3PM with Pierre Kwenders: Aesthetics, culture and empanadas


Bringing the electricity and heart of Kinshasa to an office at 3PM on a Tuesday is no easy task. But Pierre Kwenders, the first guest of our new 3PM series, did all that and more.


Fuelled by empanadas (his favourite afternoon snack), Pierre’s vibrant vocals and arresting beats transported our artisans far, far away.

Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pierre sings and raps in Lingala, French, English, Tshiluba and Kikongo. His unique sound has earned him a Juno shortlist nomination and attention from VogueThe Fader, The New York Times, and Pitchfork, among others. He’s also co-founder of Moonshine, an iconic Montreal-born international music series that takes place every month on the Saturday closest to the full moon.

Our 3PM series serves to connect our artisans with not only each other, but emerging creative talents in the community.

And did we mention there are snacks?

Let's see what keeps Pierre hungry.

What keeps me hungry? I'd say the people around me. To see my family and my friends happy, thriving in their lives, finding success in their work. It inspires me. Even when they're a little down, actually, because it inspires me to write songs!

Your latest album has a bittersweet flavour. Was that intentional?

I don’t think there’s ever really an intention with my albums, but I’ve always had a melancholic nature. That bittersweet side of my album is part of my personality. I can be very likeable sometimes, but from afar I think people might think I’m really unpleasant. The name of the album says it: José Louis and the Paradox of Love. My life is paradoxical in many respects.

What refuels you?

To wake up every day, breathe, and be healthy. It tells me that yes, I can do better than yesterday.

How important are aesthetics to you?

Aesthetics are really essential to me. Yes, I express myself through my music, but you have to tell the story visually too. From the way I dress to how I present my album, I want to express something. And also, I want to look good! Because why not. It’s good for the mood. It keep the spirit sane. You should dress how you want people to receive your energy.

What does your perfect afternoon break look like?

Can I travel for this break? Then to Kinshasa, in Bandalungwa, sitting with my friends, eating delicious barbecued pork with chikwangue and a dusting of chili.

Does a good break always involve food?

Some people eat to live, others live to eat. I'm part of those who live to eat.

Chips or chocolate?

I'm not much of a snack person, so chips or chocolate... it depends on the day. Probably chocolate. Chips really aren't my thing. Every once and a while I tolerate chocolate. I prefer congolese beignets or Jamaican patties, something that will fill you up more. Empanadas, for example, are nicely packaged, with veggies, a bit of meat and sometimes cheese, so they’re nice and hearty! You’re good for at least 2, 3 hours before you sit down for the real meal of the evening—some fufu, some pondu, and some chicken in a tomato sauce.

In addition to your personal career, you’ve also helped create the performance and compilation series Moonshine, with artists all over the world. We heard those started as kitchen parties in Montréal?

Yeah, you could say that! It all started in the kitchen at my manager’s, Hervé. We used to do these little get-togethers where we’d eat and play music. It grew from there. In 2014 we decided to make it an actual event.

And it has travelled so much since!

First it was Paris, then L.A., Santiago, Kinshasa, Brussels, London, Lisbon… the list keeps getting longer.

You’re prepping another for Montréal soon?

Yes! We like moving it around, even within Montréal we’re always looking for new neighbourhoods to bring new experiences to people. We’re happy to be able to keep putting these on, and we hope people keep coming! Every Saturday following the full moon.

What’s next on the menu for you?

Lots of surprises, I hope. There’s my album tour this summer, then a few big festivals, and in the fall we’re playing some dates in Europe. And stay tuned, because the next Moonshine compilation is coming too.