While planning for our upcoming fashion show TPK 2021 (happening in October), my partner Ducky who handles sound design for the event showed me a video of this very talented artist. Her name is Mo’Ju. She’s very proud to say that she is Wiradjuri, Filipino and queer.
She is an ARIA-nominated Australian musician best known for her 2018 album Native Tongue and the lead single with the same title which won an AIR Award in 2019 for best Independent Single. Mo’Ju’s bubbling career which began in 2012 gained more attention in 2016 when she got nominated for the Live R&B or Soul Act of the Year from the National Live Music Awards which she later won in 2018 and 2019 together with the Victorian Live Act of the Year. In the same year, she also won the Songwriter Award from the Australian Women in Music Awards.
Her full name is Mojo Ruiz de Luzuriaga. She was born in Regional New South Wales from a Filipino father from Bacolod and a mixed race mother with Wiradjuri and European heritage. The Wiradjuri people are a group of Aboriginal Australian people who are united by common descent through kinship and shared traditions. Mo’Ju got her musical influence from her mother’s side of the family who influence her love for the piano and the guitar. But it was her father who was featured in one of the songs in her album.
Her music mostly talks about her experience growing up mixed race experiencing racism, alienation and journey to finding herself. Though she was born in NSW, because of her father’s work, they have been living in different parts of Australia. However, Dubbo would always be home for Mo’Ju where she spent her grade school years.
In an interview with the multicultural online platform The Pin (http://www.thepin.org/meet/mojo-juju):
You’ve been referred to as gender-bending and a Pinoy by some media outlets. How do you feel about labels and categorisation?
M. Sometimes I find labels frustrating, but I guess I’m less frustrated by someone referring to me as Pinoy than I am about someone saying I’m a 'blues artist' or a 'soul singer'. I guess as far as that kind of thing goes, yes I identify with my Filipino heritage, even though I grew up in Australia, and at least it’s something I am connected to that isn’t going to change. As an artist however, I definitely don’t want people making assumptions about my music.
There are so many kinds of music, as well as life experiences that have informed the music that I make, but I’m not trying to emulate anyone and I’m definitely growing, evolving and experimenting as an artist. Hopefully improving too [laughs]! So yeah, it always pisses me off when people think I’m a revivalist or that I’m a 'genre' artist. I’m not. And the minute you think you’ve got me figured out I’m going to reject it.