James Austin Farrell talks to Pharadon ‘Por’ Phonamnuai about his role in setting up the Northgate Jazz Co-Op which has become Chiang Mai's leading jazz venue.

By | Fri 27 Aug 2010

Success is a vital word for any entrepreneur, though in Chiang Mai it is a rare occurrence when a business, a new idea, manages to become the bubble that doesn’t get burst. Pubs, restaurants, bookshops, tailors, tinkers and toilet seat makers often go out of business as fast than they went into business, giving our city streets of brightly coloured shophouses with their neon signs and slogans, a kind of kaleidoscopic quality. Northgate, not Chiang Mai’s first jazz pub, but certainly the city’s best ever known jazz club, has beaten the odds and become a raging, rarified, nightly, weekly, yearly success. So successful in fact that it can’t keep its clientele inside – on many nights of the week people are pushed out into the streets and moat surrounding the pub.

Twenty nine year old Pharadon ‘Por’ Phonamnuai is part owner of Northgate, jazz musician, writer, and part-time itinerant. He explained to Citylife from his other business, the Bird’s Nest restaurant and coffee shop, how he came to be one of Chiang Mai’s business successes. “I love travelling,” he says, “I travelled from Chiang Mai to Paris overland with my sax. I travelled through Europe, through Asia, everywhere was so beautiful and I saw a lot of different styles of music, like traditional sax in Mongolia, traditional music in Nepal. I went to Moscow, Paris, Barcelona, Berlin and I also lived in New York and Japan for a while. Everywhere was different, with a different energy that fits that environment, it’s so great to see this.” He has recently found a publisher for this book.

As Phonamnuai’s life has been a kind of a fusion in itself, it’s easy to see how Northgate embodies this heterogeneous style. “The concept at first was just a place to play, we wanted to support musicians, let them create their music. Each night we wanted different bands, a fusion of sounds. Sometimes people just turn up and then we have great house bands like New City Gurus and Peter’s Band,” explain Phonamnuai. It wasn’t always a success, he says, “only 700 baht was taken the first night.” But it’s not about the money. He believes in instilling confidence in Thai musicians to do their own music, not covers, which he says is not an easy task, but it’s something that he now notices happening more frequently. “But it’s not always technique that is important,” he says “when you have the energy, when you have the audience, and it all comes together, it’s beautiful.”

Northgate is open every night from 9.30 – midnight and all the music is live. All genres of musicians are welcome. Tuesday nights are jam nights. You can find Northgate on Facebook at Northgate Jazz Co-Op.

For information contact Tomo Kimura 083 574 6466 or Por 081 765 5246