Montreal-based artist Pierre Kwenders has won the 2022 Polaris Music Prize for his album José Louis and the Paradox of Love. The award is handed out each year to the artist behind Canada’s best album of the year, as decided by a jury.
In his speech accepting the award, which comes with a $50,000 cash prize, thanked his aunt who moved to Canada in 1992 from Congo and encouraged his mother to follow her. He also mentioned losing his godfather and two of his cousins in the past couple of months.
"I remember the reason I do what I do and the reason why I do the music that I do and I tell the story that I tell with my music is to tell the story of the people that inspire me," he said. "And all those three people that I mentioned inspired me as fuck.”
José Louis and the Paradox of Love, released in April of this year, is a mix of electronic music, pop-R&B, and jazz with Kwenders singing in Lingala as well as English. Collaborators on the album include Tendai Maraire (Shabazz Palaces) and Arcade Fire's Win Butler. His previous albums, 2017's MAKANDA at The End of Space, the Beginning of Timehis 2014 debut Le Dernier Empereur Bantou were also nominated for the Polaris Prize.
Kwenders' album was picked above records by artists including Destroyer, Charlotte Day Wilson, Ouri, Snotty Nose Rez Kids, and more. The 2021 Polaris winner was Cadence Weapon for Parallel World.