If you don't see around what you need, make it yourself.

I’m Japanese, my parents are Japanese but Singapore is home to me.

My family history is deeply rooted in Singapore.

I moved here when I was four.

My father was stationed in Singapore as a subcontractor of a Japanese construction company. We left and then he got posted to Singapore again when I was 10. Being an entrepreneur at heart he became independent, and after few endeavors he has started his own cafe called Bon Goût at UE Square (later it moved to Robertson Quay), which was famous for its curry, cooked by my mother and used books where you could sit and read - it really was a nice hang out for many people. I still bump into my parents’ fans 5 years after they have left Singapore.

Japan is my home too, but besides my artistic activities as a jazz pianist, most of my work right now is for Singapore.

I recently registered an organization called We Love Jazz (Singapore) Limited (aka ‘We Love Jazz') with 4 other driven cohorts. It’s designed to strengthen the jazz community of Singapore. Our main project is to build a resource centre where current and historical information of jazz and improvised art form will be collected, archived and made available for the public.

Besides the main project, we will organize events, jam sessions, discussions and many more – all to inspire our little but precious community. One of the planned project is called Void Deck Jazz, where jazz musicians will collaborate with the heartlanders – kids, uncles and aunties…it could be a blend with KTV type of music, which would be both funny and beautiful!

Do you know how amazing Singapore's jazz history is? There have been so many really talented musicians here, but my concern always has been that somehow they stop playing and . . . disappear.

Jazz is an improvised art form. To me it represents joy and freedom. It breaks my heart to see people quitting. There is just not enough space and awareness. I want to change that. Hopefully, with what we do with 'We Love Jazz', we will make it happen even by baby steps.

Currently I’m taking a master’s degree in Arts & Cultural management because I want to know more about the politics and tactics around managing arts. It’s hard work but it is extremely fulfilling to know that there are ways and I’m not the only one in this field.

I see a huge potential here! And the potential is the opportunity.

I want to contribute to Singapore and I feel that I can. Maybe it’s because I’m Japanese and lived abroad for a long time. I've spent over 10 years in the States. It’s not like I’m better, it’s just that I’ve ended up seeing a lot, and I want to share my experiences to make things better, that’s all. I know the struggles here. The fact I feel it so strongly, I think it is my responsibility to deal with it.

My father always had this line, “If you don’t see around what you need, make it yourself!” That is why my father started the cafe with books & curry, and ran it for over 10 years. Actually, it is in our DNA. This was the reason why my grandfather started a boutique for imported clothes in the 1950s. The name Bon Gout came from him, which is now the name of my sole proprietorship.

When I believe in something that’s very good, I tell people about it and get them to try it. I share my lessons. And when they come back and say that my advice works, that is really amazing to me. My students are learning from my mistakes. I also teach them how to make space for themselves in their life because one’s mind can become very cloudy.

It took me a very long time to clear up and listen to what my heart really, really wants. I often feel that in Singapore, the people gets lost especially the artists, because the country decides for you what’s next, but art is not about that. Maybe when it’s SG100, things will get better, but I don’t know if we should wait any longer.

Many people complain about Singapore, but Singapore makes me stronger. It can frustrate me, but it also motivates me.

What I’m doing with We Love Jazz was borne after years of questioning as an artist. Now I’ve turned the questions into a passion.

It is my purpose in life, and I have Singapore to thank for that.
Aya Sekine