Born in the Congo – but living in Montreal – the jovial Pierre Kwenders is an up-and-coming contributor to Afrofuturism, an emerging genre that blends African roots music with electro artistry. When characterizing the complex sound, even Kwenders struggles with forming the appropriate vernacular. “To be honest, I don’t really know how to describe my own music,” he laughs. “There’s no point in trying to describe something that is meant to be felt.”
Finding his musical origin and inspirations in Congolese Rumba, songs like “Mardi Gras”, from his album Le Dernier Empereur Bantou (2014), highlight the genesis of his sound. However, the obvious electro-futurist element can hardly be ignored. Heavily saturated with Congolese rhythms and electronic influences, he explains: “It’s very weird, what I do. I like to consider it as a Sci-fi type of genre. It’s fiction. And the thing with fiction is that it’s a mix of many worlds – many visions of the future and the past – and you end up in a world where you don’t understand anything.”
This enterprising genre has a wide fan base, but his shows lack a prominent African audience. Kwenders chalks this up to a fear of unfamiliarity. “You can’t ask a Country Boy to get out of the country… If a cowboy has always loved listening to country music, sometimes it can be hard for him to get out there and listen to pop or electro – he has to change his mindset.”
However, Kwenders’ goal isn’t to reach his fellow Africans, nor is it to teach cultural lessons to those unversed in African cultures. “I’m doing this to make myself feel good, and if while I’m making myself feel good I can make other people feel good, then mission accomplished.” Nevertheless, the idea of prodding those who are unfamiliar with the Afrocentric beats and foreign lyrics to dig a little deeper into African history is, of course, an associated benefit.
So, who’s paving the way for this genre? Kwenders recommends listening to Shabazz Palaces, Spoek Mathambo, or Petite Noir.
“There are so many of us out there doing our own thing in so many different ways, giving a new light on Africa, and giving a new definition of African music and African life. […] There are many others, especially my generation, doing this type of music. Well, not this type of music, because there’s not really a type of music. But, we’re bringing something new. We’re bringing a breath of fresh air into the music industry. People are listening to it and opening their ears to discover what’s new and what’s coming out of Africa right now.”
In the ten years since Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg started First Aid Kit, they have been going non-stop. The indie-folk duo got their start when their cover of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” went viral, and have since released four albums, won five Swedish Grammis awards, and brought two of their idols to tears on live television. Following a brief hiatus, and four years after their last record, Stay Gold, First Aid Kit is back with Ruins, a raw account of losing love and finding yourself. In the middle of a North American tour, Georgie talked to Klara and Johanna about the new album and what brought them to Ruins. G—You’ve said in past interviews that Stay Gold was a more put-together, polished kind of album, and Ruins is a lot rawer. What caused that shift? JS—The production of Stay Gold is very lush and elegant, and I think that’s what we wanted at the time. But we started longing for this rawness, this almost lo-fi aspect that we had on our first records. [For Ruins]…our attitude was that everything doesn’t have to be perfect. If we sing a bum note or there’s a little crack
Charlotte Cardin is on track to having her biggest year yet. The electro jazz-pop singer has been nominated for Songwriter of the Year and Breakthrough Artist of the Year at next month’s Juno Awards. Along the way, she has performed at Osheaga—an experience she calls “surreal”, having attended for years growing up in Montréal—and Festival d’été de Québec where she opened for Sting and Peter Gabriel. More recently, she has been touring behind her EPs Big Boy (Cult Nation Records, 2016) and Main Girl (Sony Music, 2017). Through this past September and October, she supported Nick Murphy (formerly Chet Faker), and she’s been on tour with BØRNS since January. This spring, Cardin will headline her own dates. Prior to her full-time career in music, Cardin modelled in fashion which afforded her pocket money and freedom to work on her art. She also competed on the first season of La Voix, a francophone Canadian version of The Voice. But being on television, like modelling, was never her passion. “I never really felt that much pressure when I was on TV. For me, there’s something a lot more real about what I’m doing right now.” She feels more pressure performing her own
Garland Jeffreys’ album, 14 Steps to Harlem, grew out of a soulful period of retrospection late in the artist’s life and career. As a veteran songwriter, Jeffreys started writing provocative, ahead-of-its- time, genre-bending songs in the early 1970s, with lyrics focused on everything from relationships to racial diversity to political turmoil. Now in his seventies, the New York musician is looking back on his life with an album that takes on bold topics and includes a title track inspired by his turbulent relationship with his father. Jefferys spoke with Georgie about his latest release, his relationship with Lou Reed and his somewhat unconventional approach to songwriting. Georgie—14 Steps to Harlem is a great album. Garland Jeffreys—Thank you. I’m very proud of the record. I took some chances in recording it but had confidence that it could be something special. You don’t know a record is good or bad until it’s done – then you know. I worked on the album with my co-producer, James Maddock, who’s a great artist in his own right. G—The title track, “14 Steps to Harlem”, stood out to me. I read that it was written with your father in mind. Did the experience of writing about your dad