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.”
A few years ago, Danielle McTaggart was ready to throw in the towel on her music career. Now she and her husband, Drew, make up the powerhouse duo known as Dear Rouge and have two full-length albums and a Juno to their name. Known for their hook-driven tracks—and being “the nicest couple in Canadian music”—Dear Rouge just dropped their sophomore LP, Phases. The record recounts a season of emotional extremes for the couple, including winning the 2016 Juno for Breakthrough Group of the Year, and losing a loved one. We caught up with Danielle over the phone to talk about finding joy in music again, and the personal and public significance of Phases. G—On your website, you describe your style as “sinewy, hook-driven indie rock”. Where did that particular style evolve from? DM—I was always very into hook-y music with beautiful melodies. I grew up listening to The Carpenters and they have beautiful melodic parts, but I also always loved harder music and really rock-driven music. Bands like Metric or Yeah Yeah Yeahs or St. Vincent were hugely motivating for me, and I loved that these frontwomen were powerhouses. They’re very confident and trying to push the boundaries while
What do you get when you combine the start of a worldwide tour and the release of a highly-anticipated album on the same day? Ask Lord Huron’s founder and frontman, Ben Schneider, and he’ll say a pretty damn exciting journey ahead. The band’s third album, Vide Noir, released April 20, is already receiving accolades for its raw, lyrical storytelling from songs like “Wait by the River” and “When the Night is Over”. To engage fans at a deeper level, the band plans on creating immersive experiences that elevate the album’s narratives. Lord Huron’s tour includes a stop at Toronto’s Sony Centre on July 25, and at Osheaga in Montreal on August 4. Schneider spoke to us about his love of storytelling, Raymond Chandler influences, and what it was like working with Flaming Lips’ producer David Fridmann. G—You grew up in Michigan. Is that where your interest in music began? BS—There was always music on at our house, and I remember imagining the people the songs were about. The storytelling of songs is what’s always captured me most. As time went on, I was able to convince my parents to let me play bass in the orchestra, which led to me
Morgan Saint was born into a creative life. Upon growing up in Mattituck, NY with a family of musicians on her mother’s side and parents who worked in interior design, Saint graduated from Parsons School of Design in Manhattan, where she has lived for the past six years. With a major in illustration and a focus on photography and graphic design, Saint has executed a clear vision of her musical artistry. In 2017, at the age of 23, Saint released her debut EP, 17 Hero, on Epic Records. She is a storyteller at heart, combining all of her talents to reveal her narrative as truthfully as possible, one vignette at a time, as seen in all three of the EP’s videos, “Glass House”, “You”, and “Just Friends”. She co-produced each glossy, beautifully choreographed, and high-definition clip with Nathan Crooker, but the lyrics are all hers. They come from personal places yet are vague enough to be relatable. Her electronic pop is lo-fi, but you’ll most likely find yourself snapping your fingers to it. As Saint prepared for a sold-out show supporting Missio in Austin, Texas, Georgie connected with her to discuss coming into her own as a songwriter and