Montreal-based artist Pierre Kwenders has won the 2022 Polaris Music Prize for the album José Louis And The Paradox Of Love. The Prize, presented by CBC Music, was awarded to Kwenders at a Gala held at The Carlu in Toronto last night (Sept. 19).
The Polaris Music Prize goes to the best Canadian album of the year based on artistic merit without regard to genre, sales history or label affiliation. It was determined by a Grand Jury of 11 music media professionals drawn from the greater Polaris jury pool of 197 writers, editors, broadcasters, DJs and personalities from across the country. This was the 17th edition of the Polaris Music Prize.
Kwenders’ victory came with a $50,000 monetary reward with the nine other Short List nominees each receiving $3,000 courtesy of Slaight Music. Additionally, Play MPE awarded Kwenders with a global music promotion distribution package for one release (single or album) worth up to $3,025 CAD. Play MPE will also gift all nine remaining Short List artists with distribution packages worth up to $1,000 CAD each.
Pierre Kwenders is the stage name of José Louis Modabi, a Congolese-Canadian musician. His 2014 album Le Dernier empereur bantou was a shortlisted nominee for the Juno Award for World Music Album of the Year in 2015, and a longlisted nominee for the 2015 Polaris Music Prize.
Accepting the Prize, Kwenders noted that “This is crazy, I don’t even know what to think. This is for all the kids from the diaspora, the African diaspora, moving to 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!” Check out his full acceptance speech here.
The 2022 Polaris Short List was:
Destroyer - Labyrinthitis
Pierre Kwenders - José Louis And The Paradox Of Love
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
Kwenders’ name was revealed by Polaris 2021 winner Cadence Weapon, capping a night of musical performances at the Polaris Gala. The gala also featured an evening-opening performance from Cadence Weapon as well as sets from Short List nominees Pierre Kwenders, Lisa Leblanc, Hubert Lenoir, Kelly McMichael, Ombiigizi, Ouri, Shad, Snotty Nose Rez Kids and Charlotte Day Wilson. Toronto act Fresh Pepper also interpreted two songs from Destroyer’s Labyrinthitis album.
Hosted by CBC Music’s Angeline Tetteh-Wayoe, the Polaris Gala was broadcast in Canada on the free CBC Gem, CBC Music’s Facebook, YouTube and Twitter pages and globally at cbcmusic.ca/polaris. The coverage was part of CBC Music’s Short List Summer, an editorial campaign across its services which included essays and videos focusing on this year’s Short List nominees as well as The Ten spotlight radio series. Devoting one episode to each of the Short List nominees, The Ten aired throughout the summer via CBC Music and CBC Listen. Episodes of The Ten are available on-demand here and you can re-watch the Polaris Gala on CBC Gem.
The Grand Jury who decided the winner included Jenny Feniak (Edmonton Journal), Dany Gallant (CISM), Élise Jetté (Freelance Journalist / Journaliste pigiste), Marc-Xavier Leblanc (Freelance Journalist / Journaliste pigiste), Brennan McCracken (Freelance Journalist / Journaliste pigiste), Daniel McIntosh (Freelance Journalist / Journaliste pigiste), Olivia Michalczuk (Freelance Journalist / Journaliste pigiste), Max Mohenu (Freelance Journalist / Journaliste pigiste), Marie-Lise Rousseau (Journal Métro), Melissa Tobin (CBC Radio 1) and Jasper Sloan Yip (CITR).
"It's always an incredible honour to oversee the Polaris Prize Grand Jury. After a hiatus from gathering in spaces of live music, the generous, heartfelt and astute discussion from our devoted Grand Jury matches the undeniable spirit of excitement in the air,” said Polaris Jury Foreperson Melissa Vincent. “Their zeal symbolizes the many, many excellent Canadian albums recognized. What a year! We couldn't be more pleased to congratulate Pierre and all the nominees!"
The return of Polaris’ signature live event was also a celebration of art and community. The night kicked off with the first-ever Official Gala Opening Reception presented by FACTOR. The reception's guest list that included past Polaris winners as well as an array of Polaris Short List and Long List nominees from 2020 and 2021. Inspired by the mysterious music of Canada’s natural landscape, The Carlu was transformed into a large-scale light and sound installation by creative director Daniel Tal using creative 4D floral designs from Alex McLeod as well as installations from local artists Odessa Dobbie, Graham Teeple and Lauren Pirie, all produced by Vox Future. The official #Polaris2022 After-Party was in The Carlu’s Round Room immediately following the winner announcement.
The Polaris Gala capped a busy three months in the Polaris universe. Polaris released its 40-nominee album Long List on June 14 before narrowing down that to the 10 contenders Short List on July 14. The Polaris Music Prize 2022 Poster Launch & Exhibition, a month-long gallery takeover at Underscore Projects (1486 Dundas Street West, Toronto) opened on September 8 to showcase Polaris’ vast archive of silkscreen art posters inspired by its many past nominees. Additionally, the Polaris Gala marked the official reveal of the 12 albums being considered for the 2022 Slaight Family Polaris Heritage Prize, our hall of fame-minded critics prize/public polling campaign celebrating Canadian albums of the past. Two new Heritage Prize-winning albums will be announced on October 21.
Albums eligible for 2022 Polaris Music Prize consideration must be released between May 1, 2021, and May 31, 2022. An independent jury of music media from across Canada determines the Long List and Short List. Eleven people from the larger jury pool are then chosen to serve on the Grand Jury. This Grand Jury convenes at the Polaris Gala to select the Polaris Music Prize winner.
The past winners are Cadence Weapon (2021), Backxwash (2020), Haviah Mighty (2019), Jeremy Dutcher (2018), Lido Pimienta (2017), Kaytranada (2016), Buffy Sainte-Marie (2015), Tanya Tagaq (2014), Godspeed You! Black Emperor (2013), Feist (2012), Arcade Fire (2011), Karkwa (2010), Fucked Up (2009), Caribou (2008), Patrick Watson (2007) and Final Fantasy / Owen Pallett (2006).
Polaris Music Prize 2022 Event Season
June 14 – Long List Announcement: The Long List is where Polaris reveals the 40 nominated albums that will be considered for a given year’s Prize.
July 14 – Short List Announcement: Selected from the 40 album Long List, the Short List is where Polaris reveals the 10 finalist albums that will be considered for a given year’s Prize.
September 19 – Polaris Gala: Our prestige winner reveal event, the Polaris Gala features live musical performances from the nominated acts on the Polaris Short List. The Polaris Prize winner is determined day-of at the Gala by an 11-member Polaris Grand Jury selected from the greater Polaris juror pool.
October 21 – Slaight Family Polaris Heritage Prize: The Heritage Prize is a hall of fame-minded critics prize/public polling campaign meant to celebrate classic Canadian albums created before Polaris began in 2006. Like the Polaris Music Prize, winners and nominees of the Heritage Prize are albums of the highest artistic distinction, without regard to sales or affiliations.
We acknowledge the financial support of FACTOR, the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage (Canada Music Fund) and of Canada's Private Radio Broadcasters.
About the Polaris Music Prize
The Polaris Music Prize is a not-for-profit organization that annually honours and rewards artists who produce Canadian music albums of distinction. A select panel of music critics judge and award the Prize without regard to musical genre or commercial popularity.
Polaris Fast Facts:
40 Long List nominees
10 Short List nominees
1 Polaris Music Prize winner of the $50,000 prize
9 runner-up winners of $3,000 courtesy of Slaight Music
2 Heritage Prize winners
196 Polaris Posters commissioned by visual artists across the country
200+ annual jury participants
1,000 annual Gala guests
$831,000 in prize money given to musicians
160 Short List nominees have been provided with in-kind media attention
20 Not-for-Profit and charity partners supported through the Community Development Program