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Pierre Kwenders

Aug 30/2015
WORDS Jennifer Sintime PHOTOOGRAPHY Neil Mota ILLUSTRATIONS Cat Bijou

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.”

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