Joya Mooi’s homecoming tour reflects a deeper connection to her identity and roots

When Dutch Music Export collaborated with Africa Rising Music Conference, they brought three artists from the Netherlands to South Africa. Dutch-South African musician Joya Mooi is among the three that were selected. 

Mooi is a jazz-trained singer-songwriter based in Amsterdam, who grew up in a small town in the Netherlands in the aftermath of her father’s exile from South Africa. Her paternal side of the family has roots in Soweto. They will be present during some of her performances. 

Mooi says the experience of being able to share her passion and gift of music in her second home is a privilege, because she is a part of two families on different sides of the world. 

Although she tries to visit South Africa every year to see her family, it is her first time performing and exploring the music scene in the country alongside her band of three years — Aaron Hanenberg on guitar and Alex Lopez Gonzalez on bass. 

Her bookings, which started on 24 May, include shows at the ARMC Festival and Feel Good Series in Johannesburg, Black Labone in Pretoria and Selective Live in Cape Town. Her last date is on 5 June.

Mooi’s tour comes just a few months after she released her remix package Leisure. She says, “With Leisure, I wanted to make space for new rhythms and offer some release. This idea, to revisit and celebrate my work, came to me last winter. I was heavily in need of sun and wanted to let go and dance.”

Joya Mooi. (Kirwin Lonwijk)

She brought on electronic artists Philou Louzolo, Deep Aztec and Emmavie to remix the songs. They create sounds that go straight to the body and the heart. 

Mooi says, “Leisure for me is an intuitive journey. The song You Know Me Well By Now is a tale about detachment, avoiding contact online and offline and not being present. On My Favourite, I’m celebrating the friendships and the love I’ve received through challenging times. While Remember dives into the lack of reflection I sometimes see online.”  

The remixes provided her a chance to re-engage with themes that are important to her, hoping that more people would hear the music and have different experiences with it. 

Mooi is set to release new music later on in the year. “I’m bringing stories of hope, spirituality and breaking cycles. And due to this current tour, this homecoming will be included in the themes,” she says. 

She believes in the art form of music and its ability to heal and bring joy. 

Mooi’s music has always been honest and comes from a place of deep care. “I’m not in this to make money, or I would create other music. It’s hard to predict the future, but as long as I still enjoy making music, I will always choose authenticity.”

Unequivocally, authenticity is what sets her apart — from her insightful lyrical themes and blending soul, alternative R&B, jazz and electronic sounds to her signature natural hair.

Authenticity is discernible in her music videos and albums. “I think it’s good to be aware of what society tells you beauty is and what your views are. I try to be as in tune with myself, as I can be. So that also means giving yourself rest, joy but also showing yourself to the world, as you are,” she says.  

In her discography, Mooi has been vocal about her upbringing as a woman of mixed heritage, as well as her search for her roots and identity. In her vulnerability, she feels a catharsis in being understood and loved, a feeling she felt during her band’s first show in Johannesburg at Africa Rising Music Conference. 

Further reflecting on her interactions with a South African audience, she has noticed that South Africans pay more attention to her lyrics and production style than in the Netherlands. 

It is the feedback and responses from her audience online that have been heart-warming. Her observations are that people seem to get what she is talking — and making music — about. 

Because this tour is one of her upcoming album’s sources of inspiration, it will be interesting to witness how she follows up from Leisure and her current EP Blossom Carefully.

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Phendu Kuta
Phendu Kuta is a writer, speaker, founder and creative director of Unlabelled Magazine.

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