Colombian immigrant Lido Pimienta has won the 2017 Polaris Music Prize for her album La Papessa.

The Spanish-language independent release — which translates to "high priestess" — was picked Monday night by an 11-member jury based on artistic merit; the prize is said to honour the best Canadian album of the year.

Pimienta, who takes home a $50,000 award, was considered an underdog contender among better-known short listed acts like Feist, Gord Downie, A Tribe Called Red and Leonard Cohen. But she was praised by critics for releasing her album independently on her own label. She didn't even have a manager until two weeks ago.

MUSIC Polaris Music Prize 20170918

Lido Pimienta performs during the Polaris Music Prize gala in Toronto on Monday. She won this year's prize for her album La Papessa. (Chris Donovan/Canadian Press)

"I am very proud to be here because I work really hard," she said.

"It means you don't have to be white, you don't have to be skinny, you don't have to be blonde. You don't have to sing in English or in French. And you can stand by what you want to do and what you want to say."

Expletive-fuelled ending

Many of La Papessa​'s songs touch on politically charged topics such as patriarchy, an approach she brought with her to her acceptance speech. 

She moved to Canada from Colombia a decade ago and called out the racism she has faced here.

"Perhaps the only thing I can say is I hope that the Aryan specimen who told me to go back to my own country two weeks after I arrived in London, Ont., Canada, is watching this," she said to cheers.

Standing next to her son and her mother, she told the crowd the album honoured her brother, who died in 2013.

"This album is about breaking up. This album is about getting back on your feet by yourself in the big city with your son and some drawings under your arm."

And on that note, she started to walk off the stage, but paused, shrugged and began an expletive-fuelled rant about monitor problems during her performance earlier in the night.

"Thank you though, motherf--cker," she concluded. 

'I don't drink. I don't smoke. I don't do drugs'

It was a fiery moment in a show full of them.

Short-listed performer Tanya Tagaq performed Nirvana's Rape Me while members of the crowd rose in red dresses, fists raised to bring attention to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. She returned to the stage for a loud, powerful performance with fellow shortlisted act Weaves.

And Polaris Prize founder Steve Jordan had to start the post-show news conference with an apology to Pimienta for the sound issues, something she begrudgingly accepted.

She warmed up as the Q&A went on, opening up about her artistic process.

Lido Pimienta talks Colombia, existing in the Canadian landscape and learning to be an artist38:27

"I don't drink. I don't smoke. I don't do drugs. And I don't mess around with useless people," she told reporters. "I don't make music that has nothing to say. I cannot be bothered by it."

The Polaris prize for best album is considered one of Canada's most prestigious music awards. Past winners include Feist, Arcade Fire and Kaytranada, who took home last year's prize.

With files from The Canadian Press