Interview with Shoko Araya

Shoko Araya has been actively performing in a variety of genres as a percussionist, marimbist, and singer-song writer. She often sings along while playing her marimba at her concerts. Her voice and marimba resonate in harmony—a unique and inspiring combination. 

Shoko  Araya was introduced to the marimba at age 18. She remembers that after encountering a full size marimba at her college, she just kept playing and playing. She has been absolutely enthralled by playing her marimba. Speaking of marimba one, who is celebrating its 30th Annivesary, she notes "It is a special sound."

Her passion for playing her marimba remains the same since she was younger, but she explains enthusiastically that she continues to explore a very special relationship with her marimba.

“… What I feel now and what I felt then are totally different, " she explains. "I think that I finally arrived at the point where I have found my own true passion for the marimba. Lately I have been performing as a marimbist and vocalist.  I play and sing a variety of music such as my compositions and arrangements of chanson, pop, rock, Japanese pop music, and nursery songs.  Everyday is fun!!

Ever since I started singing, I’ve been feeling like the marimba becomes a different creature.  It will be sad if people still only appreciate the marimba when it is played loudly and dynamically with 4 mallets. I was one of them before, but I’m different now,” says Shoko Araya. 

An already successful, established percussionist and marimbist., Shoko Araya in recent years has been focusing increasingly on performing “play and sing” on stage. 

What more has singing brought to her marimba life? “Each wooden bar on the marimba keyboard creates its special sound. Since I started singing, the warm sound of the wooden bar is becoming part of my body when my instrument and voice resonate together.  I am now more satisfied with listening to the individual tones by playing each note instead of layers of chords.  I feel great joy when the wooden bars resonate and respond to what I want to express through music.”

“It’s possible to focus on complex musicality," she continues. "But to me, the marimba is an instrument which guides me on an endless loop and brings me back to something closer to my heart.  I am now envisioning a new horizon in the fascinating world of marimba.” 

Shoko Araya kindly shares her advice to marimba students:

“I must say that it’s important to work patiently on your technique while focusing on each note. When I was young, I was also thrilled with four-mallet playing while covering the entire marimba keyboard with dynamic body movement. It is one fascinating aspect of playing marimba, I admit. However, I’d like to tell you that more importantly you should work on engaging yourself and the marimba skin-to-skin. Feel the resonant sound of your marimba though your skin.  Then your attraction to the marimba will deepen.” 

This interview was first posted in Japanese as a three-part series on Marimba One Facebook in September 2017. The English version was re-edited and translated from the three-part posting.