SOCAN member Pierre Kwenders won the 2022 edition of the $50,000 Polaris Prize for the best album in Canada, on Sept. 19, 2022, at The Carlu in downtown Toronto – in a gala presentation held live and in person for the first time in three years, and open to the general public for the first time.

Kwenders’ winning album José Louis and the Paradox of Love is a kind of origin story, set to songs co-written and recorded with a wide variety of musical collaborators from around the world. The result is a mesmerizing work on which the 11-person Polaris Grand Jury ultimately agreed. If you’d like to read what Kwenders had to say about his winning album when it first came out, click here.

Graciously and gratefully accepting the 17th edition of the award onstage from last year’s winner, Cadence Weapon, Kwenders talked about losing two cousins and his godfather in the past few months, and how thankful he is for all of the little things they did that inspired him, and helped make him who he is today.

“Thank you so much for believing in me,” he told the crowd. “Thank you so much for believing in the story I want to tell. This is a story about so many people: so many African, so many diaspora African guys, young, girls, whatever, moving here, and discovering themselves. I just happened to discover myself, discover who I am, in Canada. And I’m very grateful to Canada for giving me this place to really, really discover myself. This is my story, my African story, my Congolese story, my Canadian story, and this is your story if you want to take it as yours, and make it whatever you want to make it.”

The 2022 Gala featured an intense opening performance from Cadence Weapon, and captivating live performances from the short-list nominees as well, each of whom received a $3,000 prize: a stirring Afro-pop medley from Kwenders; a bouncy Chiac-disco mini-set from Lisa Leblanc; an over-the-top show with a construction-worker theme from Hubert Lenoir; the ‘90s-style rock of Kelly McMichael; the inspired moccasin-gaze music of Ombiigizi; the artful cello stylings of Ouri; some thoughtful, moving rap from Shad, who broke it down to an powerful solo a capella rap; an explosive medley of excerpts of songs from Snotty Nose Rez Kids’ nominated album Life After; and soulful R&B from Charlotte Day Wilson. Nominated indie-rock band Destroyer were touring Europe and couldn’t attend the Gala, so Toronto-based act Fresh Pepper interpreted two of their songs.

Earlier in the evening, at a packed, post-pandemic, and very friendly pre-show reception, SOCAN sponsored each attendee’s first glass of wine, beer, or liquor. As the posted signs said, “Please enjoy your first drink on us.”

In an arrangement made before his Polaris win, Kwenders will be staying at the SOCAN House in Los Angeles for a week during October of 2022, and showcasing there as part of a program co-ordinated by SOCAN, POP Montréal, and the Canadian Consulate in L.A.

SOCAN congratulates Pierre Kwenders, and all of the 2022 short-list nominees, on these great career achievements!