Connecting with Filipino or ‘Pinoy’ communities across Australia, Adelaide born music producer and DJ Kuya James (Kuya meaning ‘older brother’) mixes old and new school songs of the Philippines to bring both elders and new generations together through a universal love of music. Garnering national respect as an artist/ producer and spins on Triple J, he returns home for a scorching feast of tribal beats, Asian samples and enough bass synths to put the venue PA through its paces.
A joyous celebration of heritage, get ready to fill the dance floor with a difference as Pinoy Street Party takes over the block with the freshest MCs, singers, musicians and DJs from Darwin to Adelaide. Including local street food and entertainment for the whole family, this will be a night of hip hop, remixes and culture unlike any the city has seen before.
After a challenging 2020 and 2021 how much are you looking forward to OzAsia Festival in Adelaide?
A lot! Although, being from Darwin we’re so lucky to have avoided lockdowns and strict rules, so we have had a lot of events and in some ways life has felt busier. I think that the flow-on effect of everything still affects us though, so we don’t take for granted getting to be able to be part of a festival in another state. Also, I was born in Adelaide, so I’ve got a lot of love for the place.
How important are events such as OzAsia Festival?
Very, especially with Artistic Director Annette Shun Wah getting appointed in 2020. It’s so dope to be able to celebrate our Asian community here in Australia.
What do you hope people walk away having experienced at the Pinoy Street Party?
The joy of Filipino people and culture, and also how random it can be. I also hope the Filipinos who come feel proud and represented by the way we’ve built this party!
How would you describe your show to someone who is thinking about getting tickets?
There will be cutting edge Filipino modern electronic sounds with more traditional and classic songs, too. The show is about celebrating Filipinos who have come to Australia to build a life, but also those of us who were born here and have grown up between two worlds. There will be stories, dancing, rapping, beautiful singing, remixes and some absolutely banging beats…and also, laughter and food (very important!).
Do you get to experience other events/shows while you are here for OzAsia Festival?
I do! I’m definitely going to watch my friend Jennifer Wong in The Special Comedy Comedy Special on the 30th of October and I will also check out the program more once I arrive in Adelaide and figure out how much time I have, haha!
Was it a relief getting your debut album ISA out?
Before I came out with the artist name Kuya James I had worked on so many other people’s albums, so I was more excited than relieved. It was a lot of fun to put the album together. Before 2020 I had a vision to make the record while travelling through The Philippines, Taiwan and Indonesia. It turned out very different, and because of COVID I was forced to take on a much more local approach, but that also felt right and it has made me reconnect with different communities here on a whole other level.
Was it a challenge working your way through those collaborations?
Not so much as I had built good relationships with them over the years. If you collaborate with artists that you’re already a fan of and vice versa, it makes the process really enjoyable because ego gets left at the door and you are all working towards making the best tunes possible, and sharing laughs and food along the way.
What do you look for in a collaboration?
I love hearing people’s stories, so I often look for what we want to represent through the collab. Honest and emotional writing, too. I love when a singer/rapper tells a deep story, but I also love when they just vibe out and flex their skills. Both feel relevant to the type of music I enjoy creating.
Have you kept working on new music?
Yep, I have been producing a record for EMCILLE (who I am bringing to Adelaide) and also a new hip hop crew out of Brisbane called EASTMODE. Both are really exciting projects and very close to being finished.
What’s next for Kuya James?
I’m working on a completely different type of record which is a bit of a tribute to my love of Asian psych rock music. Growing up I always played bass in bands before I got into producing beats etc. This project is a return to my love of that instrument and writing music in a more traditional band sense. I’m still adding some electronic elements including some samples and synths, but overall the sound is different, and I’ll need to put together a new band to play the record live.
Interview By Rob Lyon
DJ Kuya James plays at the Lucky Dumpling Market, Elder Park on Saturday 23 October at 8.30pm. This is a free all ages event. More info at the OzAsia website.
Also tickets for Pinoy Street Party at Nexus on Friday 29 October are available from OzAsia website.