Ac­co­lade for Mojo Juju in the na­tional press

Dubbo Photo News - - News - Com­ment by TIM PANKHURST MAN­AG­ING ED­I­TOR

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.

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