DJ ID: Meet Mari Sakurai

«Every party is held with the desire to have a “fun party”, but in order to make people feel that, what exactly can we do other than playing good music?»

In Chorareii’s ‘DJ ID’ series, both established and emerging DJs from the Japanese clubbing & raving universe share some information about themselves, for us to know the vision behind the bangers. 

Mari Sakurai’s (@_marisakurai) DJ ID Card as «Bloody Mari». Design: sudden star (@5udden5).

Chorareii: First of all, introduce yourself!

I’m Mari Sakurai (@_marisakurai). I’m from Yokohama, Kanagawa, and now I live in Tokyo.

What kind of music do you play when you DJ?

I think I often play techno these days. I like various genres of music, but regardless of the speed or genre of the song, I like to play aggressive and pleasurable songs with interesting developments and thrills, exciting songs!

Play this Mari Sakurai mix for NTS Radio while you read this interview to get the full experience! Photo: Toshimura (@toshimu_rar on TwitterInstagramFacebook).

In what venues do you often DJ?

Contact, VENT, Mitsuki, Forestlimit, bonobo, WWW, Spread, etc.

You’re one of the most active DJs I know. You DJ weekly or more than once a week. How is it being that active for you? How do you stay fresh? 

DJing is fun every time!! The music and events that I find interesting at each party will give me energy for the next. 

However, I’m rarely 100% satisfied with my sessions, that feeling makes me think about what I want for the next, so I continue to enjoy it.

Whether I’m DJing at a party or going out as a guest, I enjoy the feeling of releasing myself and having fun from the bottom of my heart, so everything feels fresh. I’m always looking for inspiration!

Mari Sakurai at PURE2000. Photo: Toshimura (@toshimu_rar on TwitterInstagramFacebook).

What made you start DJing?

Originally I liked going to clubs, and one day my friend asked me “Why don’t you DJ at your party?”

You’re often sharing lineups of events and raves with very established DJs. I have the feeling that, in those cases, you’re the younger DJ in the lineup and sadly, sometimes the only woman. How do you feel about that? 

All that is true. However, compared to a few years ago, the number of organizers who book with an awareness of gender and age balance is increasing, albeit little by little.

Of course, the Japanese scene isn’t good in that regard yet. Personally, I would like to actively put efforts in changing this situation, such as actively trying to mix artists of various ages and genders at the parties I organize.

Mari Sakurai at Mitsuki. Photo: Toshimura (@toshimu_rar on TwitterInstagramFacebook).

What do you feel when you’re DJing? And what do you want the audience to feel?

When I’m DJing I feel great energy! I want the listeners to feel love and life and release themselves.

One party where you DJ that you’ll never forget.  

There are too many to choose!!

Ultraheaven is one of the parties that Mari Sakurai’s organizes. Flyer: sudden star (@5udden5).

You are part of the organization of SLICK rave, that this year will have its second edition. Please tell me about the project and why is it so different to other raves!

As SLICK statement says; “SLICK aims to create a space where everyone can enjoy themselves with peace of mind and openness, and respects everyone regardless of gender, sexuality, race, age, or physical minority, and has a free and open mindset for others. It’s an outdoor party that welcomes those who are close to us and those who support people of all sexualities, including transgender, queer, and A-sexual, regardless of their gender.”

I thought that there were few parties in Japan that advocated queer friendliness, so I decided to do something with Elin, Midori and Nanae. By holding a party with a statement, I thought that there were many people who felt welcomed and could participate with more peace of mind than other parties.

Every party is held with the desire to have a “fun party”, but in order to make people feel that it’s a “fun party”, what exactly can we do other than playing good music? I feel that there are still few organizers in Japan who are thinking about what to do.

Mari Sakurai at SLICK rave. Photo: Toshimura (@toshimu_rar on TwitterInstagramFacebook).

With the concept of a queer-friendly party, SLICK has four organizers who have each experience of how to do that and how to create a space where everyone can enjoy with peace of mind in the true sense of the word. We exchange opinions from each other, think about it, and do it consciously.

What is written in the statement may be something that other organizers are thinking about, but I think it makes sense to express that idea properly. In addition, the lineup is consciously mixed as an anti-party against parties with an unbalanced age and gender balance.

Each organizer goes to the club every week, so regardless of their name, we share between us what DJs we think are great, who have impressed us and what those DJs are doing that is good. Those are the ones we book.

Akey (@akkkkeyyy), BRUNA (@blue_novo_azul) and Mari Sakurai organized together Champ Road party. Photo: Timothée Lambrecq (@moussti).

Is there anything else that events like SLICK can do for these causes?

SLICK donated a portion of the proceeds from the party to organizations that support the movements of trans, queer and black advocacy.

It may be only a small amount of support, but I think that it may be possible to help someone by actively continuing activities such as making donations and making statements to the extent that we can.

You’re often hanging out with DJs, many of your best friends are. How does this contribute to your work? What influence do you think you have on them?

Each of them has different ages, environments in which they grew up, and their own taste, so we are often inspired by each other’s differences.

When you hear from them ideas that you couldn’t think of, your creativity increases, and that will give you energy as a DJ.

I don’t know what effect I have on them, but I’d be happy to be an inspirational presence for my friends.

Mari Sakurai at Protest Rave. Photo: Toshimura (@toshimu_rar on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook).

Are there any particular tracks you would like to play in all of your sessions if you could?   

Nothing in particular. A song that I thought was good today may start to feel dull after three days.

For all the young DJs that dream to live the DJ life [laughs] … Is it possible to become a full-time DJ in Japan today? 

There are still few full-time DJs in Japan, and I’m not a full-time DJ either.

Now, due to the effect of coronavirus, it has become more difficult.

If the situation returned to normal, the domestic scene could become more active, and it’d be possible to be an active part of the scene not only in Japan but also overseas. If this happens, I don’t think it’s impossible!

Mari Sakurai with DJ Nobu (@dj_nobu_ft). Photo: Timothée Lambrecq (@moussti).

How would you like the Japanese clubbing scene to evolve in the near future?

It’s not interesting to have a party that is too unbalanced, so I want to organize a party where more people and music are mixed to create something interesting. This is the kind of party I want to be part of.

The Japanese music scene will become even more interesting if wonderful artists are mixed across the boundaries without being too caught up in various scenes.

What is your vision of the role of the DJ in our generation? 

A DJ should raise self-affirmation through enjoying music and to make you release yourself. Make people feel love for themselves.

Keep Mari’s magic going, listen to this mix she did for Tissue Magazine.

Follow Mari Sakurai on SoudCloud (@marisakurai)

Follow Mari Sakurai on Instagram (@_marisakurai)  and Twitter (@_MariSakurai)

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