Accolade for Mojo Juju in the national press
WHEN singer Mojo Juju performed on the big stage in Victoria Park late October for this year’s DREAM Festival, she used the time between songs to reflect on growing up in Dubbo. She acknowleged her family here, including long-time local couple Albert and Nena Stevens who are her grandparents on her mum’s side, and did a ‘shout out’ to any fellow Delroy High graduates who were in the crowd.
Mojo Juju sits on the list of people who have spent formative years in Dubbo and gone on to forge great careers, in her case as a talented performer often acknowledged as an innovator in the Australian music scene.
The latest accolade came a few days ago when Andrew Mcmillen, the national music writer for The Australian newspaper, included Mojo Juju’s song “Native Tongue” in his short list of “Great Australian songs you may have missed in 2018”. As a music writer and critic, he was highlighting ten songs that may not have had the same chart success as 2018’s big name pop and rock stars, but that were worthy of recognition because of their sheer musical genius.
It’s an accolade because a music writer hears hundreds, perhaps thousands, of songs each year. Some are bad, some are okay, some are great – but for Mr Mcmillen, “Native Tongue” was one of the top 10 that stood out for its orginality and impact.
Mcmillen’s review opened: “Melbourne singer Mojo “Juju” Ruiz de Luzuriaga explored her indigenous and Philippine heritage with the powerful opening to Native Tongue: ‘I don’t speak my Father’s native tongue / I was born under a southern sun / I don’t know where I belong.’
“The 35-year-old grew up moving around regional NSW and has no trouble travelling between blues, soul and pop to arrive at a distinctively modern sound.”
She told the paper about what inspired her to write the song. “I was reflecting on my relationship with my dad; he speaks four languages and I only speak one,” Mojo Juju explained. As she explained the background to the song, she told a very personal story of missing out on seeing her grandmother on her dad’s side one more time before passing away “about a month after her 95th birthday”.
You can read the full story in The Australian. For me, Andrew Mcmillen’s story was well-timed. I had been reflecting on 2018 drawing to a close and 2019 about to begin. Much of the news reporting over the past week has described 2018 as an “annus horribilis” for Australia, and perhaps the globe. There’s no doubt Western NSW copped a lot during 2018, primarily due to the extremes of drought – topped off with that wild dust storm that rolled across the region late on New Year’s Eve.
But to be fair, I was looking for the ‘up’ side of 2018 too – those people, events and things that gave us all a lift during the year just ended. And the DREAM Festival – including Mojo Juju’s highlight performance – sit high on that list.
The DREAM Festival had its critics when it was first launched, but as with so many community events, there’s a small group of volunteer committee people behind the event who persisted, soldiered on, and succeeded. Those same three descriptors can be used for Mojo Juju who (and I’m taking an educated guess here) decided she didn’t want to be the creator of the stock-standard girl band pop songs that fill our airwaves – she wanted to be the creator of her own style of music. Despite taking that musical hard road, she has persisted, soldiered on, and succeeded.
A still from the music video for Mojo Juju’s “Native Tongue” which has been named by a leading Australian music writer as one of the ten ‘must listen’ tracks of 2018.