Language, nationality, geography, and genre pose no barriers for the force of nature that is Pierre Kwenders. The winner of the 2022 Polaris Music Prize for his mind-bending album José Louis and the Paradox of Love, Kwenders embraces his heritage in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and within Canada’s African diaspora, while rearranging the definition of Canadian music. Born José Louis Modabi and adopting his grandfather’s name for his artistic endeavours, Kwenders sings and raps in Lingala, French, English, Tshiluba, and Kikongo, bouncing between sexy pop, enthusiastic electronic beats, and a solid taste of rich Congolese rumba. It’s simultaneously smooth and sultry, contemplative and joyful, and modern and nostalgic. The boundary between José and Pierre has become as blurry as those that define everything else in Kwenders’ process, and the result is a new world of music, culture, love and a pure life-affirming expression of self. The fact that we all get to dance along as Kwenders repaints the lines makes it all the sweeter.
Biography by Elizabeth Chorney Booth