Joanna Funk

music, gardening and my dog

Chong Ali at the Flamin’ Galah

Photography 📷 @le_akira

Last year I reviewed Chong Ali at The Flamin’ Galah for Scenestr, but I never put it on my blog. In these Covid lock-down times I thought it would be good to relive some of that. I’ve reshaped it and have included more photos. Akira Le took all the photos, and it was in fact the first time I met her!

Review: Chong Ali @ The Flamin’ Galah, Scenestr 04 November 2019

Chong Ali got up on stage at The Flamin’ Galah and looked up to the balcony. “Make some noise for them down here!” They did. He looked down to the mosh. “Make some noise for them up there!” They did.

The Flamin’ Galah is a long, narrow venue with high, red-brick walls, a long bar on the left, and front-of-house set-up on the right. In between was a dense sea of men and women, with arms raised for their man Chong Ali, and for themselves. Because the theme of this show was representation.

Chong gave a shout-out to Hayden of Deep LVL and Flamin’ Galah. He acknowledged all the bar staff, and Hugh the house soundman. Then he turned to his fans. “Most of all, a big shout-out to you guys – look at you motherf…ers, all dressed up and sh.t! I actually wrote this song for you – I think you guys can vibe it with me, right?” They sure did.

I’m a Problem
like a war correspondent
reporting from a province that ain’t transported by Qantas
my skin tone’s what’s shinin’
and if that’s ignitin’ a fire then I guess we’re fightin’
I’m a Problem

The crowd heaved to a thudding bassline, and Chong paced the stage, panther-like and punching.

He took his emcee swagger, infused it with love and gave it back to his audience. “My fam in the house. Now let me see you represent two times, put two hands up in the goddamn air! Don’t it feel good that you stand up with your fam? F… yeah.” In that moment, everyone got to be Chong Ali: proud, Asian and unapologetic. It felt real good.

In that moment everyone got to be Chong Ali: proud, Asian and unapologetic

The crowd sang the chorus of his new single ‘Laughing Buddha’, and soon The Flamin’ Galah was heaving as they busted their lungs singing all the words to ‘Yeah Bruss’, Chong’s homage to his South Brisbane neighbourhood.

“He’s been singing since he was a kid,” said someone who was at school with him. Chong Ali is still singing, only now his voice has become the voice of his brothers and sisters in Brisbane, and of a wider family beyond.

School friends Barber Q Le and Chong Ali 📷 le_akira
Finger to the sky if you know what it’s like
to never sleep at night
'cause you’re dreaming with your eyes wide open
when your life’s so broken
you wake up with your eyes all swollen

When asked before the show whether he gets nervous standing up there alone on stage, sometimes performing to corporate crowds, Chong said: “But I’m never alone, my fam is always with me.” That was clearly demonstrated tonight. The love for Chong, his words and his music, was palpable. You had to be there to witness it.

I’m never alone, my fam is always with me

Chong Ali

He serves up music soaked in truth and defiance. His honesty is hard and resonates like a clarion call. But this guy is a fighter, a charmer, and he wants a better world. His ‘fam’ will be there to hold him up, and to follow him.

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About Joanna

Joanna is British Australian. Her early career was in financial news in London. That ended in 2008. Joanna moved to Sabah, her parents’ birthplace, where she wrote a blog about musicians, which became a book. Joanna came to Australia in 2012 and started this blog — her second. These days, she writes mostly about music, her garden, and trips to Sabah. Oh, and Wookie the Havanese.

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