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The 40th Annual Juno Awards Rock Toronto

Drake hosts the 40th Juno Awards on March 27 (photo by Anthony Mandler)

Canada’s prestigious music awards, the Junos, mark their 40th anniversary with a return home. To celebrate, Toronto-born rapper Drake leads a pack of award-winning artists from coast to coast for a harmonious tribute.

Superstars aren’t born everyday—nor is such a label freely given. But hip hop artist Drake is undeniably one, having been recognized not only by peers including mentor Lil Wayne, Jay-Z and Kanye West, but also by fans who made his first studio album, Thank Me Later, a platinum-selling hit. Even non-fans are likely familiar with the artist for his role as Jimmy Brooks on the TV show Degrassi: The Next Generation, as well as for his life-meets-rap lyrics, which get plenty of airtime on mainstream radio. Among the Forest Hill-raised performer’s chart-topping songs is the swooning ballad “Find Your Love” and the rhythmic “Fancy.”

On March 27, Drake secures double time on the stage at the Air Canada Centre as both the host of the 40th edition of the Juno Awards and as a nominee—and potential winner. The rapper is nominated for several awards, including Artist of the Year and Album of the Year. (Drake was also nominated for four Grammy Awards including Best New Album.) Soon, Drake will release his sophomore album, Take Care. It will undoubtedly earn him Juno nominations next year.

The awards ceremony itself is only part of this month’s Juno celebrations. Read on after the jump for more music-related fun.

Although the actual awards ceremony is just one night, plenty of events and activities are planned for the week leading up to it, giving fans plenty of opportunities to rub elbows with Canada’s lyrical legends.

JUNO ROCKS GARDEN Musical roots are planted at Canada Blooms (March 16 to 20) as R&B singer Jully Black, folksy songstress Sarah Harmer, country musician Carolyn Dawn Johnson and tenor Ben Heppner collaborate with award-winning Ontario landscapers for five special gardens reflecting each artist’s personal style and musical genre. In collaboration with his family, one garden will pay homage to jazz pianist Oscar Peterson.

THE JUNO AWARDS AT 40: CELEBRATING CANADIAN MUSIC ON FILM TIFF, the organization that presents the annual Toronto International Film Festival and also curates a daily selection of Canadian and international films at its Lightbox headquarters, honours the music industry with a week-long showcase of flicks, each introduced by a Juno winner, nominee, artist or filmmaker (March 20 to 26). The program includes Neil Young: Heart of Gold; Look at What the Light Did Now, featuring Feist during the production of her award-winning album The Reminder; Escarpment Blues, which follows Sarah Harmer on her 2005 concert and activitist tour; Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man; Oscar Peterson: Keeping the Groove Alive; and Blue Rodeo: In Stereovision.

Johnny Reid hosts the Juno Songwriter's Circle

OVATION: CELEBRATING 40 YEARS OF THE JUNO AWARDS Soprano Measha Brueggergosman, violinist Angèle Dubeau with the 12-woman ensemble La Pietà, Tafelmsuik Baroque Orchestra and the Gryphon Trio join the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s conductor Peter Oundjian for an evening of classical music featuring past Juno nominees and winners (March 22).

SONGWRITERS’ CIRCLE This popular event (March 23) hosted by country crooner Johnny Reid brings together talented singers and lyricists for an intimate evening of conversation and music.

JUNO BLOCK PARTY City and Colour is among the featured acts performing at this free outdoor concert (March 24), open to all at Metro Square (55 John St.), 7 p.m., free admission; call 416-485-3135 for a lineup and more information.

JUNO CUP This annual charity game (March 25) marries Canada’s favourite pastime—hockey, of course!—with the country’s top musicians and NHL alumni in a high-fiving game at Ricoh Coliseum. Blue Rodeo frontman Jim Cuddy, who is also the game’s co-founder and captain of “The Rockers,” says playing hockey is “not a requirement at all,” and that the most fun games have been with those who couldn’t skate or had never picked up a stick. Catch good sports such as Sarah Harmer, Chris Murphy and Andrew Scott of Sloan lacing up their skates against pros like Mark Napier, Gary Roberts and Paul Coffey.

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