New Brunswick’s Jeremy Dutcher has been honoured with the 2018 Polaris Music Prize.
On Monday, a panel of 11 judges awarded Dutcher and his album Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa with the prize, which is given annually to the best Canadian album of the year.
Dutcher, who is a member of the Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick and sings in the indigenous Wolastoq language, faced stiff competition from nine other artists, including Daniel Caesar, U.S. Girls, and Alvvays. He is the first artist from the East Coast to win in the 12-year history of the prize.
“This is the greatest moment of my life!” Dutcher exclaimed as he accepted the prize presented by last year’s winner Lida Pimiento during the Toronto ceremony. “I do this work to honour those who have gone before and I lay the footprints for those yet to come.
“All my people, this is for you … What you see on this stage tonight, this is the future. This is what’s to come,” he said during his speech in both English and his native language.
Dutcher is a classically trained operatic tenor and composer who combines 100-year-old wax cylinder recordings of traditional Wolastoq songs — a language spoken by fewer than 100 people today — with English-language lyrics and orchestral sounds on Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa.
Previous Polaris winners include Feist, Arcade Fire, Tanya Tagaq, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Final Fantasy, and Patrick Watson.