Pierre Kwenders has won the Polaris Music Prize 2022 for his album 2022, José Louis and the Paradox of Love.
An 11-member jury selected the record as Canada’s Album of the Year based solely on artistic merit. This announcement was made at the Carlu in Toronto on September 19, during Polaris’ first in-person celebration since 2019 due to the pandemic.
In his emotional acknowledgment, Kwenders paid tribute to three family members he recently lost: his two cousins and his godfather. “The reason I do what I do, why I tell the story I tell,” he said, “is to tell the story of the people who inspire me. All those three people inspired me.”
He continued: “This is a story of so many people, so many Africans, so many neglected African boys and young girls who move here and discover themselves. And I happened to discover myself, discover who I am, in Canada.
“And I’m very grateful to Canada, for giving me the space to really discover myself.”
While non-English albums have won in the past, José Louis and the Paradox of Love marks the first winning album with 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 to date – José Louis is Kwenders’ real name – José Louis and the Paradox of Love “sees Kwenders opening his heart wide to explore the nuance of love and its many powerful languages,” Kyle Mullin wrote for TNZT Music earlier this month in our Shortlist Shortcut series.
The album also includes a wide variety of global sounds and influences, including Congolese rumba, electronic music, pop, R&B, and jazz.
This year was Kwender’s second shortlist nomination. His first time on the shortlist was in 2018 for his second album, Makanda at the end of space, the beginning of timewho lost to Jeremy Dutcher’s Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa.