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Sunday, March 29, 2015

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Jaffa Road thrilled about Juno nomination

Tags: Arts
From left, Aaron Lightstone, Chris Gartner, Aviva Chernick, Sundar Viswanathan, Jeff Wilson. [Steve Carty photo]

Toronto multi-ethnic band Jaffa Road has been nominated for a Juno Award for its sophomore album, Where the Light Gets In, which was released in October last year.

This is the second nomination for Jaffa Road, whose first album, Sunplace, was nominated for a 2010 Juno Award, also in the World Music Album of the Year category.

Vocalist Aviva Chernick called it a dream come true to receive this recognition. “It brings Jewish culture forward to the Canadian cultural sphere,” she said. “We’re part of a whole movement of people who are slowly edging Jewish culture more into the main so it’s not ghettoized, so that it can be celebrated as a voice in our national arena.”

The band blends influences from Jewish, Ladino and Indian music, jazz, and more.

Guitarist and oud player Aaron Lightstone said he was overwhelmed with feelings of excitement and accomplishment, as well as gratitude when he heard the news.

“We also saw the other nominees, and my first thought was that we’re in some pretty good company,” he said. “The competition is pretty stiff.”

Even if Jaffa Road doesn’t win, the band will feel honoured to have been included in the category, Lightstone said. “There are some great albums that didn’t even get nominated.”

Chernick said she is thrilled to find the band nominated in the same category as Danny Michel, whose album, Black Birds Are Dancing Over Me, is her current favourite.

“It’s the album we play in my house to dance around to and share joy, and I couldn’t believe it, that we’re nominated with him,” she said.

Jaffa Road spent almost a year on and off working on the newest album, said Chris Gartner, bassist and producer. It was the result of a collaborative effort involving a team of people that includes four guest artists.

It’s a huge accomplishment that a group with Hebrew music and obvious Jewish influences could reach such mainstream appeal, band members say.

“As much as we value and appreciate the support we’ve received from the Jewish community, we have a bit of a bigger vision for the band and what we think the band could do,” Lightstone said.

He added that the band’s success shows that Canadians are open to any kind of artistic expression. “There are other cultural communities doing this sort of thing – taking an aspect of one cultural heritage and putting it in the blender with everything else that’s around us in a multicultural mix and producing something new,” he said.

Chernick said Canadians who speak Hebrew can turn on the radio and hear their language, and people have thanked her for contributing to that effort. “They heard a piece of themselves on the radio,” she said. “That’s the joy for me.”

Lightstone said he found the group was being taken more seriously after the first Juno nomination. If he wants to play at a festival, for example, having the nomination attracts attention from the organizers.

“Even if we don’t end up getting the gig, at least I get call-backs now,” he said.

He also thinks it helped put a spotlight on the band, helping it stand out in the vast Canadian music scene.

It “makes it a little easier to be noticed in that very large crowd where there is a lot of high-quality music coming out of Canada,” he said, adding that he is looking forward to the awards ceremony for the opportunity it presents to connect with this network of acclaimed musicians.

Chernick said she is also looking forward to the ceremony, which she described as intimate despite being in a large room.

“You get to hear people speak about their journeys making the music. It feels good to be a part of it all,” she said. “It’s like other artists, working away in the woodshops, fine-detailing the piece for hours and hours, and all of sudden you get to be with people who appreciate it, and it makes it come alive.”

She said she’s especially looking forward to representing the community of people who have supported the band over the years.

The 2013 Juno Awards take place on April 21 in Regina.

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