Pierre Kwenders | Afropop without borders

Montreal Afropop revivalist Pierre Kwenders will release an album on Friday titled José Louis and the paradox of love. Of the Congo-born singer’s three albums, this is the sweetest and most intimate. A fragmented portrait of a jack of all trades.

Posted at 7:00 am

Alexander Vignault

Alexander Vignault

From José Luis to Pierre Kwenders

José Louis Modabi was born in Kinshasa, the capital of the Congo, in 1985 and moved to Montreal at the turn of the millennium. Here he became Pierre Kwenders, that is, a DJ (Moonshine night) and a composer for whom music is a language capable of crossing borders, of transcending genres and cultures. He sings in five languages, drinks from African music (rumba, coupé-décalé, etc.) and borrows from both pop and rap or house. “I always had this desire to bridge all of that,” he says. I was born in the Congo, where there are guitars everywhere. Growing up here, I discovered electronic music, other sounds and other cultures. It is very important for me to bring together these worlds and these people who inspire me. »


Pierre Kwenders (José Louis Modabi) was born in Kinshasa, the capital of Congo, in 1985.

very soft

Instead of opting for a clash of styles, collages or juxtapositions, Pierre Kwenders offers mixtures. José Louis and the paradox of love it’s a smooth album where genres merge without any desire to impress. LES (Liberty Equality Sagacity), opening theme that lasts more than nine minutes (and in which Win Butler, from Arcade Fire, discreetly collaborates), shows both house traits and cut rhythms (an Ivorian musical style), but also, in the background, the typical scratchy Congolese rumba notes. The connection is made naturally to our ears. “I think you should never force things, says the creator, have a certain tenderness in everything you do, and that’s what I wanted to do on this album. »

For young

With partners, Pierre Kwenders is working to create Club Sagacité, a community center aimed primarily at young people. “It will be very focused on music,” explains the singer, for whom this gesture is a way of “giving back to the community.” The venue, located on Saint-Laurent Boulevard (“We want young people to get out of their neighborhoods and discover Montreal,” he says), will give access to recording equipment and DJ training, for example, an art that Pierre Kwenders also practices “We want make it accessible,” he explains. Growing up in Cartierville, I didn’t have a place like that that would allow me to learn. In addition to giving young people a chance to get hands-on with the art, he wants to share what he “learned on the job” about scholarships and grants. “We want to make it accessible, he insists, especially to young people from visible minorities. »


Pierre Kwenders during the concert Kanaval Kanpeat the Metropolis, in March 2017


The word “shrewdness” occupies an important place in the universe of the Congolese artist. However, for him it is not synonymous with “mental acuity”, as the dictionary would say. Following in the footsteps of Douk Saga, an Ivorian musician who created the coupé-décalé style, this term rather evokes respect for others and sharing. “It was a movement to wake up the population, created when there was a civil war in Côte d’Ivoire,” says Pierre Kwenders. Douk Saga has managed through his music to revive the joy of living in hearts, to give hope for new and better days. This is the message that I also want to convey. »

Zaire space program

Like the Sagacité Club, which defines itself as a multifunctional space, Pierre Kwenders is “multiple”. In addition to his musical projects, he is currently preparing a documentary with Moonshine titled Zaire space program, filmed in Africa during the pandemic and of which a short segment is already online on YouTube. The idea is to focus the camera on artists from the Congo, but also on people who work in technology. Once again, the goal is to wake up, to make people think. The online segment shows the work of Farata, a group that makes its clothes with recycled materials and performs in the streets to open a dialogue on issues such as the use of plastic or health care. Pierre Kwenders also took the opportunity to interview Jean-Baptiste Kekas, a Congolese engineer who makes rockets from recycled milk cans and electronic components. “What he does is important,” said the singer. Seeing this Congolese man creating a rocket might make a young man dream, inspire him to study engineering too. »

José Louis and the paradox of love it is offered from Friday. Pierre Kwenders will be at the Phi Center on May 6 and August 3 to open the Montreal Pride festival with Diane Dufresne.

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