Quebec recording artist Louis Kevin Celestin, who records under alias Kaytranada, won the Polaris Music Prize of $50K for his debut album 99.9%. Born in Haiti, he emigrated to Canada shortly after birth and launched his music career in Montreal where he grew up. His music has been described as a mish-mash of electronic, hip hop, R&B, and house. The announcement followed a 3-hour showcase of performances by 7 of the 10 nominees, some accompanied by members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. He was presented the award by last year’s winner Buffy Sainte-Marie.
The Polaris Prize selects the album subjectively according to “artistic merit”. The winner from the short list of 10 albums is determined by a group of 11 judges made up mainly of media personnel. The nine runners up won $3,000 each for being shortlisted – Black Mountain, Basia Bulat, GRIMES, Carly Rae Jepsen, Jessy Lanza, PUP, Andy Shauf, U.S. Girls, and White Lung. Interestingly, grand prize winner Kaytranada was one of the three nominees who did not perform at last night’s gala at the Carlu in Toronto. It was an event that included celebrity video endorsements of the nominees. Kaytranada was in one way endorsed by Madonna, as she picked him to open for her on a couple of dates on her Rebel Heart tour last year. His album 99.9% features a number of international guests including the UK’s Craig David, Sweden’s Little Dragon, and the UK’s AlunaGeorge.