Nurtured by the Seattle scene, R&B singer JusMoni has come into her own, and is ready to lift up a new generation of local music and activism.
JusMoni (aka Moni Tep) exemplifies the fusion of art and activism.
She’s a musician, storyteller, community organizer, grassroots educator, and all around advocate for LGBTQ people, youth, people of color, and women, along with everyone standing at the intersections of these identities, as she does herself.
“Intersections mean figuring out where things connect. Figuring out how one thing affects another.” JusMoni says, reflecting on how mixed gender, racial and cultural experiences have influenced her. “My identity helps me reach audiences and communities of vast demographics. There are no rules at the intersections, so why make them.”
The duo will be performing at Washington Hall this Saturday, with special guests Dave B, DJ Same, and Gift Uh Gab.
In many ways, Moni Tep embodies the essence of what this historical Central District building is all about.
JusMoni’s music invites audiences to join her on her life’s adventures; from being born Cambodian refugee mother and Black father, growing up in the Central District and SouthEnd, surviving traumas, seeing many friends die at a young age, being a single and resourceful mother, coming out as queer and gender fierce, and ultimately using her stories, identities, and experiences to advocate for herself and other youth.
Moni Tep began her career at the age of 12, singing the Black National Anthem at the Annual Martin Luther King March & Rally. By age of 17 she had sold out Chop Suey on Capitol Hill with friends, family, community, fans, and supporters.
How did she achieve such success so quickly?
Moni cites her involvement in multiple communities and their belief and support in all her endevours.
She was involved in Seattle Young People’s Project (SYPP) as an organizer, YouthSpeaks Seattle as a finalist that performed at Brave New Voices, Communities Against Rape and Abuse (CARA) supporting programs like Ladies First, and Powerful Voices.
Within these community organizations she became a fierce organizer, workshop and group facilitator, and produced multiple shows to draw her peers forth into social change.
She cites Hidmo, where she did outreach, worked on projects, and produced shows, as “most monumental supporting organizations” that have influenced her music career. She’s also been heavily influenced by other local musicians.
“My biggest influences locally would have to be the artist formally known as Khingz, now Kalil,” Moni says. “He and Gabriel Teodros were an essential part of my beginnings and relationship to hip-hop. He was one of the first artists I was able to build with on a personal level, and one of the first people to invest in me as a person and artist.”
JusMoni and WD4D’s new video for “A Limit”
Was Seattle ready for all the things JusMoni would bring to the Seattle music scene?
In the beginning, Moni says, it was hard for people to take her seriously or professionally.
She says that as a young queer woman of mixed heritage, on the petite, yet curvy side, she didn’t fit the typical mold of the hip-hop scene in Seattle.
“They don’t expect that story and that voice to come out of this body,” she says.
But ultimately she has gained respect in her eight plus years of performing for workshops, community spaces, and sold out art & music venues. People now respect her music, as well as her business mind, and often invite her to be a guest on their tracks.
At the same time she is lifting other artists up with her.
“When you dedicate yourself as an artist, then you have responsibility to share,” she says.
She advocates for the next generation, because she felt invested in and encouraged through her own struggles as a young person.
“Look at everyone who died trying… Look at whose shoulders you stand on,” Moni says. “[Youth] are waiting for people to be invested in them and see them as extraordinary.”
If you do come out on Saturday night, you will not be disappointed. JusMoni and WD4D make audiences smile for joy, come to peace with their pasts, heal through beats and vocals, and tell a story of pain, struggle, and ultimate triumph through art, and community.
JusMoni and WD4D perform with Dave B, Gift Uh Gab and DJ Same, 8pm Saturday, May 11th at Washington Hall, $10 All Ages
Lead illustration by Kristina Griffith, from a photograph by Nicole Wegner Mercado