Who is Mari?
Mari - Keyboards, Programming, Bass, Guitar, Vocals, Lyrics.
Mari 真理/ Melissa (born August 18, in Baltimore, Maryland USA) is a self taught musician performing, writing, and composing her own original music. ‘Mari’ is
considered the solo project to Jinokoya and is known for writing and singing songs in both the Japanese and English language. Jinokoya is Mari’s acronym
for “Jibun no kara wo yaburu” (自分の殻を破る) - to break out of one’s shell. Mari also enjoys performing Japanese covers to promote the musicians who have
brought her this far on her incredible musical journey.
In 2003, Mari emerged from hiatus and debuted as a Japanese cover band for local colleges, cultural events, Cherry Blossom Festivals, and private Japanese
parties. The love of Japan’s music inspired her to start composing originals. Her first song “Sayonara Sun” tells the story of her friend who introduced
her to the world of Far East Rock, but left the US to return to Osaka.
Melissa was born to a teacher (mother, Carolyn) and an architect (father, Norman) in Ellicott City, but moved to Baltimore, Maryland when Norman abandoned
the family. Music became an escape from tragic events in her life and Melissa developed a passion for sound at a young age. An upright piano was her favorite
toy and without lessons, she began playing her favorite songs by ear. It wasn’t until the age of 13 that she received her own first musical instrument; an
acoustic guitar. Frustrated at first, the determination pushed her to eventually listen to any song on the radio and recreate it using the six stringed
In high school, Melissa discovered stage life and spent many hours in the choir, dance troop, and theatre; but it wasn’t enough. Melissa wanted a band and Navassa
was born. It wasn’t a real band, but just a bunch of friends pretending to play the instruments Melissa had collected throughout the years. Wanting the music to
be real, Melissa ditched the pseudo musicians and invested in the highest technology… a Commodore 64 with a keyboard programming interface unit. Melissa became
a one woman band. The stage junkie continued performing throughout college and even landed a lead role in the college play “Just Friends”. She was now in the
limelight, performing and being interviewed for local cable channels. Breaking into the college piano rooms between classes, she found herself focusing more
on music than studying for her upcoming exams.
Bleak Oktober, a local progressive rock band was seeking a keyboard player. After an audition, Melissa became the fourth member of one of the hottest bands
on the East Coast. She was nervous to play with an already established popular group, but soon Rob Z, Dave Walter, Sherman Canapp, and Melissa were a family
unit. Melissa also collaborated with other musicians, including another keyboardist to compose parody tunes which aired on the radio.
Bleak Oktober was seen in the top Baltimore clubs, and Melissa was living the dream she imagined in High School. Unfortunately, a clash of musical styles
caused the band to split in 1990.
Melissa and Bleak Oktober’s guitarist Dave formed the band Navassa, joined by Singer Bob Derby and Drummer Mark Holmes. Continuing the flow of performing
progressive rock at popular Baltimore clubs, their popularity grew even more. Due to a disagreement with the manager’s questionable music contract, Melissa
decided to leave the band.
Melissa joined the rock band Missing Children and after months of just playing in a rented basement, she had enough faith in the band to book a gig. However,
the only member willing to venture beyond the comfort of the damp cellar was the guitarist Tony. Refusing to give up an opportunity to be on stage, Melissa
gathered up former musicians, left Missing Children with Tony, and formed Moment’s Notice two days before the live show.
After contacting former Navassa members, Melissa was extremely successful in pulling off a musical event at a ‘Moment’s Notice’. Not only was it difficult
throwing together a show in two days, Melissa and Dave needed to switch responsibilities. The singer/bassist Bob never showed for the gig, so Dave became the
bass player and for the first time Melissa debuted as a lead singer. Despite this unexpected challenge, Moment’s Notice performed a great show and was asked
to return. The band continued performing for local venues, but was short lived when Melissa married the lead guitarist. The limelight faded, the curtains closed,
darkness descended upon the stage, and the music died.
REBIRTH: FROM A DECADE OF HELL
For over 10 years, the music was silenced. The instruments so loved were locked away and the musician who lived for the stage and bright lights was now hiding
in the darkest corners of her shell. After gathering enough strength to leave the marriage, Melissa returned to college where she met a Japanese musician who
introduced her to the music of Japan. Listening to the new bands, she was intrigued by every song and its unique style and sound, but one would take her life
in a completely new direction. ‘Aoi Hekireki’ by T.M. Revolution not only sparked memories of the music she composed for Bleak Oktober, but it also planted the
seed of desire to desperately play again. Melissa immediately recovered the neglected dusty keyboards and programmed Aoi Hekireki before next morning.
A new Era began.
Learning several more songs, Melissa decided to be a T.M. Revolution tribute band. Finding musicians to play Japanese music proved impossible, so Melissa once
again became a one-woman band. Surprisingly the crazy idea became successful and soon the solo artist was playing colleges, cultural art festivals, and private
Japanese parties; meeting new Japanese friends and further expanding her Japanese language skills.
The night her musical friend returned to Japan, Melissa composed her first original in Japanese – “Sayonara Sun”. The compositions continued to flow and her
lyrics were now being written in both Japanese and English. After her performance at an anime convention, two musicians from a ‘Globe’ cover band invited her to
join their group and the venues grew into Cherry Blossom Festivals and Otakon: US’s biggest Anime Convention. Melissa became more absorbed in the Japanese culture,
embracing it as her own. She even adopted her middle name ‘Mari’; which ironically is Japanese. Continuing the language study, Mari met many more musicians from
Japan and in 2007 was invited to perform her first true concert in Tokyo with Pianist Aimura Miki.
No longer the broken soul, Mari was once again writing songs and performing on stage. Music and dreams pushed the born-again musician to do things she never
imagined; driving her to break out of her shell = “Jibun no kara wo yaburu” ( Ji-no-k-o-ya)
In 2008 Mari had the opportunity to meet and thank the man who brought music back into her life. T.M. Revolution was coming to perform in New York City and she
desperately wanted to give him the gift of her music to show what his inspiration has done. Taking a chance, Mari contacted Dave Walter about recording her
originals and he accepted the challenge. Dave also enhanced the music by adding guitar tracks on the CD which was successfully handed to the Japanese artist.
Shortly afterwards, Dave contacted Sherman and Mari contacted Rob Z; Bleak Oktober was fully reunited as Jinokoya and playing new originals. Due to other
obligations, Rob could not continue, so Mari picked up the Bass and Jinokoya became the Power Trio.
Jinokoya now plays local clubs in Baltimore and was invited to perform at Washington DC’s National Cherry Blossom Festival… a dream Mari had when beginning this
crazy journey to play Japanese music.