José Louis Modabi is the given name of Colgolese-Canadian artist Pierre Kwenders, the exceptionally innovative music-maker behind the Polaris Music Prize-winning album, José Louis and the Paradox of Love.
Bridging the gaps between musical worlds, between the traditional and the future-leaning, between his hometowns of Kinshasa and Montreal, and between the profoundly personal and the universally human, Pierre Kwenders is truly a one-of-a-kind musical visionary. Drawing on jazz, Congolese rhumba, pop, electronica and disco, and singing or rapping in five languages – Lingala, Kikongo, Tshiluba, French, English – he constructs a whole sonic universe on his latest album. There are meditations on love, lust, spirituality, home, family, freedom, culture, and music; all of it deeply centred in his unique, highly personal aesthetic. The expanded Deluxe Edition of José Louis and the Paradox of Love was released June 30, 2023, further deepening the album’s artistic sweep of styles, textures, and perspectives with bonus tracks and re-works.
In this episode, Pierre Kwenders tells us about his musical background, from growing up singing in church choirs as a kid in Kinshasa to discovering the underground music scene in Montreal, where he moved as a teenager. He talks about the formative influence of Congolese musical heroes like Lokua Kanza and Papa Wemba, and the importance of matriarchs in his life and work. His artistic moniker is from his grandfather’s name, and he wants to stay connected to his birth city of Kinshasa, which “vibrates with music.” He speaks about winning the Polaris Music prize with an album that’s a musical distillation of his own very personal story. We also learn about his guiding philosophy that “love never dies on the dance floor.”