Every September – tucked away above Toronto’s bustling Yonge Street – the historic Carlu event space hosts one of Canada’s biggest nights in music. The Polaris Music Prize, now in its 13th season, is unique in that it gathers journalists, artists, and media personnel under one roof to honour the best Canadian albums of the year.
Hosted by Raina Douris, on-air personality of CBC Radio 2 Morning (now moved to NPR’s World Cafe), 2019’s gala also included introductory words by Executive Director and founder, Steve Jordan.
Similar to the UK’s Mercury Prize, the Polaris is voted on by a panel of music industry figures and journalists with past recipients ranging from the likes of Arcade Fire and Feist to Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Caribou.
As always, the Polaris is reflective of the country’s multiculturalism and the music being created province-to-province. As such, on Monday Sept. 16, Toronto’s Haviah Mighty took home 2019’s grand prize for her hip-hop debut, 13th Floor. In doing so, she beat out other shortlisted nominees such as Jessie Reyez, Pup, Shad, Marie Davidson, and many more.
Apart from her $50,000 victory and historic win, standing ovations were met with all artists in attendance. As with every year, Polaris attendees were treated to thrilling live sets by 2019’s class of finalists, too.
One standout of the evening was given by British Columbia’s Snotty Nose Rez Kids, a wonderfully raucous indigenous hip-hop duo whose performance included costumes, drums, and a vibrant troupe of masked dancers.
Equally unforgettable were the solo women, with singers Dominique Fils-Aimé and Elisapie delivering performances fearlessly under the spotlight, exquisitely back by their respective bands.
Like past incarnations of the Polaris Music Prize, 2019’s ceremony continued to maintain its valued tradition of celebrating vital Canadian music, regularly eschewing album sales in favour of quality and cultural significance.
In the end, that’s what makes it so special. Here’s hoping it never changes.