Our third member of the Competition League for Amateur Solo Pipers (CLASP) to be profiled is Mariko Arimoto.
Where are you from and how did you get into piping?
I am from Japan and I started learning the pipes when I was 20 while I was studying at the University of Stirling for a year as an exchange student. I did not know anything about the culture or the instrument but as I wanted to learn it, I contacted as many pipe bands as possible asking if anyone would teach me. I was lucky enough to receive a reply from a band (I forgot who that kind person was) saying I should go to the National Piping Centre.
How has the pandemic affected your piping personally?
It affected my piping in good and bad ways. The bad aspect was I couldn’t have gigs like before. Many gigs were cancelled last year. But the good thing was I could take part in the CLASP competition because it was held online and I had plenty of time to prepare for it. I always wanted to know my grade and wanted to take part in a traditional competition, but it was just unrealistic for me to travel to Scotland so often for that purpose.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
When I was a kid, my cousin put some chocolate on a Sushi roll and made me eat it without saying what’s inside. It was so dangerous and harmful for a human body and it came out of my mouth automatically immediately after I ate it. I’ve never forgiven him.
What’s your most memorable performance you’ve heard – band or soloist?
Fred Morrison’s performance at Piping Live! in 2016. I think the way he plays the pipes is one of the most musical and passionate, and I thought that’s the way I want to play the pipes.
Who has been the biggest influence on your piping?
Gordon Duncan. Not only his music, but his personality attracts me. Probably I don’t have to say a lot about his influence on the piping world since everybody knows about it much better than I do.
Have you taken part in any show, concerts or recitals recently?
The last gig with my folk band was on January 17 this year, but before that, I waited for 10 months without any gigs since the end of March 2020. The situation here is not as bad as European countries but concerts have been restricted. I have another gig this winter but it will never be the same before. A limited number of audience plus live-streaming is the only solution at the moment.
Do you have a go at the local language when abroad?
Yes I do. Well, I have to, because I’m a Japanese and English is the foreign language already. But the thing is, I only knew American English when I first visited Scotland where people speak it in totally different manners. It took me the whole year to understand 50% of what they were talking about. I recorded all the lectures and piping lessons so that I listen to the recording afterwards over and over till I understand the whole thing. I was always asking everyone to speak sloooowly. I also tried to speak Scottish English because I like the accent, just in vain for this 17 years.
Was piping something you wanted to do from an early age?
I first discovered the great highland bagpipe at a concert in Japan when I was a student. One of my friends learned the pipes in Australia and played it at his concert. Before that, I had never seen nor heard of it in my life. I had only played piano before the pipes.
Do you recall the very first competition you competed in?
The very first competition was only a few months ago, the CLASP competition last November. I was so nervous because I was not even used to play the pipes with my kilt on. I tried too many times but had no idea what was wrong and what was right. I asked loads of questions in a short period of time to my teacher (Roddy S. MacDonald) and I’m sure he should have been fed up with me.
Lament for the Old Sword (the only piobaireachd I can play in full so far because John Mulhearn at the NPC sang it very nicely when he taught it to me).
Thank you, Mariko!