Lido Pimienta’s Polaris Music Prize Win Is a Triumph for Independent Latinx Artists

Lead Photo: Photo by John Paille. Courtesy of Lido Pimienta
Photo by John Paille. Courtesy of Lido Pimienta
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Last night, Colombian-Canadian artist Lido Pimienta won the 2017 Polaris Music Prize, the most prestigious musical honor in Canada. The Afro-indígena artist won for her 2016 album La Papessa, an intricate, rich, and confessional document exploring everything from partner abuse to water access for the Wayuu people of northern Colombia. Pimienta beat out music industry forces like Leonard Cohen and Feist to win the award this year.

After performing a medley of her songs earlier in the ceremony, Lido gave a powerful acceptance speech denouncing white supremacy and demanding respect for the First Nations people of Canada. “I hope that the Aryan specimen who told me to go back to my country two weeks after arriving in London, Ontario, Canada is watching this,” she quipped to roaring cheers. “Thank you to the protectors of the land we’re standing on…Thank you to all the single mothers out there who inspire me.” For an award season that typically steers clear of politics, Lido’s statement resonates.

For those of us who have followed Lido Pimienta since her 2010 debut album Color, the win feels momentous. Lido started out as a newcomer in the art pop underground, garnering attention from music blogs like Club Fonograma. But over the course of her career, Lido has transformed into a mainstay of the scene, fighting to own her voice even as the segmented and hegemonic music industry continues to neglect the work of independent Latinx and Latin American artists in favor of more palatable pop acts. Rarely does an artist of her caliber receive this kind of mainstream musical recognition, particularly if they have a longstanding (and potentially “controversial”) commitment to social justice and activism.

And even then, Lido has continued to eviscerate our understanding of the very categories of Latinidad – as she told Remezcla last year, “I really feel like we have a responsibility to make music that is really exciting and breaks all the molds. I don’t want to fit into these little ‘Latinx,’ ‘global bass’ ‘world music’ categories.” It’s this kind of attention to detail that makes her work so impactful and purposeful.

Representation may not save us, but Lido’s win is a reminder that we can be eccentric daydreamers, creative misfits, and storytelling survivors in all our complex multitudes. Here’s to many more.