Get To Know: Kuya James
Born to a Filipino father and Dutch mother, and raised in Darwin, KUYA JAMES has made his debut this week with ‘Sabaw’. Featuring label mate and fellow Northern Territorian Serina Pech, ‘Sabaw’ is packs more than a few punches thanks to Pech‘s heavenly voice floating above Kuya James‘ rich production. Complete with Asian samples and 808s, the song is named after the Filipino word for soup, and is one that’s incredible personal to James.
Speaking of the Kuya James project and ‘Sabaw’, James said, “I want young Asian people and those of mixed heritages to feel like they are represented in spaces they otherwise might feel like they are excluded from. I don’t want them to have to compromise any part of themselves in order to achieve their place in the game. My music is unashamedly inspired by Asia and all that fits under that umbrella. I love the connection and collaboration across genres with the artists that are part of my expansive community. The sounds I create are inspired by a mix of musical cultures, just like my biological heritage. It reflects our Australian existence.”
The solo project of prolific producer James Mangohig (Tasman Keith, Stevie Jean, Caiti Baker), Kuya James is tipped to have plenty more where ‘Sabaw’ came from, so before he does that, we wanted to get to know him a bit better. Check out our chat below and dive into the stunning video accompanying ‘Sabaw’ (made by Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore) here:
Who are you?
Music Producer, Movie Watcher, Part Time Cook, Filipino Mandalorian, Occasional DJ, I guess I’m a writer too but it feels strange to acknowledge that.
How did Kuya James come to be?
As James Mangohig I have worked in the music industry for a while now, so it felt fitting that I would come out as a solo artist using a name that reflected how I felt in regards to my community. Kuya means “Older brother” in Tagalog, which is the national language of The Philippines. That is where my father is from. So in many ways “Kuya James’ came to be because I’m the first born of 3 brothers and they both had to call me Kuya.
What are we talking, vibes-wise?
Heavy beats with a tribal stomp, good energy. Collaborations with artists you know and some you don’t know. We building here, as Asian Australians we’ve had an interesting time navigating this media / arts landscape, but we’re here, we’re breaking down stereotypes and having fun doing it. That’s how it feels within my community anyway. I can only talk from my experiences and the things I see online too.
Tell us more about your debut single, Sabaw ft. Serina Pech?
I’ve been working with Serina Pech for years. I first got sent a video from Caiti Baker with a text “check this 18 yr old Filipino girl, her voice is incredible”. It was Serina in a noisy bar playing ukulele. I fell in love with her tone and songwriting instantly. We write together all the time, she genuinely feels like my sister, not just cos she’s also half Filipino, but because her mind is unique and she challenges me to think in different ways….like any younger sister would. Sabaw is about overcoming suppression, realising the power and beauty in our true natures even the dark or difficult parts of it.
What can we expect from you in the months ahead?
I’m dropping a bunch of singles leading up to a full length album. I’m not exactly sure what that looks like but I have 2 folders on my computer, one is for instrumentals that i’m building and developing and the other is for collaborations with singers / rappers / poets etc. Both folders have over 20 tracks in them.
Where can we hear more from you?
Soon there will be a lot more tracks dropping, but for now it’s all about SABAW feat. Serina Pech, which you can find on all platforms, but I recommend checking the clip first. You can also hear my production on some recent releases – Tasman Keith’s “Billy Bad Again” and “Nightmares on 9th”. Stevie Jean’s track “Bored” and Caiti Baker’s prison podcast theme song – “Worth It”.
‘Sabaw’ ft Serina Pech is out now via Settle Down Records.