TORONTO — Singer Lido Pimienta ripped into organizers of the Polaris Music Prize with an expletive-laden tirade over sound troubles with her performance as she accepted this year’s best album recognition.
“All of my … monitors were off,” the Colombian-born musician shouted into the microphone at the end of the show, which was webcast by the CBC. Earlier she performed two songs live.
“I could not hear myself when I was up here. I’m (expletive) pissed off. Thank you though, mother (expletive).”
The explosive finale capped off a Polaris show full of surprises on Monday night, including an unsettling performance of Nirvana’s “Rape Me” by nominee Tanya Tagaq and another round of sound problems for rock band Weaves.
But it was Pimienta — the winner of the $50,000 Polaris prize — who shook everything up and appeared to leave an audience of mostly industry professionals either stunned or cheering over her candid frustrations.
Pimienta’s Spanish-language album “La Papessa,” which translates as “high priestess,” was regarded as a dark horse in the race for the Polaris prize.
Many of the songs on the independent release touch on politically-charged themes such as the global water crisis and patriarchy. But since the album wasn’t sung in either English or French, it fell under the radar in Canada, even among music aficionados.
The point wasn’t lost on Pimienta, who immigrated to Canada 10 years ago and began collaborating with artists like A Tribe Called Red and releasing music without a label. She spoke about race openly backstage, expressing hopes that being chosen for this year’s Polaris was a sign of a thirst for more diversity in Canadian music.
“Me and my crew, it’s mainly brown people, Indigenous folks, black folks,” she said, before explaining what message she hopes the Polaris recognition sends other visible minorities.
“You don’t have to be white, you don’t have to be skinny, blonde, sing in English or French, and you can stand by what you want to do — (and) what you want to say.”
A Polaris win gives Pimienta new level of global awareness. Past winners for what’s considered one of the country’s most prestigious music awards include Arcade Fire, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Kaytranada.
None of those artists delivered acceptance speeches with quite the same intensity, and even before Pimienta addressed the technical gaffe, she was ready to talk about other problems.
“Perhaps the only thing I can say is I hope that the Aryan specimen who told me to go back to my own country two weeks after I arrived in London, Ontario, Canada is watching this,” she said early on in her delivery.
She also thanked her son, her mother for “enduring white supremacy in Canada” and single mothers for inspiring her work.
Pimienta also participated in Tagaq’s powerful version of “Rape Me.” As the song neared its close, women in red dresses rose from their seats in the audience as the Indigenous throat singer repeated the lyrics, “I’m not the only one.”
The performance was an extension of the Red Dress Project, an art installation created by Winnipeg-based Metis artist Jaime Black, which intends to draw attention to the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada.
Pimienta said when Tagaq asked her to don a red dress she didn’t think twice.
“I am a guest in this country,” she said backstage.
“I am on colonized land. I’m very aware of it. So any time that an Indigenous person wants you to do something in solidarity you don’t ask any questions and you do it.”
After Tagaq’s riveting performance she returned to accompany fellow nominees Weaves on a new song. But they wound up awkwardly waiting together on stage for Polaris tech staff to fix their faulty sound.
Gamefully playing along, Tagaq and the band’s frontwoman Jasmyn Burke filled the silence by laughing about how they originally met each other while using a washroom in Iceland.