Leading up until the Upstream Music Fest + Summit, a Northwest regionally focused festival with over 300 acts, KEXP will be featuring a new local artist from the lineup with an interview and suggested tracks for where to start. Today’s post features electro-soul songwriter JusMoni, performing Friday, May 12 at 8:15 p.m. on the Possi Life stage.
As a vocalist and a songwriter, JusMoni has always sounded bold and self-assured whenever she steps on a track. However, her latest album, JusMoni as Saffroniaa, is her boldest and most self-assured release to date. That's saying something. Over an array of beats from local producers like Tele Fresco and Chimurenga Renaissance, JusMoni paints listeners a self-portrait. It's an intimate listening, gliding from track to track through her otherworldly vocals. We caught up with JusMoni to uncover the vision of Saffroniaa, her work with LGBTQ youth in Jamaica, and building her own community within the Seattle scene.Last year you released your album JusMoni as Saffroniaa. What vision did you hope to exude with this record? As I understand, Saffroniaa is a reference to Nina Simone’s “Four Women”.
My vision was to create a piece of work that reflected my points of passage over the year prior, and year and a half I spent making it. I needed something that felt good to me, that felt genuine to where I was, and I wanted to share that outside of myself. In a way, JusMoni as Saffroniaa is an ode to Nina Simone, in the way that I pay reverence to the influence of her writing and how I make that come to life within my own music. JusMoni as Saffroniaa is also a reference to saffron, a taste spicy and satisfying.
On your record, you work with everyone from Mario Luciano to StasTheeBoss and Chimurenga Renaissance. Do you find the Seattle hip-hop scene to be pretty tight knit? How did you first get involved working with other artists in the community?
I think the "scene" is pretty spread out. I find that people collaborate with the people they're aligned with, within their own pockets of the city. I'm cool with it.
I first became involved with working with other artists in the community by connecting the artists I like to the venues I wanted to see them in. I was throwing shows at 14, 15 with artists from all over Seattle. Our intent in that time was to occupy spaces with bodies and memories and exchanges of energy with people who looked like us.
You’ve mentioned that you like to blend styles and influences in your music. How do you take your wide-ranging taste and distill it into your songwriting?
I often find myself spending less time writing, and more time in the studio creating things in the booth or recording as it comes to me. The things I write about are informed by my experiences and my influences. I think that definitely comes through when you hear my music.
You recently spent time in Jamaica working with LGBTQ youth. Could you describe a little bit of what you were doing there and why you felt called to help?
I was flown to Jamaica as a part of Jet Blue's Flying It Forward program. Part of my work is collaborating with marginalized communities to document our histories, as told by us. It was important for me to connect with the LGBT community in Kingston in a genuine way and offer a sort of documentation of their stories, in hopes to connecting them with other queer communities also part of the African Diaspora.
Do you have any more projects in the works? When can we expect the Saffroniaa follow-up?
I'm always making things. I'll hopefully have a new project out by fall this year.
For those who will be seeing you for the first time at Upstream, what can they expect from your performance? Any potential collaborations?
Expect many jams and high vibrations. You might catch some Temptations choreography. It's going to be a good time. My homies are always coming through so I'm sure Black Constellation will be in full effect.
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all photos by Bebe Labree Besch (view set)
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