One of the fantastic things about the Polaris Music Prize is that you never, ever know what the Grand Jury will name the best Canadian album of the year. Would it go to a well-known name like Leonard Cohen or Gord Downie? Maybe to a perennial indie favourite like Feist or Tanya Tagaq? What about a Francophone artist little known outside of Quebec? Or will the winner be someone unknown to most Canadians?
This year, the winner is Lido Pimienta and her album, La Papessa. I know, I know. Who? And she sings in Spanish?
Pimienta was born in Barranquilla, Colombia, and move to Canada about a decade ago. She soon made friends with the guys in A Tribe Called Red and started releasing music totally independently, beginning with a record called Color in 2010.
La Papessa, which translates as “The Priestess,” was issued without the help of a publicist or record label when it came out last year.
What’s it sound like? It’s a fascinating mix of styles: electronic, Indigenous, Afro-Colombian, Latin. Here: just listen.
Pimienta’s win further contributes to the diversity of past Polaris Prize recipients over the last few years. In 2016, the winner was Haitian-Canadian DJ, Kaytranada, who followed two Indigenous performers, Buffy Sainte-Marie (2015) and Tanya Tagaq (2014). That means of the twelve Polaris Prizes given out, a third have gone to people of colour.