Congolese-born, Montreal-based musician, songwriter, and DJ Pierre Kwenders has won the 2022 Polaris Music Prize for his third album, José Louis and the Paradox of Love. An 11-member jury selected the record as the Canadian album of the year, based on artistic merit, without regard to genre, sales, or record label. The announcement was made at the Carlu in Toronto on Sept. 19 — Polaris’ first in-person celebration since 2019.
In his acceptance speech, Kwenders thanked family, friends, and collaborators who contributed to the telling of his journey: “This is for all the kids from the diaspora… This is my story. This is my African story, my Congolese story, my Canadian story. This is your story if you want to take it as yours.”
José Louis and the Paradox of Love — José Louis is Kwenders’ real name — is the first album featuring singing in Lingala, Kikongo and Tshiluba, in addition to French and English, to win the Polaris Music Prize.
The album features a wide range of global sounds and influences including Congolese rumba, electronic music, pop, R&B and jazz. The album was written and recorded in various cities across borders including Montreal, Lisbon, Seattle, New York City, Philadelphia, and New Orleans.
The Polaris Music Prize, which was modeled after the United Kingdom/Ireland’s Mercury Prize, was first presented in 2006. Previous recipients include Caribou’s Andorra (2008), Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs (2011), Feist’s Metals (2012), Kaytranada’s 99.9% (2016) and Lido Pimienta’s La Papessa (2017).
The award is accompanied by a $50,000 prize.