Home' Rhythms Magazine : 2016 Mar-Apr Contents Rhythms 47
A few years ago my wife and I wandered into a local
pub for dinner and noticed that C. W. Stoneking was
playing that night with a local band – Mojo Juju and
the Snake Oil Merchants – as support act. We loved
Stoneking’s first album so decided to stay. When Mojo
and the band came on we were entranced.
Here was a singer channelling Billie Holiday or Bessie
Smith, dressed like a gypsy, fronting a strangely attired
band playing all sorts of exotic instruments. A man
walked constantly through the crowd talking and singing
through a megaphone. We were totally blown away!
“I remember that show! We were fans of Stoneking and
excited to be playing with him. That was a long time ago
– we’ve come a long way since then!”
It’s an even longer trip for Mojo from her hometown of
Dubbo, NSW. I was amazed to discover that such an
exotic personality came from the sleepy country town.
“My teenage years were spent in a garage – pre-internet
– with a range of instruments. Being fairly isolated I
occupied myself that way. There was not a lot to do – I was
kinda different and felt weird so I entertained myself.”
Mojo (surname Ruiz de Luzuriaga) grew up in a family
with a long musical heritage. Her father was from the
Phillipines of Basque origin on one side originally and had
been drafted into the US Army for Vietnam. Her mother is
from Dubbo, but there is apparently some Chinese blood
in the family. She spent some time living in the USA.
Mojo’s mother’s family had been involved in a variety of
musical pursuits, especially jazz, over the years and there
was always music and instruments around the house.
While exploring her music in the garage, Mojo loved
“Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong – they were the head
of the family in terms of my musical education. My dad
loved bands like Sly and the Family Stone and was a big
Elvis fan. My uncle introduced me to Tom Waits and that
was a revolution in my mind! My brother loved the new
wave soul sound of bands like the Royal Crown Revue.
“My own discoveries were bands like the Violent Femmes
and Patti Smith, and I’ve always liked modern R&B and hip
hop. I’ve never crossed myself off to any genre of music.”
I am starting to see where the diversity in Mojo’s music
has come from, and also the quality. Mojo sums it up best
herself: “I’m not a genre artist. I’m a songwriter and I really
just want to do whatever serves the song. What I aspire to
is that one day people will say that sounds like Mojo Juju
rather than put me into a pigeon hole”.
The Snake Oil Merchants released two albums – ‘Mojo Juju
and the Snake Oil Merchants’ and ‘Sellin’ You Salvation’.
A recent anthology was released in Germany and is well
worth seeking out.
In 2010, Mojo was signed to ABC Music as a solo artist.
They quickly identified the potential and uniqueness in
her music. ABC described her as: “Mojo Juju sings songs
that sound like that night you can’t quite remember and
that girl you promise you’ve never met. It’s blues, but not
as we know it; it’s nostalgic yet foreign, it’s a one night
stand with an old lover. Taking influence and inspiration
from hot jazz and early blues, jive and Pachuco boogie,
not to mention a heavy dose of film noir, hard boiled
fiction, bump and grind, truck stops and cheap motels,
there is most definitely something dark, dirty and
seductive lurking in these sounds”.
Juju released her first solo album – ‘Mojo Juju’ in 2012,
to great acclaim and began appearing at festivals around
the country on a regular basis.
“The great thing about festivals is you get to see so many
of not just your favourite acts, but you get to discover new
artists across a wide spectrum of music. Hopefully that
works for the punters as well – they see the artists they
know but it also gives them the chance to discover my
music and other acts they may not know.”
Interest is growing in Juju from overseas with Japan
having a strong fan base, and Germany and Europe in
general also showing interest. Juju’s music has that broad
appeal that is equally attractive in any environment. Last
year saw the release of ‘Seeing Red/Feeling Blue’ which
added a more contemporary sound – produced by Ptero
Stylus. The album received rave reviews – the ‘Herald
Sun’ stated, “This stunning album weaves an emotional
tapestry of life, loss, love and regret”, and gave the album
five stars. Other reviews were equally positive.
Mojo Juju will be performing at both Bluesfest and
WOMADelaide this year, and many other venues around
the country. If you don’t know her music, make sure she
is one of your new artist discoveries at a festival soon.
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