The name Mojo Juju has become representative of individuality, guts and raw talent since she made it onto the Australian music circuit in the late 2000s. Her third studio album ‘Native Tongue’ will be released on August 24th, where she combines past and present, revealing the tales of her ancestors and laying bare her pursuit of self-discovery.
Mojo Ruiz de Luzuriaga, has made the name Mojo Juju one to remember, crafting her artist persona to represent and reach out to anyone struggling with identity and culture. She wears her mixed-race skin proudly; a warm shade of sienna made by Filipino and Aboriginal bloodlines. and walks strongly on her feet as a homosexual woman, pioneering a path of individuality into the contemporary music scene. The roots of her ancestry and her place in the world has become the heart of her soon-to-be released third studio album ‘Native Tongue’.
As a Filipino immigrant her father came to Australia where he met her mother, a descendant of the Wiradjuri nation. Though Juju was brought up speaking English, her parents’ multilingual ability had imparted heavy inspiration for reconnection to her heritage. The album digs into the skin of history and place, searches for tales of truth and exposes them over sixteen tracks. Gripping you with the roar of her voice, she bestows tales of her origins and unveils experiences she had faced in finding her place in the world. As the heart becomes entrapped in her moody narration, the soul is taken by the sound of a rhythm and blues, electro-pop journey spliced with the abrupt calm of two monolog interludes and a spoken word reprise.
Perhaps the different strains that create Juju’s identity are what has given her impressive ability as a musician to vary genres, mould unique sounds and affirm a place in the music landscape. The evolution of Juju’s sound is evident looking back over past records.
Her 2012 debut self-titled album ‘Mojo Juju’, threw it back to a 1900’s film noir vibe with crooning oboes and seductive doo-wopping. Its dynamic jazz and blues rhythm walked us by the side of an abandoned railroad with a six string on our back. After three years, she released her second album ‘Seeing Red Feeling Blue’ in 2015 which took musings of electronic and pop genres for a new shake up on RnB, soul and blues. Written with producer Ptero Stylus (Putbacks and The Cactus Channel) and the help of a piano the second album showed Juju shift between jazzy brass-soul to airy pop harmonies.
Now three years on, ‘Native Tongue’ is a testament to her story and the stories of her family. She ignites the fires of history, explores the connection with Elders and takes inspiration from the past. Stoking the coals with sometimes a punch of RnB and a dash of rock and roll, then other times smouldering the flames to a slow and tender unveiling of self. Together these elements combine beautifully to enhance the record’s conceptual foundations.
Taking part in production across the album, Steven Schram (Paul Kelly), Joel Ma (Joelistics), jnbo (The Cactus Channel) and Jamieson Shaw (Netflix Series The Get Down), including an array of Indigenous vocalists by the likes of the Pasefika Vitoria Choir, hip hop MC Mirrah (L-Fresh The Lion), soul music troubadour Joshua Tavares and spoken word artist Lay the Mystic, adding that little bit of extra heat.
The features bring a humbling sense of inclusion for different indigenous artists, in particular the Pasefika Vitoria Choir who appear on the heavy-hitting title track ‘Native Tongue’. It’s eerie, luring, powerful and honest (with an awesome video clip featuring indigenous dance group Djuki Mala). Produced by Joelistics, the minimalistic beat and humming chant of the Pasefika Vitoria Choir provide a spooky tribalesque base for Juju to lay her troubled but passionate resonance over.
“It’s a song for anyone who has ever felt like they are stuck between two worlds, struggling to find a place in either,” Juju said.
“I wrote this song about my own experience, but I also wrote it hoping that it might reach other mixed race and/or Indigenous people who have longed for deeper connection to their culture.”
The album strengthens with powerful highs like this, but even so with its stripped back lows such as the two interludes, ‘Papά (Tagalog Interlude)’ spoken by her father, and ‘Pidge (Jackie Interlude)’ the voice of her grandmother. Speaking entirely in Tagalog, her father demonstrates his native Filipino language for the entire duration of ‘Papά (Tagalog Interlude). Whereas her grandmother opens her heart over painful memories and confronts you with the rawness. They each go for less than a minute but in such a short time the voices of her forebears offer significant impact. They pull you a little deeper and make you listen a little more carefully to the songs that had been inspired by them.
However these are not the only tracks that linger. Something Wrong featuring Mirrah comes in with a blues kick revamped with a boppy, pop melody. And it shakes it up again for Mirrah’s rap cameo where the beat transforms to a dubstep breakdown. It’s an unexpected but enjoyable experience. Hands down, one of those catchy tunes you sing for a week later.
Now the one that really grips your heart and squeezes… ‘1000 Years’ opens with only a few drum beats slowly stomping while the pluck of a blues guitar warbles into silence. As the next warble reverberates I am taken into the shadows of a dimly lit bar, standing before a stage as a haze of cigarette smoke obscures the room. The lights barely outlining Juju front of stage, offering mystery as she caresses the microphone in the silk of her voice. I will wait a thousand years, and I will cry a thousand tears… for you. And when you hear this line, you feel your chest tighten just a little bit more.
After being taken through the fascinating depths of Juju’s Native Tongue, you come to know her more personally and see the world with insight into the importance of heritage, individuality and power of creation. An album like this can really change things, enlighten people and inspire just from its authenticity and passion. Just like she has come to rekindle her connection, I too have come to connect with the gift of Mojo Juju; musician, artist, pioneer, inspiration.
NATIVE TONGUE Track Listing:
- Native Tongue
- Papά (Tagalog Interlude)
- Something Wrong (Featuring MIrrah)
- Think Twice
- Bound To
- Cold Condition (Featuring Joshua Tavares)
- Shut Your Mouth
- Never Again
- I Just Wanna Know
- Pidge (Jackie Interlude)
- Far Too Late
- 1000 Years
- Don’t Stop Me Now
- Native Tongue Reprise (Featuring Lay The Mystic)
‘Native Tongue’ Single + Album Pre-Order available July 6th via ABC Musical / Universal
‘Native Tongue’ out August 24th via ABC Music / Universal
August 8th-11th – Arts Centre Melbourne
August 19th – Sydney Opera House