2022’s Polaris Music Prize winner is Congolese-born, Montreal-based singer/songwriter and DJ Pierre Kwenders, for his album José Louis and the Paradox of Love, released in April on Arts & Crafts. It’s the artist’s first time winning the coveted award for the best Canadian album of the year, and his third nomination overall. José Louis and the Paradox of Love becomes the first album featuring singing in Lingala, Kikongo and Tshiluba (as well as French and English) to win the Polaris Prize. 2021 winner Cadence Weapon revealed Kwenders as the winner.
“This is crazy, I don’t even know what to think,” said Kwenders, continuing:
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!
José Louis and the Paradox of Love followed Kwenders’ 2017 sophomore album MAKANDA at The End of Space, the Beginning of Time and his 2014 debut Le Dernier Empereur Bantou, both of which were also Polaris-nominated.
Kwenders’ latest triumphed over an impressive Short List of 10, including:
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
“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!”
Other recent Polaris winners include Backxwash (2020), Haviah Mighty (2019), Jeremy Dutcher (2018), Lido Pimienta (2017) and Kaytranada (2016).
Watch Kwenders accept his award below and listen to José Louis and the Paradox of Love here.