At this year’s 51st Annual Juno Awards Ceremony, Toronto-based world-jazz ensemble Avataar won the award for vocal jazz album of the year (group) for their album WORLDVIEW. Led by Sundar Viswanathan a multiple-JUNO nominated jazz saxophonist, vocalist and composer, the sextet features vocalist Felicity Williams, guitarist Michael Occhipinti, bassist Justin Gray, tabla player Ravi Naimpally and drummer Max Senitt. The record also has contributions from Aaron Lightstone on oud and Todd Pentney on keys.
Ravi Naimpally and his parents Sudha and Late Somashekhar Naimpally have been long standing members of OKA. Most of us know the Naimpally family very well.
Born in Kanpur, Uttarpradesh, Ravi Naimapally lived in Thunder Bay and Ottawa before settling in Toronto. He completed his High School in Thunder Bay, got his B.A. from Carleton University, Ottawa, and Master’s degree from York University, Toronto.
His father Late Somashekhar Naimpally was a mathematician and his mother was an occupational therapist and both were music aficionados. They moved to Canada in the 1970s, at which point his parents started organizing concerts of Hindustani classical music. His brother Shiv is also a learned tabla player and works as a patent lawyer, his sister Anuradha is a professional Bharatnatyam dancer.
Ravi gives full credit to his parents for his interest and involvement in music. In his own words “…. music was being played in our house from morning to night every day. His parents would also arrange concerts in Kanpur and then in Thunder Bay, thus Ravi was able to listen to and meet masters like Bismillah Khan, Begum Akhtar, Amjad Ali Khan, Jnan Prakash Ghosh, Buddaditya Mukherjee, Ashwini Bhide and many more.”
Ravi’s main Gurus were Pandit Nikhil Ghosh and Pandit Anindo Chatterjee. He has also learned a lot from Pandit Sadanand Nayampalli and Pandit Sushil Kumar Jain.
Avataar is a world-jazz group based in Toronto. Their album Worldview was released in October 2021 “which was inspired by the deep musical traditions of India, Africa, and Brazil, rooted within the framework of modern jazz. In an innovative marriage of ancient and modern, driving grooves intersect with cinematic atmospheres and soaring melodies, creating a fresh, emotive sonic experience. Bandmembers share an eclectic range of musical expertise – hardbop, pop, rock, electronica, free improvisation, world, and R&B/Soul filter into the interpretations of the tunes.”
“While Avataar’s debut album, Petal, explored the evanescence of human life and was a call for a return to spiritual connectedness, Worldview attempts to also present a musical commentary on the state of our world, on the pandemic, and on the inability of our leaders to lead with integrity, honesty, and compassion. While the actions of our leaders affected so many, some of the songs started as gut responses to the treatment of children, our most valuable and vulnerable citizens, and act as vehicles of catharsis for the composer.”
The ensemble is a recipient of the 2016 Toronto Jazz Festival Special Projects Initiative award, The group has appeared at the Markham Jazz Festival, Small World Festival, the Sudbury Jazz Festival, and the Brampton Global Jazz Festival as well as at the Lula Lounge, known for playing international salsa, jazz, and world music.
To my question What are your goals? Ravi simply responded, “my goals are to keep learning and getting better and bringing joy to listeners”. Wishing Ravi all the very best in his musical journey.
Compiled by Sadanand Mankikar
Source: Personal communication with Ravi Naimpally and Avaatar website.