Tonight, Haitian-born Montreal producer Kaytranada was crowned winner of the 2016 Polaris Music prize for his exceptional debut album, 99.9%. Each year, the Polaris Music prize awards $50,000 to the greatest body of work by a Canadian musician based solely off the quality of their music, thus disregarding genre, publicity, record sales, etc. The prizewinner is determined by a nationwide collective of journalists (who are to have no engagements otherwise, i.e.: management, publicity engagements, personal ties to the artists) who begin will a Long List of 40 albums, then narrow it down to a Short List of 10. The final prize is decided by a jury of 10 at a gala that is typically held in Toronto.
This year’s Polaris Music Prize Gala took place at the Carlu, which is deemed a National Historic Site of Canada, having hosted concerts by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald in the past. Tonight, however, the site featured performances by various Polaris Short List nominees, including Carly Rae Jepsen, White Lung, U.S. Girls, and Black Mountain.
The award was presented to Kaytranada by 2015 Polaris Prize winner, Buffy Sainte-Marie. “For me, it’s crazy to get this award, and it’s really and truly a big honour”, said the producer, before giving a French shoutout to “Tous mes Montréalais!” If the salute to his city wasn’t enough, Kaytra, otherwise known by his birth name of Kevin Celestin, was also rocking a Dime strapback cap, one of Montreal’s most buzzed about skatewear lines in recent years.
This marks the first time a Montrealer takes home the prize since Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s 2013 win for ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, not to mention the first artist to have won while heavily envoking Hip-Hop and R&B into their project.
With Buffy Sainte-Marie’s win last year feeling a lot more like a “Lifetime Achievement Award” than a win truly honouring her album’s creative merit in comparison to the other 2015 nominees, it is nice to see Polaris come back into shape with presenting the prize to Kaytranada.
Miss the gala? Watch it in full below, Kaytranada’s win reveal and acceptance speech begins at 2:55:25: