Music review: Pinoy Street Party, OzAsia Festival

A celebration of Filipino music and culture.

It’s a chilly evening for a street party, and the performers arriving on stage recall wistfully the 38-degree weather they left behind them in Darwin. But by the end of the night, these artists’ enthusiasm and energy, along with the aroma of street food cooking nearby and the packed crowd the event has drawn, all go some way to warming up the atmosphere (even if restrictions mean dancing on the audience’s part must be limited to some lively head-nodding). 

Adelaide-born DJ Kuya James is the creator of Pinoy Street Party – a two-hour celebration of Filipino music, culture, and stories. As well as performing his own original songs, James has gathered new friends and long-time collaborators to share the stage. The resulting vibe is generous and joyful. Everyone seems excited to be performing together, and their stories of meeting, collaborating, and supporting each other in their journeys as artists reveal a strong sense of community.

Read: Theatre review: The Rocky Horror Show

They’re certainly a multitalented group. Throughout the night we experience songs speaking to the upcoming Philippine presidential election, spoken word pieces about the Filipino-Australian experience (set to beats provided by James), traditional dances, hip-hop routines, original pop tracks, and covers (in both English and Tagalog) of classics from across the decades. Brian Ruiz singing ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ and Becky Blake’s buoyant rendition of ‘Mr Disco’ prove especially popular. 

With such a range of acts, the show is inevitably something of a mixed bag. A slower start leads into the high-energy, highly collaborative numbers that are the real strength of Pinoy Street Party. One particular highlight is the partnership of James and young Northern Territory singer/songwriter Serina Pech, who features on James’s latest album, ISA (2020). Songs such as ‘Sabaw’ (meaning ‘soup’) and ‘Rewind Our Love’ – a mood-lifting 80s-synth-heavy track written during the depths of lockdown – are well worth checking out. 

True to its name, Pinoy Street Party is at heart a celebration – of art and culture, of collaboration and community, of being able to come together to listen, learn, and create. All things that feel particularly precious and important right now. 

Pinoy Street Party was performed for one night only, 29 October 2021, as part of OzAsia Festival.

Megan Koch is a writer and bookseller based in Adelaide. She studied English and Applied Linguistics at Flinders University.