Lido Pimienta's Necessary Win Forces the Polaris Prize into a New Age
Fellow revolutionary Tanya Tagaq also gave a transcendent performance and tribute was paid to the late, great Leonard Cohen.
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They're on a hot streak. About a year after awarding Kaytranada the $50,000 grand prize, the Polaris Music Prize has done the same to yet another deserving Canadian artist who challenges the country's often-homegenous musical identity. Toronto-based Lido Pimienta won at this year's Polaris gala last night for her 2016 album La Papessa, a forward-thinking release that balances Pimienta's political and personal viewpoints and delivers both with ferocity and danceable beats to spare.
Pimienta, who was born in Colombia and identifies as an Afro-Latin and South American indigenous person, is the first Polaris winner to not sing in English or French, as La Papessa is entirely in Spanish. Her win is a necessary shock to the Canadian indie status quo of whiteness and is a coming-out party for an artist who's done her fair share of work in both music and social activism. On a personal note, Pimienta bringing her 9-year-old son and her own mother out as she made her acceptance speech was extremely Latin American, which warmed the heart of this half-Latinx writer.
Elsewhere, throat singing visionary Tanya Tagaq followed up her breakthrough performance from the 2014 Polaris gala with a harrowing medley of songs from her nominated album Retribution, including the title track and a cover of Nirvana's "Rape Me." Tagaq and others who joined her on stage were dressed in red to support the REDress Project, an artistic initiative to bring awareness to the ongoing crisis of murdered and missing indigenous women in Canada. You can watch that performance below; it's the most metal thing you'll see this year.
And finally, the legacy artists of Canadian music history were also acknowledged. Leonard Cohen's You Want It Darker, the final album the legendary singer/songwriter released before his death last November, was among the nominees. Instead of a cover being performed, a new video for album track "Leaving a Table" was premiered live for the gala audience. You can watch the animated video below.
Phil is on Twitter.