Welcome to the LU KALA era.

The pop-forward singer-songwriter is on a years-long roll in her career. She has more than 277,000 followers on TikTok, with more than  218,000 videos posted – almost all created by fans – for her breakout song and self-empowerment anthem, “Pretty Girl Era.” She has more than 50 million streams on Spotify alone, and more than 136,000 followers on Instagram, where several of her reels have topped 1.2  million each. She was featured on Latto’s song “Lottery,” which spent 16 weeks on the Billboard Canadian Hot 100, and has been streamed more than 40 million times on Spotify.

Lu KALA, Pretty Girl Era

Select the image to play the YouTube video of the LU KALA song “Pretty Girl Era”

“Pretty Girl Era” resonated strongly with a lot of listeners, to say the least. “It felt good to write a self-love song,” says LU KALA. “I’m happy that people are kind of using it as their theme song. The world would be a better place if everybody woke up and streamed ‘Pretty Girl Era’!” she laughs. She’s obviously joking, but she’s not wrong, either.

While LU KALA is a self-confirmed creator of pop music, she was happy to mix it up with rapper Latto for “Lottery.”  “I’d written the hook with some friends, and Latto had heard it, and she was a fan of it,” she says. “I loved when I heard her rap to it, ‘cause I love rap, but I hadn’t seen a world where I ended up mixing with rap music… I’m so happy [to have created a song] where you have a massive pop hook, and then you have a rapper on the verses.”

As is often the case, what appears to be an overnight success was only achieved after a long period of sustained effort. “I’ve been working my butt off for so many years,” says LU. “Just trying to find the opportunity, trying to get people to listen to my stuff. But I think the hustle makes it all worth it. I knew how badly I wanted this, and still want this. It’s just nice to see that my efforts weren’t wasted. I feel like a lot of people would say, ‘You should just give up. This is clearly not going to happen.’ But I was, like, ‘No, this is going to happen. I just haven’t found my tribe yet.”

LU’s Views: Four Tips for Novice Music-Makers

  1. “Keep working. Don’t give up too soon.”
  2. “Stop comparing yourself to everybody else.”
  3. “Master your craft. You can always be better.”
  4. “Be kind to people. People will not always remember what you say to them, but they will remember how you made them feel.”

For one example of that hard work, LU’s team assigned her the task of writing a new song every day – for a year, not including her regular writing sessions with other people. “And I was willing to do it, because I had to remind myself: how badly do you really want it?” says LU. “When New Year’s, I think it was 2021, hit, my friends were saying, ‘Aren’t you coming out?’ I was saying, ‘No, I have to get this song done.’ They were, like, ‘You work so hard, you’ve got to take some time off.’ I was, like, ‘I understand that you guys feel that way, but I really want it. If I finish in time and I make it, that’s great.’ But I rang in the new year writing songs.”

While she was on the come up, LU KALA co-wrote the song ”Dangerous” with DVSN and Stephen “Koz” Kozmeniuk, that was recorded by Jennifer Hudson, and was often found in writing rooms for others. But she’s always been more devoted to her own career as an artist. “I would perform at showcases, and then get invited by people to come into rooms to write songs,” she says. “That was cool, that was fun, it’s always nice to express yourself, or try to tap into what someone else is going through, and try to express that. But my passion was always my own artistry. I just didn’t know how to make it happen, in the beginning.”

She does now, as befits the unabashed ambition that accompanies her work ethic. “You always want the next win,” says LU. “That’s kind of how my brain works. When we hit 35,000 videos [on TikTok], I was, like, ‘How do we get 50?’ And someone I work with said, ‘No, it’s, how do we hit 100?’ So I was, like, ‘Oh, OK. Let’s hit 100!’”

LU KALA, Latto, Lottery

Select the image to play the YouTube video of “Lottery,” by Latto, featuring LU KALA

While that determination sometimes makes it hard for LU to take in some of her big career moments, she does stop occasionally to do so. Like going Top 10 on radio charts in both America and Canada. Or getting her first billboard in Times Square (“That’s always been on my vision board”). Or performing at the 2023 Billboard Women in Music Awards, and meeting Woman of the Year SZA there. “I finally got to meet her, which was amazing,” says LU. “She kind of yelled from across the room, ‘I’m such a fan of yours!’ She came over, and then started complimenting me, and singing ‘Pretty Girl Era’ to me!”

LU has openly spoken about the challenge of being “a plus-size Black woman making pop music,” as she puts it. Perhaps Lizzo has opened that particular door for her, and others? “Pre-Lizzo, [people would doubt] if it was believable, or if it was something that would ‘sell,’ quote unquote,” she says. “Even post-Lizzo, unfortunately, sometimes no matter how hard you try to open the door for those after you, a lot of times the door only opens for you… I sometimes feel like I’m still starting at ground zero, trying to open the door for myself… It’s always tough to break an act that just looks completely different than what you’ve been told pop is supposed to look like. I think that when a lot of people think of pop, they think of, like, thinner, blond hair, blue eyes…

“People say I’m R&B/pop, or just R&B, but I would never get played on R&B playlists, at least not with the things I’ve released to date. It’s like you’re only attaching that to me because I’m Black… But I’m not afraid to go up against the world, and show that, ‘No, this is what I make, and I’m here to stay.’”

After a self-titled EP (2019), Innu singer-songwriter Karen Pinette-Fontaine, known as Kanen, released her debut album, Mitshuap (house, in Innu-aimun) in the spring of 2023. She’s since endeavoured to get on any stage that will have her, to shine and fill the space with words from her home, Uashat mak Mani-Utenam.

KanenKanen’s songs are a never-ending process of discovery, and she’s learned the language of her ancestors in order to sing in it.

“I didn’t think I had such a personal bond with the territory,” she says. “But as it turns out, in the Innu language, the way you perceive the environment exists grammatically, if you will. There’s the inanimate and the animate. That which exists and that which is immobile. There’s a lot of life in the language of where I’m from… It’s like a movement, a breath.”

Artistically, she feels at the heart of this constant discovery: “My identity as an Innu woman, the territory where I live, my militancy, politics…,” says the singer-songwriter. Musically, Kanen refuses to stand still, and nourishes herself with anything she can get her hands on. “My two producers [Simon Walls and Jérémie Essiambre] opened a lot of doors for me that I didn’t even know existed, and I can now go much further than I thought in my compositions,” she says.

Anyone who’s enjoyed Kanen’s songs and onstage movement on the festival circuit in the summer of 2023 can attest to one thing: everything you hear on her album comes out onstage with the renewed energy of a fighter who demands to be heard.

“I think this physical expression of music makes me feel good and proud,” she explains. “I love expressing myself, but it doesn’t come easily. Music has made it easy for me to say stuff. I write, compose. and sing.”

And onstage, Kanen’s singing becomes a thousand times bigger. Her desire to take every person in the audience by the hand, to invite them into her story, becomes real. Night after night, she plants her roots knowing that she has to take over the space in the nicest possible way. “I hit my target,” she says laughing. “I take a bit of home with me everywhere I go and share it, like I do with my stage musicians. It magnifies the message, the singing, and the ideas.”

Kanen, Mitshuap

Select the image to access the YouTube video playlist of the Kanen album Mitshuap

There’s no doubt in her mind that Indigenous languages need to be learned and expanded if they’re going to survive, and the current trend is palpable to Kanen. “We’re in a good zone,” she says. “Learning is the hardest part, but I think we’re allowing ourselves to multiply the ways we can learn. People take classes and understand what Indigenous languages can bring them, and how they can say things differently.” And obviously, she perceives music as a vehicle for words that need to be heard. This is how she can do her part.

What Kanen needs is to write is an Innu dictionary for herself. “I have to bend over backwards even to write a simple sentence,” she says, laughing. “I did take Innu-aimun lessons, but it’s never enough for everything I’d love to say. There are words that describe a vision or a state of being. I want my lyrics to be very descriptive. I often wonder where my subject is at once I’ve completed my sentence. It really is a lot of work.”

She does confirm that mixing French and Innu was essential for her first album. “It would be far from being released if I’d restricted myself to Innu,” she chuckles. As a matter of fact, it’s by looking at what she’s writing that she’s able to understand where she stands in her learning process.

“The next album certainly won’t be 100% in Indigenous language, but again, it’ll reflect where I’m at. It’s been so long since I’ve created something,” she admits. “But before that, I want to learn new instruments and come out of my Mitshuap cocoon. I have a few texts here and there… It’s simmering slowly.”

In the meantime, she pumps her fist in the air, dances, sings, and smashes guitars onstage. “There’s a quiet strength inside me that I know will take quite a while to let out,” she says with a laugh.


Initially trained as a guitarist, Kim Gaboury first made a name for himself with Akido, an electronic music project, before switching almost exclusively to composing for TV and film. After being nominated three times in the upcoming Gala des Gémeaux, the happily busy music creator generously took time away from his studio, where he works on several projects simultaneously, to answer our questions.

Kim Gaboury loves deadlines. Creating under pressure, to deliver an incredible amount of music in very little time, and having to deal with the sometimes insane requirements of the TV and film production universe, have been part and parcel of his daily life for years. And despite the fact that he’s exhausted most of the time, he wouldn’t change anything.

“Composing is organizing sounds in space and time, but when you’re a screen composer, you need another level of time management,” he explains. “We exist at the end of the chain, so we suffer for any production delay. But at the same time, there’s something stimulating in knowing that our music can change the tone of a scene. Besides, stress isn’t always negative, it can also be stimulating. As my friend Michel Cusson always says, no deadline, no music!”

Gaboury doesn’t drop the UZEB guitarist’s name just to brag. Before becoming a friend and collaborator, Michel Cusson was Gaboury’s mentor, the person who literally taught him the rudiments of screen composing. “My Akido project already existed, but I wanted to earn a living from making music,” he remembers. “I enrolled at Musitechnic, but I’d been playing music since the age of 11, and I also had a solid knowledge of studio techniques. I quickly realized that wouldn’t teach me much and just quit a week later.”

Kim Gaboury

Photo by Kim Gaboury

That was back in 2004. Determined to acquire practical knowledge, Kim sought out real professionals who could help put his career on the right path, and Cusson’s name was at the top of his wish list. “I’m not the type to insist when I’m told no, but I had to ask three times before he said yes!” says Gaboury. “It became clear very quickly that I wouldn’t just be his assistant, but a collaborator.”

Almost a decade later, Gaboury and Cusson founded the Melodika collective, and surrounded themselves with other composers in order to meet the increasing demand of the film and TV world. Their relationship deepened as time went on, and the best example of that is their collaboration on major TV projects like Unité 9, À coeur battant and District 31. “It took me years to master this form of composition,” says Gaboury. “Now, it’s become a playground where I have fun. Despite the obvious constraints, there’s a huge amount of freedom when you’re working with images: I can allow myself to do really weird stuff, like using noise, or experimental music, even in a mainstream series.”

Despite the fact that he’s being pestered by some of his following who’d like to hear more Akido productions, it seems that the project will lie fallow until further notice. The fact is, Gaboury is increasingly enjoying working on projects like Classé Secret, a police drama by Stéphan Beaudoin, featuring Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin.

Gaboury’s three nominations at this year’s Gala des Gémeaux are in the Best Original Music and Best Original Theme Song categories for Classé Secret, and Best Theme Song for Les histoires bizarres du professeur Zarbi, by the creators of Têtes à Claques.

“I’m always surprised and touched that people in the industry think of me, but I also try not to give too much value to awards. Mind you, maybe that’s just because I haven’t won a Gémeaux yet!” he says with a giggle. “But this year is very different, because I’m competing against Hans Zimmer [nominated for his score to Xavier Dolan’s La nuit où Laurier Gaudreault s’est réveillé (The Night Logan Woke Up)], which is absolutely surreal!”

Aside from winning a Gémeaux Award over the celebrated German-American film composer, does Gaboury still have any professional dreams left to fulfil? “A major TV series like Ozark or Breaking Bad, that develops over several seasons, would truly be a gift,” he says. “Otherwise, I hope to keep working with the director Stéphan Beaudoin, because if there’s anyone in Québec who can create a great series that will sell internationally, it’s him.”