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.”
Duckwrth cannot be pinned down. The 28-year-old rapper, born Jared Lee in South Central, landed like a splash of mixed paints with his debut full-length I’m Uugly in fall 2016. Its 10 elastic tracks stretch across hip hop, chill wave, funk, and punk, all shrouded in a soft-focused haze. He aptly calls this impressionistic concoction “psych rap.” Early last November, Duckwrth released An Xtra Uugly Mixtape. Whereas I’m Uugly exalted the beauty that lives within the harshness and griminess of everyday life – from the physical to the political to the socioeconomic – An Xtra Uugly Mixtape encourages being unapologetically you. It is, as Duckwrth writes on his Soundcloud page, “the anthem for your rebellion.” Fittingly, the tape is higher in energy; the guitar sounds are cranked. An Xtra Uugly Mixtape is his attempt to put hip hop and rock on equal footing within the same piece of music. An Xtra Ugly Mixtape is also a gradual step towards fulfilling his stadium rock ambitions. Duckwrth had one of his most formative musical experiences at a stadium show. “I used to do the whole protest [thing] and be more politically driven,” he says. “But then there was a time when
Over the past four years, Halifax pop artist Ria Mae has accomplished dreams she has openly spoken about: being produced by fellow Nova Scotia success story Classified and touring with Tegan and Sara and Coleman Hell. Since creating her self-released demo of “Clothes Off” in 2013, she has signed with Sony Music and Nettwerk Management. The former has helped develop the careers of Avril Lavigne, Barenaked Ladies, Coldplay, Dido, Sarah McLachlan, and many more. The finished version of the song – her major label debut – earned Mae her first Juno nomination, for “Single of the Year” in 2016, which put her in direct competition against Drake, The Weeknd, and Justin Bieber. From Mae’s new home in Toronto, only two days removed from a cross-Canada tour with Scott Helman, she spoke with Georgie about her sudden rise, working with Classified, stepping up as a voice for LGBTQ groups, and more. G—As you’ve discovered, you can make a lot of unexpected connections in a small town. But that can be a good thing because working with people who differ from you in their approach forces you to create from new perspectives. Do you ever have reservations about working with people who
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