May 31, 2022

By Nicole Cedrone, Managing Editor of Community and Culture Events

The Juno Awards are presented to Canada’s top musical artists and bands to acknowledge their artistic and technical achievements in all aspects of music. 

This year’s Junos were expecially exciting for Sundar Viswanathan, a Brampton resident and Juno winner for Jazz Album Group of the Year.  Sundar is a woodwind player, composer and vocalist and was notified in May that his band Avataar was nominated for the Juno.  He was shocked at the news when his manager called to tell him he won.

Sundar considered just being nominated for a Juno was an honour and exciting enough for him and his band. To actually win a Juno is another level altogther and he is so proud of the achievement and recognition for his band’s efforts. It was something he thought was beyond their reach when he compared himself and his band against some of the other nominees he knew that were in the same category.

Adding to his surprise is that Sundar’s jazz music is a little more eclectic than the more traditional submissions. The music isn’t straight up jazz. But perhaps it was that same uniqueness that attracted the votes and support of the voting members.

The album which won the Juno for Sundar and his band is titled Worldview, The album was written about what is going on in the world today including: the pandemic, war, politics, and poverty. Worldview takes a look at global perspectives from a diverse set of people who expressed what they saw and experienced outside their windows during covid lockdowns.

Sundar really wanted to find out and express how and what people were thinking in other countries about North America and the state of politics in particular.  He wrote about children and how they were experiencing the war in Ukraine along with other world events and questioned whether adults are giving the children a positive perspective on living, love and life.

Each song on the album was inspired by different events. Sundar wrote the music himself while the lyrics were written by band member Felicity Williams. For example, the song Innocents 12/14/12 was written for the innocent lives that were tragically taken by a school shooter at Sandy Hook elementary school in the USA. 

Sundar’s music allows him to express his feelings in a positive way. His daughter was the same age as the Sandy Hook children at the time of the shooting, in addition to, his friend lost a child at the shooting. For Sundar, the tragedy really hit home and his music provided some emotional relief.

Another song Sundar is proud of on this album is Little Kurdi (For Alan Kurdi).  The song is about Little Kurdi, the Syrian toddler who washed up on the shores of Turkey in 2015.  The child and his family were trying to escape Syria.

Sundar studies and teaches composition but his music comes from a place of inspiration. When that happens the music starts to flow and he will sing it into his tape recorder and continues to work on the song until it is complete. He says his music is a journey; a journey he wants to share with others. 

This Juno award winning album is the band’s second album and we can expect more to come from this young and exciting Canadian jazz group.

Avataar’s core personnel includes: Sundar (saxes and flutes), Michael Occhipinti (guitar), Felicity Williams (vocals), Justin Gray (bass and bass veena) , Ravi Naimpally (tablas and percussion), and Max Senitt (drums). Guests on the most recent album ‘Worldview’ include Todd Pentney (pno/synth) and Aaron Lightstone (oud)

You can listen to Sundar’s music on Spotify, Apple Music and Bandcamp. The album Worldview can be puchased here.