Juno award-winning Quebec musician Karim Ouellet dies at 37

Quebec musician Karim Ouellet, Juno winner and Félix nominee, who broke through with his 2012 hit song love, was found dead Monday in a music studio in Quebec. He was 37 years old.

Sources told Radio-Canada that Ouellet’s body was discovered Monday evening at the L’Unisson studio in the Saint-Roch district of Quebec. Quebec police have ruled out any foul play and the coroner will investigate to determine the cause of death.

Ouellet’s sister, Quebec singer-songwriter Sarahmée, wrote in a Facebook post that the family would ‘continue to celebrate her life, her talent and her legacy’ and asked for privacy while the family grieves. .

“Thank you for this outpouring of love for Karim, to those who have been touched by his words and his melodies”, she wrote.

Born in Dakar, Senegal, Ouellet was adopted at the age of three months by Quebec diplomat parents and grew up traveling back and forth between Quebec and France, Rwanda, Tunisia and Senegal, before returning in Quebec to study as a teenager.

Ouellet first became known in 2007 within the hip-hop collective Movèzerbe and collaborated with artists such as CEA, Webster & Limoilou Starz.

Ouellet’s second album, Fox, propelled it to new heights, selling over 33,000 copies and earning it five nominations for the Quebec ADISQ awards in 2013 and the 2014 Juno for Francophone album of the year.

He was also named best new artist by Radio-Canada in 2013 and the single L‘Love earned him the Félix-Leclerc Prize, presented by the Francos de Montréal music festival, which supports young Francophone artists.

Ouellet had recently turned 37 and was working on his fourth album before his death, according to his profile on Spotify.

ICI Musique host Philippe Fehmiu first met Ouellet on the Quebec music scene, but the two became friends.

Fehmiu said Ouellet recently spoke about health issues and talked about taking some distance from the music industry.

“Last time we spoke he needed time for himself,” he said. “He needed time just to have a different pace to the last decade. He needed to be stronger to make sure he was able to survive in this business.”

WATCH | Fehmiu on the power of Ouellet’s music:

A “sensitive” and “agile” musician, died at 37

Philippe Fehmiu shares his thoughts and insight into the incredible music and legacy of the late Karim Ouellet. 1:59

“A lot of spirit”

Although Ouellet later rose to prominence as a pop artist, Quebec artist Webster told Radio-Canada All one morning that Ouellet was “born out of the hip hop community in Quebec”.

He said Ouellet had “a musical approach to hip hop” and would be remembered for his originality, creativity and lyrical sensibility.

“For me, Karim Ouellet was a genius in his approach to music,” Webster said. “He’s someone who really opened up a musical universe.”

The two artists collaborated on Webster’s song History of Quebec X and have become close friends.

“Our birthdays were close together, so we often celebrated together,” he said. “Every time we saw each other, we laughed a lot.”

“He was someone with a lot of spirit,” he said.

Lively music, soulful lyrics

Fehmiu said Ouellet, who served as spokesperson for Black History Month in 2018, was a voice for the African diaspora in Quebec.

He said the young artist was able to draw inspiration from soul and hip hop, while finding a sound of his own.

“He had this huge talent for melody – that song you would only hear once and remember for the rest of your life,” Fehmiu said.

With songs like love and 2016 Karim and the Wolf, Ouellet is known for his upbeat style of music with more introspective or melancholic lyrics.

Quebec hip-hop artist Webster (Ali Ndiaye), collaborated with Karim Ouellet and says he was “a genius in his approach to music”. (Philip Ruel)

“I don’t want it to be so sad,” Ouellet told CBC Radio. All in one weekend in 2016. “When I listen to music, I like deep lyrics and sometimes really sad music, but when the music is more upbeat, I like the outcome.”

Ouellet said he was inspired by artists like Belgian singer-songwriter and musician Stromae, with whom Ouellet toured in Europe and North America.

“When you listen to Stromae…it’s a beat, but when you read the text, no music, like a poem, it’s sad and you don’t feel like smiling,” he said. . “But with the disco rhythm, you want to move and smile, even if it’s sad.”

All in one weekend Montreal9:18Karim Ouellet “Thirty”

From Senegal to France via Tunisia and round trips to Quebec in between, the singer-songwriter Karim Ouellet has developed a fairly large open-mindedness in music. After the success of FOX, we are talking about his new album TRENTE and sounds ranging from reggae to disco. 9:18

Political figures paid tribute to Ouellet and expressed their condolences to his family.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that Ouellet was “creative, avant-garde and infinitely talented”, while Quebec Premier François Legault called Ouellet “a young artist who brought a new style to Quebec music”. .

Quebec Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade said she was “shocked” by Ouellet’s death and quoted words from love.

“May these words continue to resonate in our hearts,” Anglade wrote in a tweet.

Quebec City Mayor Bruno Marchard tweeted that Ouellet’s gentle nature and his lyrics “will forever live on in the musical landscape of Quebecers.”


For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to stories of success within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project that Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.