the filter of electronic music intended for the dance floor.

This disc, « it’s the story of so many young Africans who discovered themselves – it’s my story as an African, a Canadian, a Congolese », declared Pierre Kwenders while accepting his prize, on the stage of the Carlu , in Toronto. The musician, who had performed earlier in the evening after spending the summer touring the stages of music festivals in Quebec, in his speech saluted some members of his recently deceased family; the album “tells the story of the people who inspired me,” he added.

Kwenders joins the long list of Quebec musicians who have marked the history of Polaris, after Patrick Watson (2007), Karkwa (2010), Arcade Fire (2011), Godspeed you! Black emperor (2013), Kaytranada (2016) and Backxwash (2020). The short list of ten albums in the running for the 2022 Polaris Prize once again illustrated the ancestry of the Quebec music scene since it also included the excellent album Frame of a Fauna by the composer Ouri and PICTURA DE IPSE: Direct Music of Hubert Lenoir — and, let’s be a bit chauvinistic, of chic disco of Acadian Lisa Leblanc, Quebecer by adoption.

This short list also included two captivating First Peoples projects, that of the rap duo Snotty Nose Rez Kids (from the Haislas people, in British Columbia) and the Anishinaabe indie rock group OMBIIGIZI, which includes Daniel Monkman of the formation Zoon. Vancouver veteran Dan Bejar’s Destroyer Project, Toronto r&b musician Charlotte Day Wilson, London, Ontario rapper Shad (who appeared on this shortlist for a fifth time) and Ontario indie rock singer-songwriter Kelly McMichael completed the circle of creators of the ten best Canadian albums of the year, according to an extensive jury of industry critics.

The only downside to this victory, Pierre Kwenders had to deliver his speech in a bare room. Webcast by CBC, the Polaris Music Prize Gala was notable for its amateurishness, stretching over four hours punctuated by laborious set changes almost as long as the performances offered by the competing musicians , starting with that of the recipient of the 2021 edition of the Polaris, the rapper Cadence Weapon. The performance of the Montrealer Ouri will have marked the spirits by its sophistication, that of Hubert Lenoir by its madness.

The approach of the organization of the Polaris Prize is inspired by that of the British Mercury Prize, inaugurated in 1992 and whose 31st gala, originally scheduled for September 9, had to be postponed due to the death the same day of Queen Elizabeth. II. According to the takers, the Little Simz, Self Esteem and Wet Leg formations are favorites to take the honors.


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