Gala SPACQ 2021For its 16th edition, the SPACQ Foundation (Société professionnelle des auteurs et des compositeurs du Québec) unveiled the winners of its annual awards ceremony on Sept. 27, 2021, at the Imperial Theatre in Montréal. In total,16 prizes of $10,000 each were awarded to singers, songwriters, and composers on the Québec cultural scene. Louise Forestier hosted the event for a thirteenth year.

SOCAN, represented by its President of the Board of Directors Marc Ouellette, and Chief Membership Officer Jean-Christian Céré, presented Gaële with the Stéphane Venne Award for a non-performing songwriter. She receives this award for her body of work, well established over the years, thanks to her knack for the right word, a clever rhyme, and highly evocative images.

“Sixteen years already!” said Diane Juster, President of Fondation SPACQ. “Year after year, it’s always with renewed pleasure that Fondation SPACQ celebrates the accomplishments of authors and composers while gathering not only those creators, but businesspeople, broadcasters, and other major players in our musical ecosystem. The major changes in our industry are getting deeper and deeper, and have a major impact on the state of music creators. It is vital that we keep defending their interests, and stop the erosion of their rights. Thanks to the continued commitment of our partners, Fondation SPACQ is able to shine a light on, and recognize, the tremendous talent of our creators.”

SOCAN congratulates the 2021 winners:

PRIX ANDRÉ-DÉDÉ-FORTIN – Presented by Stingray
Budding Career

PRIX RICHARD GRÉGOIRE – Presented by Hydro-Québec
Film Music

PRIX BEAU DOMMAGE – Presented by RNC Média
Creative Bond


PRIX PAUL DARAÎCHE – Presented by Arsenal Média
Country Music

Writing for Others

PRIX ÉDITH BUTLER – Presented by Bell Média
Canadian Francophonie

PRIX DIANE JUSTER – Presented by Sirius
Social Involvement

PRIX ROBERT CHARLEBOIS – Presented by Power Corporation
International Success

PRIX EDDY-MARNAY – Presented by Productions Feeling

PRIX SYLVAIN-LELIÈVRE – Presented by Fiera Capital
Passing the Baton

PRIX LUCILLE-DUMONT – Presented by Industrielle Alliance

PRIX ANDRÉ GAGNON – Presented by Québecor
Instrumental Music

PRIX GILLES VIGNEAULT – Presented by the National Bank
Ongoing Career

PRIX LUC PLAMONDON – Presented by ICI Musique

Exceptional Imagination

Unlike so many musicians during the pandemic, Shoshona Kish and Amanda Rheaume weren’t trying to find ways fill up too much time on their hands.

Besides their longstanding and successful careers as singer-songwriters and recording artists themselves, Kish (who is Anishinaabekwe, and a member of the JUNO Award-winning duo Digging Roots) and Rheaume (Métis Nation and a Canadian Folk Music Award winner) have busy lives as activists in their Indigenous communities.

They first met onstage at the Ottawa Folk Festival in 2003, and in 2017 they got together to launch the International Indigenous Music Summit, now in its fourth year. It was while working on the Summit that they first considered the idea of launching a record label of their own. Their partnership proved to be bigger than the sum of its two parts. According to Rheaume, “It’s sisterhood, like family. The connection and the alchemy is just that much stronger.”

First Up: Aysanabee
Ishkode Records’ first signing is Toronto-based Oji-Cree singer-songwriter Aysanabee. The multi-instrumentalist creates genre-defying music, which makes him a perfect fit for the new label, and his debut Ishkode release will be an album in 2022. “I think it’s really exciting,” says Kish, “and I think that these are voices that haven’t been heard. I think we’re going to hear all sorts of new sounds and new ideas that we currently don’t have access to.”

Ishkode Records (pronounced, ish-KOH-day) – the first major-label-distributed (by Universal) Canadian record company created and run by Indigenous women – is the end result. On a three-way conference call, Kish explains that “As we were looking at the ecology of indigenous music here and abroad, we came to realize some of the big gaps” that existed and had to be filled.

Launching the label, which references its name from an Anishinaabe prophecy, wasn’t motivated by frustration with the music industry in general, nor a determination to make a statement of their own. “It was mostly inspiration,” says Kish. “There’s just so much extraordinary talent – these incredible voices and human beings that you want to work with, that you want to be a part of amplifying to the world.”

Just as their own music is completely distinctive from each other’s, the music to be found on Ishkode promises to be unpredictable. “Indigenous people and our nations, we’re so diverse,” says Rheaume. “It’s not all just the same.” The label, she said, will be “focusing on authenticity and truth telling. There are so many artists who are courageous, and are defining their own space, instead of trying to fit into a space that already exists.”

The label’s primary goal isn’t to create an umbrella definition for Indigenous music, but to provide a space devoted to narrative sovereignty. “Narrative sovereignty is really about self-determination,” says Kish. “How we tell our own stories – it’s a core thing that Indigenous people are fighting for. It’s an inherent right.”

While COVID-19 may have created the right space in time for both of them to embark on a new journey, “It would have happened inevitably,” says Kish. “Given everything that has happened in the world, it felt that to be engaged in really meaningful work, and make a real contribution, was very important to us at the time.” The label’s first release was the Digging Roots single, “The Healer,” on Aug. 5, 2021. Kish said they’ll have, “new offerings, new signings to announce In the upcoming weeks and months.”

SOCAN member Cadence Weapon won the 2021 edition of the $50,000 Polaris Prize for the best album in Canada, on Sept. 27, 2021, in an online version of the event, broadcast online from a rented loft in downtown Toronto.

Cadence Weapon, Polaris Music Prize, 2021It was the veteran rapper’s third time on the short list, after Breaking Kayfabe in 2006 and Hope in Dirt City in 2012. His winning 2020 album – on which the 11-person Polaris Grand Jury agreed – is Parallel World, a work of strong social comment set to electronic beats and sounds, created in an urgent burst of activity in the wake of the racial reckoning touched off by the death of George Floyd.

“I was listening to Sly’s There’s a Riot Goin’ On, Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, The Clash’s Combat Rock, Gil Scott-Heron’s Winter in America, all kinds of political albums,” he said in an online press conference after his win, and added that he was trying to update that kind of content with the with the trap, grime, drill, and futuristic rap sounds that he makes.

Cadence Weapon (born Rollie Pemberton) accepted the award virtually, from last year’s winner, Backxwash. At the press conference, he seemed truly surprised and pleased, saying, “I feel like I’m dreaming.”  After a brief congratulatory call from his sister in New York at the beginning of his appearance, he said, “It was really emotional for me. To get to this point it was a lot of hard work… This is a really important thing.”

He also shouted out Edmonton, where he was born and raised; Montréal, where he lived and worked for many years; and his current hometown of Toronto.

Asked how he would spend the prize money, Cadence Weapon said he was going to start, or complete, a GoFundMe to support Black Business grants the Little Jamaica community in Toronto. “It was like, ‘How can I use my platform for positivity?’” he said.

The 16th annual edition of the Polaris celebration was hosted by CBC Music’s Angeline Tetteh-Wayoe, and featured CBC Music’s Jess Huddleston, Polaris jury members Michelle Da Silva and Calum Slingerland, and CBC Music Afterdark’s Odario Williams, playing and discussing music from the 10 finalists – as well as two spooky, intense song performances from Backxwash.

While Cadence Weapon received $50,000 for the win, the nine other short list nominees each received $3,000, courtesy of Slaight Music. The 2021 Polaris short list was:

  • Leanne Betasamosake Simpson – Theory of Ice
  • Cadence Weapon – Parallel World
  • DijahSB – Head Above The Waters
  • Dominique Fils-Aimé – Three Little Words
  • Mustafa – When Smoke Rises
  • The OBGMs – The Ends
  • Klô Pelgag – Notre-Dame-des-Sept-Douleurs 
  • TOBi – ELEMENTS Vol. 1
  • The Weather Station – Ignorance
  • Zoon – Bleached Wavves

SOCAN congratulates all of the nominees, and winner Cadence Weapon, on their great achievements!