Jaguar Jonze is an artist of the digital, global and multi-hyphenate age. The Taiwanese-Australian singer, songwriter, producer and multimedia artist releases her debut album ‘Bunny Mode’ on June 3, and has already released her self-directed and produced video for the title track ‘Trigger Happy’.
As a young woman of the current age, Jaguar – real name Deena Lynch – references love bombing, resilience and respect thoroughout her lyrics, boldly stating her position on the sexism and harrassment in both daily life and the music industry.
“This album is so personal to me. I’ve poured every bit of my soul and vulnerability into this body of work. It’s a time capsule of some of the most difficult years of my life, and doing that publicly as an artist added so many layers to that. But I hope this album resonates with everyone who needs it, to remember to keep fighting, that they are worth so much and are not alone. No matter what has been taken away from them,” Jaguar says.
Shooting her own music video is part of Jaguar’s creative identity, she is a woman of many talents.
“For me, it’s another form of expression I’m exploring. It is why I fell into music and visual art in the first place, and now film is a new avenue where I can visually share what I felt when I wrote the music. It wasn’t something I was always interested in, and I’m still learning so much about it, but it is fun to create and express.”
Fighting the good fight
A known advocate for fighting against issues of sexual harrasment and discrimination in the music industry, Jaguar says that her commitment came from personal experience as an assault survivor.
“It came from hurt, desperation and frustration. I didn’t want to contribute to the culture of silence that allowed for perpetrators to abuse their power and I knew we had to cut the cycle somewhere, so I decided to start it with me,” explains Jaguar.
“I had come a long way from being small and fearful myself and I wanted to make sure that I was amplifying the voices of those that aren’t able to find [their own voices] yet. It was also important to continue the work of those who contributed so much before me.”
Jaguar says that she had experienced all sorts of discrimination and harassment: “And for so long I was compliant because I was scared of what it would mean for my career. I still am so scared for what it means for my career but I have been on a journey of building my self worth and finding the ability to draw boundaries, and knew that I wasn’t going to take it anymore. I wanted to claim back my power.”
Historically women have always been treated as ‘second class citizens’ in just about every industry and work environment. The music industry, however, has been one of the slowest to change.
“We still have a long way to go but there have been positive changes within the music industry. We’ve seen some notable leaders be removed from their positions of power and we’ve been able to hear some stories and investigations come to light,” Jaguar says.
“I was part of a working group of seven incredible women who were able to commission an [Australian] music industry review, the first of its kind in the world, to engage expert consultants to investigate sexual harassment, systemic discrimination and abuse of power within the music industry.
“This process allows us to listen, give space to those who haven’t had a platform to speak and to identify the issues that plague our industry. After this review, we need to reform and build in systems of accountability and solutions to the problems we find after listening to those who have long been hurt by the industry. We need industry-wide commitment to change.”
As music lovers, and consumers, we can help to support these sorts of initiatives, as well as make more ethical decisions when we shop for music, says Jaguar.
“I wouldn’t put the responsibility on the fans and music listeners, but if it’s a known fact that the products they are consuming are made by people who are abusers and enablers, I would ask them to stop and think about supporting them. And how they can proactively support artists and people who are marginalised and struggling to find a platform for their voice, art and music.”
Asian and proud
As a female artist of Asian descent, Jaguar has also had to deal with racism and tokenism in the music industry.
“I’m still coming up against tokenism and racism. Especially through my advocacy, I have found it quite noticeable how I am quickly erased or carved out of narratives,” says Jaguar.
“This is definitely a societal issue that needs to be addressed and I hope through my art, music and advocacy I can raise awareness to hopefully lead to some change, so that we have the representation and support we deserve as artists who bring so much storytelling and culture to the table.”
However Jaguar is proud of her Asian heritage – she speaks Mandarin, Japanese and English – saying that she always incorporates her culture into her music: “I think it’s inevitable as it is my culture and my upbringing. It is woven into my identity.”
Attitude rather than genre
As for her unique moniker, ‘Jaguar Jonze’ was actually created by her fans.
“In person, I’m usually bubbly and bouncing off the walls, but on stage I am a very different ball of energy. The fans and friends started likening it to a mysterious big cat so it turned into this nickname of Jaguar Jonze,” she explains.
“When I was thinking of what to call this chapter of my music, it felt right because it meant something to me and was given to me, and describes the kind of music and attitude I put into the art perfectly.”
Of her current music direction, Jaguar admits that it’s hard to slot her into a traditional genre slot: “It’s hard to put a genre to it, so I often say it is an attitude. The music tends to be cinematic and industrial, with signature spaghetti Western guitars and weaving in fierce and vulnerable emotions. It’s a journey of self-discovery and freedom for me.”
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