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Home Lifestyle Diversity, inclusivity dominates Polaris Music Prize shortlist

Diversity, inclusivity dominates Polaris Music Prize shortlist


Musical acts representing a diversity of races and cultures — from Edmonton-based Indigenous rock act nêhiyawak and the Filipino-Canadian quintet Pantayo to Montreal-based transgender rapper Backxwash — are among the finalists for the 2020 Polaris Music Prize.

In a year when inclusivity and systemic racism have become hot topics in the music world, eight of this year’s 10 nominees for the esteemed $50,000 award have roots in the Indigenous, Black, Filipino and Latin-American communities.

The Polaris recognizes the best full-length Canadian album, based on artistic merit, not sales or genre.

Among those shortlisted are: Haitian-Canadian DJ and record producer Kaytranada (a.k.a. Louis Kevin Celestin), who won the prize in 2016; Ayo Leilani, also known by her stage name Witch Prophet, an Ethiopian/Eritrean musician based in Toronto; Jessie Reyez, a Toronto-based pop songwriter of Colombian background who was also shortlisted last year; and Toronto-based rapper Junia-T, who is also Reyez’s tour DJ.

Pantayo, an all-women, queer ensemble that combines traditional kulintang music from the Philippines with pop influences, are in the running along with indie rockers nêhiyawak, who are shortlisted for their debut album nipiy, a collection of songs heavily inspired by the Idle No More movement.

Ceremony in October

Past Polaris winners also made this year’s shortlist, including: Lido Pimienta, a Colombian-Canadian singer and songwriter who won in 2017, and 2008’s Caribou, an artist from Dundas, Ont., whose real name is Dan Snaith.

The finalists were whittled down from a long list of 40 contenders, who included the Weeknd and Daniel Caesar.

The winner will be selected by an 11-member jury that includes journalists, broadcasters and bloggers. The other shortlist contenders will receive prizes of $3,000 each.

The prize will be awarded on Oct. 19. The special will air on the CBC Gem streaming service, CBC Music’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages, and at CBCMusic.ca/Polaris.

Polaris will be not be hosting its usual gala event in Toronto, which had been scheduled for Sept. 21, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year, Toronto rapper Haviah Mighty won the prize for 13th Floor, becoming the first female rapper to claim the Polaris.

Here is the full list of artists and albums up for the 2020 Polaris Music Prize: 

  • Backxwash – God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It.
  • Caribou – Suddenly.
  • Junia-T – Studio Monk.
  • Kaytranada – Bubba.
  • nêhiyawak – nipiy.
  • Pantayo – Pantayo.
  • Lido Pimienta – Miss Colombia.
  • Jessie Reyez – Before Love Came To Kill Us.
  • U.S. Girls – Heavy Light.
  • Witch Prophet – DNA Activation.



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