The 17th edition of the Polaris Music Prize has been awarded to Pierre Kwenders for his album José Louis And The Paradox Of Love. It is his first Polaris Music Prize win.
Kwenders received the award at a gala event in Toronto on September 19. His name was revealed by Polaris 2021 winner Cadence Weapon. He called out his heritage in his acceptance speech.
“This is crazy, I don’t even know what to think. This is for all the kids from the diaspora, the African diaspora, moving in Canada. Sometimes you feel like you don’t know what you’re running into, or what you’re coming into. But there is hope, there is a place to live and dream and be yourself. This album, especially, is about being yourself and telling your own story. José Louis And The Paradox Of Love is there for you, you know, if you feel you can connect, connect! Let’s talk! Let’s have fun! Let’s be ourselves! Let’s love each other, while we are alive. Bisou!”
The Polaris Music Prize is awarded by a Grand Jury of 11 music professionals from across the country. It is given to a release based solely on artistic merit, without looking at sales, label or genre. Previous Polaris winners include Jeremy Dutcher and Lido Pimienta.
Kwender’s prize includes $50,000, along with a worldwide distributions package for one release (either a single or album) that’s worth up to $3,025 CAD.
Pierre Kwenders is also known as José Louis Modabi. Born in Kinshasa, the Congolese-Canadian artist makes his home in Montréal.
After emigrating to Canada as a teenager, he soon began making his mark on the music scene. A guest appearance on a 2012 album got media and fan attention, leading to the release of two of his own EPs in 2013. His first full-length album, Le Dernier empereur bantou was shortlisted for the 2015 Juno for World Music Album of the Year. He was longlisted for the Polaris the same year. His 2017 release Makanda at the End of Space, the Beginning of Time was shortlisted for the 2018 Polaris. It’s only a few of the many accolades and recognition that he’s received as a musician and songwriter.
Kwenders sings and raps in French, English, Lingala, and Tshiluba, and likewise blends elements of Central African and Western pop into his music. His winning album, José Louis and the Paradox of Love, is as much about personal as musical growth, and demonstrates his songwriting skill.
He’ll be on tour with his new album from Montreal to Victoria into February, kicking off in New York City in December.
It pays to be a runner-up…
The runners-up on the shortlist will receive $3,000 each courtesy of Slaight Music, with a distribution package valued at $1,000 CAD. The remainder of the shortlist is:
- Destroyer — LABYRINTHITIS
- Lisa Leblanc — Chiac Disco
- Hubert Lenoir — PICTURA DE IPSE : Musique directe
- Kelly McMichael — Waves
- Ombiigizi — Sewn Back Together
- Ouri — Frame of a Fauna
- Shad — TAO
- Snotty Nose Rez Kids — Life After
- Charlotte Day Wilson — ALPHA
The Polaris Gala was broadcast via various CBC outlets, as well as online.
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