What Folks Are Saying About The Band…
Mo' Mojo introduces zydeco sounds to Latin America
3/19/2015 - West Side Leader
By Kathleen Folkerth
Musicians from Mo Mojo worked with a group of students while in Colombia. Shown in the front row, from left, are Mo Mojo members Kevin Johnson, Anthony Papaleo, Leigh Ann Wise, Jen Maurer and Will Douglas.
WEST AKRON — Local band Mo Mojo spread the word about Zydeco music from its Northeast Ohio base to Latin America this winter.
The band, celebrating 20 years this year since it was founded as Zydeco Jones, was selected to participate in the American Music Abroad program that the Association of American Voices administers on behalf of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Members left Jan. 20 for a five-week tour to Barbados, Belize, Panama, Mexico and Colombia.
“It was our job to be cultural ambassadors, and we did a pretty good job of it,” said Jen Maurer, who plays accordion and sings and is the last remaining original member of the band. “We were the first Americans that many had ever met. We had so many nice moments of cultural exchange even when we didn’t speak the language.”
Jen Maurer of Mo Mojo is shown with students at a school in Barbados as she gives them the chance to try her accordion.
Jen Maurer of Mo Mojo is shown with students at a school in Barbados as she gives them the chance to try her accordion.
The band was one of 10 from around the U.S. to take part in this year’s program. They were selected from 42 bands about a year ago after a live audition in New York City.
In addition to West Akron resident Maurer, band members Leigh Ann Wise (vocals, rubboard, trumpet and percussion), of West Akron; Anthony Papaleo (vocals, fiddle and guitar), of West Akron; and Will Douglas (drums), of Cleveland, took part, along with Peninsula resident Kevin Johnson, who subbed on bass for Darren Thompson, who could not go. Member Joe Golden also was unable to take the trip.
Before the trip, the band worked on enough material for a two-hour performance and also prepared educational presentations on its style of music.
A typical day in each country included an educational outreach activity or two for students ranging from kindergarten through college and an evening performance that was usually open to the community.
After having a few travel issues, the trip started on a high note in Belize, Maurer said.
“We rolled into a school and had maybe 30 steel drums play for us, and they were great,” she said.
In every country, the experience was different. In Panama, for instance, the focus was on working with underserved populations, while in Belize it was more on having a cultural exchange of musical styles, Maurer said.
“They really made an attempt to put us together with their artists,” she said of the Belize trip. “That was the best part of the whole trip. We had a jam session where we had to teach them some songs and then go up and play together.”
She added the band hit it off with Sam Harris and the World Culture Band there.
“We really liked him, and his wife and I bonded,” Maurer said. “We were able to work up three songs to do at an evening performance the next night. That was possibly the most magic moment of the whole tour, playing with this gentleman and his band and our band. The funny thing is, I go to a festival every year in Louisiana and I’ve seen him there. Now here I am, at his house.”
In Mexico, the band traveled to four different cities and was tasked with one of its more unusual assignments, a motivational talk for tutors who work with teachers of rural Mexican students who are often coaxed by their parents to leave school.
“They get pressured to drop out of school to farm,” Maurer said. “That was the most out-there educational program we had. We had to reach into ourselves and become motivational speakers.”
The Latin American students and others weren’t the only ones to benefit from Mo Mojo’s trip. The band also gained a lot from the experience, Maurer said, like finding new instruments and learning about musical styles they didn’t know about.
“The biggest thing we came back with is I would like to set up a system to post [online and on Facebook] in Spanish everything we do now,” she said. “I realized a lot of people out there we aren’t including because of the language barrier. We want to be inclusive and broaden the reach of zydeco now that we’ve gone to these places.”
She added the band also would like to bring some of the musicians they met to the U.S. to perform with them.
from CLEVELAND MAGAZINE
Rhythm Makers: Local Band Mo' Mojo Embarks on a Tour of Central and South America
After touring Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Akron-based zydeco band Mo’ Mojo is ready for another challenge of breaking down language barriers and connecting with the locals through music.
The American Music Abroad, a program of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, has selected Mo’ Mojo as one of 10 American bands to do a five-week tour of Central and South America. Beginning Jan. 20, Mo’ Mojo will travel to Belize, Panama, Barbados, Mexico and Colombia. In addition to performing public concerts, the band will interact with local musicians, give lectures and take part in workshops with students.
The band, which is preparing to release its fourth album, We All Got the Same, in May, has already visited Haiti and Dominican Republic as part of the program. “Every single time — as soon as that energetic zydeco music started — smiles spread across their face and dancing started,” says Leigh Ann Wise, Mo’ Mojo vocalist and percussionist. “It's kind of what zydeco does universally. It makes you smile and dance — or at least tap your toe — no matter what language you speak and no matter what your social status or ethnic background.” Wise chats with us about dancing and jamming out with Haitians and the upcoming trip.
CM: What is one of your most memorable moments working with locals in Haiti?
LW: We were giving a workshop for the students at The Haitian-American Institute. ... The music started and they started smiling and moving a little. The big shift came when we asked if they want to learn how to dance the zydeco. It’s a two-step. You know, here in the states if you ask high school students if they want to stand up in front of a crowd and learn a dance, it’s likely — in my experience — you’re going to get a lot of resistance. Not these folks. Half the room jumped up and started dancing. By the end of the song, they were teaching us to dance. It was truly one of my favorite moments yet.
CM: What did you learn in Haiti?
LW: For me, it was my first real hands-on experience of how music transcends language barriers. When we were learning songs with Ti Coca & Wanga Neges, a popular world-traveling Haitian band, no one in their band spoke English and certainly no one in our band spoke Haitian Kreyol, but we gathered outside and just started playing. They learned one of our songs and we learned one of theirs. And you know what was key? Eye contact. If Ti Coca wanted me to learn a lyric I completely did not understand, he’d just keep singing it and looking me in the eye.
CM: What are you looking forward to the most about the upcoming trip to Central and South America?
LW: The idea that we get to teach kids, to me, is the most fulfilling way to spend my time. Who gets to travel playing music as a mode of communication? It's such a blessing. I feel honored to be a part of it.
from CLEVELAND SCENE MAGAZINE
Local Band Mo’ Mojo Selected as American Music Abroad Ambassadors
On Jan. 20, the Akron-based Zydeco band Mo’ Mojo will embark on its most extensive tour yet. The group will leave for a five-week tour of Belize, Panama, Barbados, Mexico, and Colombia as music ambassadors with American Music Abroad (AMA), a program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs. The program’s goal is to “communicate America’s rich musical contributions to the global music scene as it fosters cross-cultural communication and people-to-people connection to global audiences.”
The band will not only perform concerts but it will also “engage with local traditional musicians, give lectures, demonstrations and workshops, as well as provide media appearances.” "We have always felt like we connect and communicate with our audiences locally, regionally, and nationally, but this takes it to a whole new level - and one where we can both share with and learn from these other cultures.” says Jennifer Maurer, the band’s leader, in a press release. “We will have times when we can’t speak the same language, but we’ll communicate together with music. We have already gotten a glimpse of that with our travels to Haiti and the Dominican Republic.”
The AMA selects just 10 acts each year to tour the world as music ambassadors. Find out more about each group that's been selected here.
from BEACON JOURNAL
By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal pop music writer
With the holiday season and the first week of the new year behind us, opportunities to experience live music from local and national acts are beginning to pick up.
If you’re brave enough to endure the frigid weather, you can go Saturday to Blu Jazz+ in Akron, warm up and shake your booty to the up-tempo, uplifting, high-energy sounds of Akron’s “Pardi-Gras” band Mo’ Mojo.
The sextet of singer/multi-instrumentalist Jen Maurer, singer/multi-instrumentalist Leigh Ann Wise, singer/fiddle-player Anthony Papaleo, guitarist Joe Golden, bassist Darren Thompson and drummer Will Douglas play a heady musical gumbo of Cajun, Zydeco, funky R&B, Americana and some African and Latin grooves with great harmony vocals.
Despite the lengthy list of genres and sub-genres, Mo’ Mojo fuses the parts together seamlessly and it all comes together pretty darn well, particularly live. The band’s already big on the Americana/Roots music festival circuit, but recently its sound got it selected by the American Music Abroad program and the State Department as one of 10 bands to represent American music with tours to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Belize, Panama, Mexico, Barbados and Columbia.
The band has three albums, the most recent being a live document, Mom’s Birthday CD. Mo’ Mojo is also finishing up its latest collection, We All Got the Same, which is expected to be released early this year.
Bon voyage, Mo’ Mojo.
from BLUES BYTES (review of 'Together In Love...')
TOGETHER IN LOVE WE DROWN
a new album from Mo’ Mojo
John Gadd, Blues Bytes Review
“Together In Love We Drown,” the compelling (and independently produced) new album from Mo’ Mojo, follows their acclaimed debut “Finally!” The sophomore release by this female-fronted, 7-piece group features 14 originals songs which draw from Zydeco, blues, Cajun, Americana, pop, and rock.
The 3-part harmonies, accordion, fiddle, guitar, rubboard, sax, trumpet, harp, bass, percussion, piano, and drums that this hard-driving, high energy “Party-Gras” Band band so expertly wields like a magical wand has made 2012 the year of Mo’ Mojo. In taking their new album to the road, Mo’ Mojo has arrived on the national scene!
1. Together In Love We Drown / 3:36 (Pop Rock / Zydeco)
2. Mo’ Mojo Zydeco / 2:54 (Zydeco)
3. Big Storm Blues / 5:49 (Zydeco / Blues / Americana)
4. Tell Me Will You Ride / 3:44 (Country Blues / Americana)
5. Souls’ Day Waltz / 3:45 (Cajun / Americana)
6. It’s Heating Up / 3:34 (Pop Rock)
7. Texas Man / 3:07 (Zydeco / New Orleans Blues / Americana)
8. Please / 5:25 (Pop / Americana)
9. I Love The Country Life / 2:19 (Zydeco / Americana)
10. Hold To A Dream / 3:11 (Cajun / Americana)
11. Maya / 4:29 (Blues / Rock / Americana)
12. Love Everybody / 3:57 (Zydeco / Blues / Americana)
13. When I’m Gone / 2:52 (Zydeco)
14. Everything Is As It Should Be / 6:13 (Rock / Americana)
“Together In Love We Drown...not only lives up to the expectations set by the band’s
acclaimed 2010 CD Finally!, but is a follow-up that surpasses the artist’s debut.
Mo’ Mojo, officially showcased at the 2012 International Folk Alliance Conference in Memphis,
returns with the same collection of accomplished musicians who are gifted with the ability
to know when to cut loose, when to hold back, and how to blend together.
Contact Mo’ Mojo at (330) 388-4530 / email@example.com
from the BLUES REVUE (review of 'Finally')
Zydeco Jam Band from the North Coast
by Eric Wrisley
Full disclosure: I worked on the design for this disc. So later on when I rave about the cover art – well – you can take that with a grain of salt. Further, it’s no secret that Mo’ Mojo has long been one of my favorite local bands, and their first disc will give you an idea why.
Their first release, Finally!, finds the band in the studio but manages to capture the right energy with live recordings and minimal overdubs. Fundamentally, zydeco is dance music, and there’s a good-time groove that winds through this set. Billing themselves as a zydeco jam band, Mo’ Mojo blends pure zydeco and Cajun tunes with layered instrumental breaks that give everyone a chance for a solo.
Accordion and fiddle anchor the disc and compete for attention, but there is a lot more going on. “Dawg Hill” is busy with rubboard, triangle, and some extra percussion. “Tell Me Why” contrasts sharp harmonies over sparse instrumentation. “Ride That Train” takes a bluesy turn with Sam Rettman’s puffing harmonica.
One of the standout tracks is a rendition of Prince’s “Kiss” (yes, that Prince), featuring a loping guitar solo followed by a sax lead that echoes the ubiquitous, drippy sax solos of the ’80s. True to the form, the album is a mix of originals and covers, including a couple of non-zydeco tunes. Front-woman Jen Maurer penned the majority of the originals which range from stick-to-the-book traditional stylings to pop-informed Cajun numbers.
The best of these is “Rockin’ Chair,” which again shows off the band’s bright vocals. Think Tin Pan Alley meets the Bayou, with a little bit of a rock ‘n’ roll edge. Speaking of rock ‘n’ roll, who spanned genres from the traditional to the modern better than Bo Diddley? No one. Aptly, the set closes with a take of “Who Do You Love?” firmly planted in rock ‘n’ roll territory.
from SCENE MAGAZINE (review of "Finally')
CD Review: Mo' Mojo • Finally
by Jeff Niesel
Mo' Mojo have been around for 15 years, but the appropriately titled Finally! is the zydeco jam band's first album. Turns out it was worth the wait.
The up-tempo party album includes a couple of covers of songs made popular by zydeco legend Boozoo Chavis. They also run through Prince's "Kiss" and Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love," capping off the latter with a riff from the Meters' classic "Cissy Strut."
The original songs don't quite reach the same heights, but they maintain Finally!'s festive mood. Singer Jen Maurer's supple voice rivals her ear for melody, fueling the group's infectious energy levels throughout.
from the EXAMINER.COM (live show review)
Mo den jus' mere Mojo
by John Pritchard
When approaching the entrance it became more than apparent that Mo' Mojo had taken ownership of the small stage at the NorthSide Bar & Grill promptly at 9pm. A well-known and more sophisticated place than the once upon a time Cavanaugh's, located on the N. Main Street extension beside Luigi's, this club does more than advertise the eclectic, it delivers.
Opening the door, we were struck by a rhythmic calliope of creole zydeco colophon which swept through the venue like a hurricane and warmed you with a bayou breeze that could thaw this January nights’ chill. Knowing full well I wanted to get a closer look, but curious to find out if the band would receive every dime of the cover charge, (cause these folks are worth every penny).
Briefly shaking down the Doorman for cred... my company and I took up residence at the westerly end of the stage closest to most recent acquisition, electronic fiddler Bill Lestock, while Mo Mojo continued their walk down a set-list unaware and unrestrained. With a side view of the standard 7 and sometimes as many as 9 or 10 players, these funkin' groove maestros churned a mean brew of Cajun stew…
No nonsense metronome Drummer Rod, with partner in crime, hookin' back-beat bassist Darren, (if I ever compile a best local musicians list shoe-in entry) Guitarist Joe Golden. Never forget the soul of this body, Davidione's sax and rubboard services are essential.
Then we explore the more reserved of the fronting female duo Leigh Ann who tingles her percussive treats, a Triangle along with complimentary half-step harmonies. As the unassuming Belle of the Gypsy Ball, new age accordionist, and vocal stylist Jen, in sync with the aforementioned fiddler Bill, mesmerizing all with her delivery and execution, smiling that; if it's in rhythm, it's in-style consensus.
Singing with the abandonment of a Deadhead on a 3 week camping tour, she is the single circuit catalyst that commands and relays the Mojo at any spot they play.
As if like rabbits breeding before your eyes, with every song dancer numbers multiply, floor fills to what can only be a proclamation of 'Dance Space Everywhere'. For a set that rivaled a concert length of nearly 2 hours, they dished out flavorful spiced takes on memorable selections that are better experienced than one could ever describe.
Do yourself and a woman of your choice a favor and catch these infectious groove harvesters somewhere this summer, because this band is made for the great outdoors as they blow the roof off. Mo' Fun for Everyone. A REAL Pleasure that you can take away with you now, with their first CD. On your day of rest, Jen isn't.
Mo' Mojo's Page from OHIO ARTISTS ON TOUR
Zydeco in Ohio?
Yeah, you're right! Mo' Mojo is bringing it!
Mo' Mojo is a NE-Ohio band specializing in live shows that kick! Live shows that take the best of Zydeco and the best of the Jam Band spirit and combine them into an experience that unifies the audience and the band while making everyone in the house higher. A Mo' Mojo performance is a real show: Something vital and alive, that gives to and takes from its audience.
Mo' Mojo features Cajun accordion, fiddle, guitar, bass, drums, rubboard/sax, percussion, and vocals. Each show features music that is positive, energetic, and danceable. This is a band that appeals to the ears, the eyes, the feet, and the booty.
Mo' Mojo covers a lot of ground in the genre. They have their own originals. They play staple hits from zydeco kings such as Clifton Chenier, Boozoo Chavis, and Buckwheat Zydeco. They've also been known to get the Zydeco funk groove going with the sounds of Sean Ardoin and Keith Frank.
They sing in French on rowdy Cajun numbers and have also created zydeco versions of pop/rock songs by the likes of Led Zeppelin, CCR, and Prince. AND - they specialize in Mardi Gras and other New Orleans music (i.e. - Iko Iko, All on a Mardi Gras Day, When the Saints Go Marching In).
Mo' Mojo has played throughout most of the Northeast and Midwest states . Their venues include everything from small clubs to indoor civic stages and outdoor festivals.
Mo' Mojo is the real deal. Guaranteed to make you dance.
Guaranteed to make you live in the moment of the night.