Pierre Kwenders’ music is a reflection of two very different worlds.
Kwenders, born José Louis Modabi, was born and raised in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and lived there until the age of 15. Kwenders then relocated to Montreal, Canada, where he was exposed to electronic dance music and hip-hop.
A little more than a decade later, Kwenders released his first EPs “Whisky & Tea” and “African Dream,” both in 2013, and then his full-length debut “Le Dernier empereur bantou” in 2014.
Kwenders sings and raps in multiple languages. His sound is a fusion of African music, modern hip-hop and EDM.
With constant global touring, Kwenders has emerged as one of the most distinctive new voices in music, including having been nominated for a 2015 JUNO (Canada’s version of the Grammys) for World Music Album of the Year.
The 30-year-old Congolese-Canadian artist will make his Louisiana debut when he takes the Scène Lafayette General Fais Do Do Stage at Festival International at 7:30 p.m. Friday. In between tour stops, Kwenders took some time to talk about how he got into music and his Louisiana debut.
How would you describe your style of music?
The thing is that I have been influenced by so many things in my life. I have listened to Congolose all my life, and then I discovered electronic music and hip-hop. So all of those things are part of what inspires me. I joke around and say my music is Congolese trap music, but it’s not really.
How important is it to you to represent both your homeland of the Congo and your adopted home of Canada in your music?
When something is in you, it is hard to get it out of you. I may be out of the Congo, but Congo is still part of me. It will never go away. And if I moved back to the Congo tomorrow, Canada will always be part of me because it made me who I am today. It is impossible for me to discard one culture from the other.
How intoxicating is it to perform in front of people and to get back that energy from a crowd?
That is the biggest reward you can ever ask for as an artist. Even if it is two people or thousands of people, just sharing that experience with those people is amazing. That is the most amazing thing.
How excited are you to make your Louisiana debut at Festival International de Louisiane?
There is something appealing about the culture of Louisiana and the culture of Lafayette that I can relate to it. I am from a foreign country, and I came to live in Canada when I was a teenager. I am kind of in between two cultures, and both things makes me what I am today. I feel that is the same thing for people in Lafayette and Louisiana. I see myself going there as if I was home.