Andre Alexis's musical tribute to Toronto's Parkdale

The author gives us a playlist of songs that remind him of his current neighbourhood in Toronto, Parkdale
Author André Alexis was the winner of the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize with his novel, The Hidden Keys. (Coach House)

Editor's note: The audio segment above followed Madeleine Thien's interview with host Tom Power today thus him referring to Thien's voice in the opening seconds of this piece. 

In a new segment we call the q Block Party, we invite guests to pay a musical tribute to the neighbourhoods they hold dear to their hearts. 

Today, author and last year's Giller Prize winner Andre Alexis takes listeners on a guided musical tour through Toronto's Parkdale, a vibrant and diverse neighbourhood in the west end of the city. Parkdale has been Alexis's home for the past two decades and his award-winning novel, The Hidden Keys, is actually set in that area of Toronto. 

Below are Alexis's song picks and his reasons behind them.

Cuff the Duke, "If I Live, Or If I Die" 
"Parkdale is a beat, it's like walking, it's like people, it's like rhythm — and so 'If I Live Or If I Die' by Cuff the Duke really reminds me of this place."

Tayang, "New Tibetan Song"
"I live in a community that 3000 and more Tibetans and so it's the neighourhood in Canada that has the greatest number of Tibetans. It's reflected in stores, restaurants, people in traditional costumes, even, walking the street. I like it. It's just part of the neighbourhood, it's just there. This piece I loved and I felt it was necessary to search out some Tibetan pop music." 

Devo, "Satisfaction"
"This should actually be 'Satisfaction' by the Rolling Stones because there's a Stones place which is a bar with tons of Rolling Stones memorabilia on Queen Street. But I like that it's erratic, that it's Devo, that it's a little bit strange and yet it's familiar at the same time. There's something about that strip where the Stones place and the Cadillac Lounge is on that is sort of old fashion but isn't."

Witold Lutoslawski, "Interlude for Orchestra"
"For me, Parkdale and High Park is actually the neighbourhood. When I first moved there, along Roncesvalles, it was really very much Polish culture that was at play for me, an Eastern European thing. I feel a kind of spookiness, a kind of transcendence, sadness — all of that stuff working in."

Lord Kitchener, "Rain-O-Rama"
"There's a Caribbean element that I'm part of in Parkdale and so this song is by my mom's favourite Calypsonian, Lord Kitchener. I remember the first time my mother and I were walking along Queen Street together and she said it was so familiar to her. And why it was so familiar to her was that it was summer, and Parkdale at Queen and Landsdowne reminded her exactly of being in Trinidad." 


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