Polaris

Pierre Kwenders wins the 2022 Polaris Music Prize

Pierre Kwenders has won the 2022 Polaris Music Prize for his 2022 album, José Louis and the Paradox of Love. 

The $50K prize goes to the Montreal-based artist for his 3rd album, José Louis and the Paradox of Love

Pierre Kwenders arrives onstage after winning the 2022 Polaris Music Prize. (Dustin Rabin)

Pierre Kwenders has won the 2022 Polaris Music Prize for his 2022 album, José Louis and the Paradox of Love

An 11-member jury selected the record as the Canadian album of the year, based solely on artistic merit. This announcement was made at the Carlu in Toronto on Sept. 19, at Polaris's first in-person celebration since 2019 due to the pandemic.

In his emotional acceptance speech, Kwenders paid tribute to three family members he lost recently: his two cousins and his godfather. "The reason why I do what I do, why I tell the story that I tell," he said, "is to tell the story of the people that inspire me. All those three people inspired me." 

He continued: "This is a story of so many people, so many Africans, so many disapora African guys and young girls moving here and discovering themselves. And I just happened to discover myself, discover who I am, in Canada.

"And I'm very grateful for Canada, to give me the space to really, really discover myself." 

While non-English albums have won in the past, José Louis and the Paradox of Love marks the first winning album to feature Lingala, Kikongo and Tshiluba, in addition to French and English. (The last French album to win was Karkwa's Les chemins de verre in 2010).

As his most personal album yet  — José Louis is Kwenders's real name — José Louis and the Paradox of Love "sees Kwenders open his heart wide to explore the nuance of love, and its many powerful languages," Kyle Mullin wrote for CBC Music earlier this month, in our Shortlist Shortcut series.

The album also features a wide range of global sounds and influences including Congolese rumba, electronic music, pop, R&B and jazz. 

This year marked Kwenders's second short-list nomination. His first time on the short list was in 2018 for his sophomore album, Makanda at the End of Space, the Beginning of Time, which lost to Jeremy Dutcher's Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa.

Full Kwenders's full speech below. 


For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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