Mojo Juju Sings ‘Native Tongue’

Mojo Juju previews unreleased album ‘Native Tongue’ live 

By Lois Maskiell

Mojo Juju’s voice has the smoothness of velvet and the texture of gravel and based on the live preview of her upcoming album, Native Tongue, it’s clear her voice is as rich and dynamic as ever. Mojo ‘Juju’ Ruiz de Luzuriaga’s latest show – which is part of Arts Centre Melbourne’s Big World, Up Close program – features a collection of profoundly personal songs that unearth her heritage growing up in the small town of Dubbo with her mother of Wiradjuri decent and Filipino father. Using storytelling and autobiography, this musical protest is a show of eclectic and soulful tunes that celebrate family and diversity, while also raising a fist against social inequalities.

With four albums under her belt, Mojo’s signature twang has evolved over the course of two albums with the punk-speakeasy outfit, The Snake Oil Merchants, and two solo albums (Mojo Juju, Seeing Red and Feeling Blue). The show opens with her latest single Native Tonguesee here for the film clip – which is backed by the Pasefika Vitoria Choir. Accompanied by her brother, Steven Ruiz de Luzuriaga on drums and Yeo on base, the music is an original concoction of live and electronic instruments that mix organic and voltaic sounds.

Mojo’s driving riffs could easily have a dance floor pumping, though she can still deliver a ballad with intoxicating charm. ‘One Thousand Years’ filled the auditorium with its languorous melody and dense tenderness that could only be experienced live. A seasoned frontwoman, Mojo segues from one song to another, inserting anecdotes about life in Dubbo and how otherness, racism and feelings of not belonging shaped her youth. One twist in Mojo’s lineage involves a long-hidden relationship between her great-grandmother and a Wiradjuri man that significantly affected her mother’s family. Mojo reveals herself as a supreme storyteller by skillfully recounting the situation via three songs, each told from a different perspective. It’s a haunting tale of young love and heartache that plunges deep into her family history.

The storytelling and autobiography embedded in Mojo’s songwriting carry a crucial social message: to unashamedly speak up against racism and discrimination. “If you want to call me something, call it to my face. But I will not apologise for taking up this space,” she sings.  Mojo reminds her audience that her story is not special, but rather common for many living in Australia. Though uniquely, Mojo’s talent as a singer, songwriter and performer brings these common experiences to audiences today.

Mojo Juju: Native Tongue performs in:
Melbourne 8 – 11 August at Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne as part of Big World, Up Close. Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 1300 182 183.
Sydney 19 August at Sydney Opera House as part of UnWrapped. Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 02 9250 7111.

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