When Canadian music fans tune in to the Juno Awards Sunday night, members of the Western community can put on a little purple pride as well.
Five alumni and an ensemble featuring Don Wright Faculty of Music professor Thomas Wiebe are among the Juno nominees, with Western music grad Mike Gnocato as assistant mixer on album of the year contender, Wonder by Shawn Mendes.
The event will be hosted by Simu Liu, HBA’11. The Kim’s Convenience star has captivated audiences around the world, rising to prominence playing the title character in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Liu, a music lover who sang Hot Soup on the Shang-Chi movie album, calls hosting the Junos an “absolute honour.”
The actor shared his excitement in a released statement, saying, “Canadian artists are making themselves heard around the world, and I can’t wait to celebrate all the talent this amazing country has to offer.”
Liu comes to the emcee role with solid experience, having hosted Saturday Night Live last December.
In 2021, he made history starring in the first Asian-fronted movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which earned him The People’s Choice Award for best action movie star. On Tuesday, Liu received the IMDb “Fan Favourite” Starmeter award. The award recognizes actors who garner more than 200 million monthly page views on IMDb worldwide. His book, We Were Dreamers: An Immigrant Superhero Original Story, hit shelves earlier this month.
Tesher (Hitesh Sharma, HBA’17) – nominated for breakthrough artist of the year
In 2013, they had the Juno Awards in my city…and I couldn't get a ticket. In 2022, I'm
1️⃣ Nominated for breakthrough artist of the year
2️⃣ Curating the music for the whole show
3️⃣ Performing LIVE on national tv for the first time!
It all comes full circle this Sunday night 😈 pic.twitter.com/D5nmJJMoJN
— Tesher (@TesherMusic) May 10, 2022
Hitesh Sharma, known as Tesher, began uploading his early mashups and remixes of Bollywood and hip-hop songs to YouTube and SoundCloud in high school – a practice he continued throughout his time at Ivey Business School.
In 2020, he gained international recognition when his remix of Old Town Road by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus, with Ramta Jogi from the Bollywood film Taal, went viral on TikTok. His social media presence continued to skyrocket after dropping his original composition Young Shahrukh. It caught the attention of Sony Music India, which picked it up and released it on their label.
The Regina native’s most notable song, Jalebi Baby, which fuses Bollywood and hip hop, grabbed the ears of singer/songwriter Jason Derulo, who’s always looking for “something from left field.” Derulo reached out to Tesher to do a remix, which has generated nearly 200 million global streams.
Loud Luxury (Joe Depace, BA’14, popular music Studies, and Andrew Fedyk, BA’15, political science) – nominated for TikTok Juno fan choice, group of the year
Joe Depace and Andrew Fedyk met at Western, and shot to fame in 2018 following the release of their multi-platinum EDM hit Body, featuring vocalist Brando. Their follow-up hit, Love No More with Anders, has had more than 150 million streams on Spotify, while I’m Not Alright with Bryce Vine takes the tally to more than 90 million.
In 2020, the Los Angeles-based music production and DJ duo released their debut EP Nights Like This. Their 2021 release, Holiday Hills, features collaborations with Cat Dealers, Drew Love and Thutmose.
With a career total of 10 Juno nominations, Loud Luxury picked up two awards in 2019, when London, Ont., hosted the show.
Against the Grain Theatre Company (founded by artistic director Joel Ivany, BMusA’04) with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra – nominated for classical album of the year (large ensemble) Messiah/Complex
When Joel Ivany founded Against the Grain Theatre Company in 2010, he wanted to “revitalize the operatic art form by presenting an eclectic array of musical works in unconventional spaces and innovative ways.” By all accounts, he and his company have done just that with Messiah/Complex.
Messiah/Complex is an interpretation of Handel’s Messiah, performed in Arabic, Dene, English, French, Inuktitut and Southern Tutchone, and accompanied by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Capturing audiences from more than 40 countries worldwide, the production features twelve soloists and four choirs representing every province and territory across Canada.
ARC Ensemble (featuring Don Wright Faculty of Music professor Thomas Wiebe) – nominated for classical album of the year (small ensemble) Klebanov: Chamber Works
The ARC Ensemble (Artists of The Royal Conservatory) is among Canada’s most distinguished cultural ambassadors. Performing a wide range of music, the ensemble focuses on the research and recovery of works suppressed and marginalized under the 20th century’s repressive regimes.
From the ensemble’s Music in Exile series, Klebanov: Chamber Works centres on Jewish-Ukrainian composer Dmitri Klebanov (1907-1986), a casualty of Soviet-era cultural suppression and anti-Semitism. Fortunate not to have been among those artists and intellectuals arrested, killed or sent to forced labour camps during Stalin’s brutal reign, Klebanov understood his career and survival depended on producing works that glorified Soviet accomplishments.
For ARC celloist and Western professor Thomas Wiebe, “the Juno nomination is significant, because it means more Canadians will hear Klebanov’s music, played by Canada’s leading chamber musicians.”
While the current political context may bring heightened interest in the recovered music, Wiebe noted, “the music on this CD would have been timely, even if Russia hadn’t invaded Ukraine. It’s timely because it’s great music, and because the listener’s exposure to Klebanov’s music – long put to the side – is overdue.
Two works on the CD, String Quartet No. 5, and Piano Trio No. 2, “contain existential, almost desperate elements, which bear a special resonance these days,” Wiebe said. “In fact, the CD’s cover has a photograph of a metro station in Klebanov’s native Khark’iv. Of course, Ukrainians have used metro stations as shelters the past few months.”
Don Wright Faculty of Music graduate Mike Gnocato, BA’15, popular music studies, was the assistant mixer on Wonder by Shawn Mendes. The album has been nominated for both album of the year and pop album of the year.
Gnocato, who also worked as an assistant engineer on Ed Sheeran’s No. 6 Collaborations Project, and more recently with Ashanti, said working with big artists is exciting because the music reaches a lot of people.
“But still, the process is the same, no matter what,” he added. “Behind any record you hear, there is a team of people with specialized roles, and the bigger the artist, usually, the bigger the team.”
Reflecting on Wonder, Gnocato said the album’s high level of musicianship stands out.
“In a time when there are a lot of sampled sounds and programmed beats in pop music, this album had a lot of live-played instruments from hardware synths, to drums and guitars,” he said. “That gave an interesting feel in the modern pop scene. The record definitely deserved an album of the year nomination, and I’m happy I was involved.”
The 51st annual Juno Awards will be broadcast and streamed for the first time from an outdoor venue at Budweiser Stage in Toronto on Sunday, May 15. The show starts at 8 p.m. on CBC TV, CBC Gem, CBC Radio One, CBC Music, CBC Listen and globally at CBCMusic.ca/junos