Is Blues Mojo’s Native Tongue?
Bluesfest | 18–22 April
Native Tongue is the title for Mojo Juju’s third studio album. It’s her essence laid bare, a raw, emotional, and intrinsically political offering that is also brutal and relentlessly real. Just like the woman herself
Since making a name for herself on the touring circuit Mojo Ruiz de Luzuriaga aka Mojo Juju has blown people away with her shapeshifting performance, honing the arts of storytelling with songwriting with more than a hint of theatricality. But this time around, she’s just decided to tell the story.
Native Tongue Mojo says ‘is definitely the most vulnerable I have allowed myself to be as an artist – I have always been authentic to myself, but definitely in the past I have blurred the lines between fact and fiction, or used a veil of fiction to tell my own stories in a way; there always has been truth at the heart. This album came out of a time of frustration. I was fed up. I just needed to address some things and tell my own story.’
And she’s done just that. In her new album Native Tongue she tells her family history and her experiences – her relationships with elders and ancestry and how that forms her own identity. Contemplating her mother’s Indigenous heritage and her father’s experience as a Filipino immigrant and her own place in modern Australia.
‘My parents are huge parts of who I am. I always strongly identified with my Filipino heritage. My dad emigrated here in the 80s and still has lots of family there. I felt strongly connected to that, because it was distant, it was easier to take ownership, but with my mum it was something I knew but we didn’t grow up in community.’
Part of her self-discovery is also claiming her Indigenous story after years of people saying ‘you’re not full black’.
‘Your identity becomes so whitewashed and disconnected. I know my heritage but I don’t know much about it. I am lucky to have a loving supportive family that share my experience.
‘One of the most crucial elements in order to know who you are is to know where you come from. To know your roots. We’ve all heard it before but it really started to resonate with me. I started to think about the importance of oral traditions, how songs are such a huge part of that. I wanted to document these stories from my family, as well as my own experiences with identity and culture. Delving into my family history is only the beginning of the story, but I think its a very good place to start.’
So this time Mojo goes out alone, on a solo tour without the band.
‘As an artist you are never really 100 per cent sure of what you are doing; there is always a bit of self-doubt. As a solo artist you don’t have anyone to challenge you on the decisions you are making, except your producer. I might have an idea and it might be good – but if I don’t have to argue it then I don’t know!’
Mojo Juju pulls no punches. Blending soul, RnB, blues and hip-hop, this is perhaps her ‘Native Tongue’.
She plays Bluesfest this year! | 18–22 April | Tix and program on bluesfest.com.au