🎷 Jazz & Japan 🇯🇵
Sparking creativity through culture
I remember the first time I visited Chinatown as a kid. Having grown up in a small ski town 45 minutes north of Montreal, I’d been to “the city” countless times—after all, my parents were from Montreal and most of my extended family resided there. But it wasn’t until my pre-teens that I explored the streets of Chinatown.
I went with my oldest friend, who’s half Japanese, and her parents. And I was in awe of this part of the city that felt like another place entirely. My introduction to Asian culture thus far had been spending time at their house and eating with chopsticks was always a highlight. Forks seemed lame by comparison, but I guess the “rare” thing is always the wondrous thing and in a town that was 99% white and French, a foray into Japan was peak cultural richness.
I was thinking of that first visit when I crossed the archway into Chinatown on Friday. A friend had suggested Poincaré—a trendy yet underrated spot to grab food and drinks—before we hit the Jazz Festival. And it occurred to me that my friend’s late father, who was a beam of sunshine throughout my childhood with the brightest smile you can imagine, had not only introduced me to Japanese culture and Chinatown, but he also introduced me to jazz. He used to play the saxophone and I have fond memories of his music as a backdrop while we played.
I love when life comes full circle like that. It feels synchronistic when a single experience helps you see how a number of past experiences fit together in a meaningful way.
🎷 Jazz Fest
I’m a big fan of gifting experiences over items as well as embracing spontaneity. So I was stoked to catch the tail end of the Jazz Festival when my friends booked tickets to Friday’s show. I didn’t know who we were seeing but I knew it would be fun. And the night didn’t disappoint.
We ended up at a sold-out show for Haitian DJ and record producer Michaël Brun. And much like my first venture into Chinatown, I felt like I was stepping into another city when I stepped into the venue. The Caribbean crowd was incredible—both the fans and guest performers and Brun himself remarked multiple times that it was the best crowd he’d ever had (having made the jump from 400 spectators to 2,200 since he last performed in Montreal four years ago). Here’s a glimpse of the theatre (which felt as hot as the Caribbean) from Brun’s Instagram:
Having lived overseas for the better part of the last decade (in London, Sydney, and Paris), I take Terry Pratchett’s words to heart:
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors.”
When I moved home to Montreal during the pandemic, I vowed to never become complacent. I didn’t want to take the city for granted and swore I’d maintain my exploratory nature to make the most of being in such a culturally diverse place.
For instance, today I tried a meditation class taught by a monk at a Buddhist centre near my old stomping grounds when I worked at Ubisoft—it was a lot harder to sit still and keep my mind clear for 50 minutes than I thought. I felt like a fidgety child while the monk remained perfectly still (based on the handful of times I opened my eyes to check how much time was left). In any case, just walking into the centre was like leaving Montreal and entering a new realm. It was a cool feeling and consequently, I left feeling relaxed and inspired.
My question to you is, what local experiences can you tap into to spark your creativity?
Thanks for reading and have a wonderful week,
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