Percussion Prodigy // Yoyoka
Beating into the Future
Yoyoka was born in Hokkaido, Japan. Her parents, Aki (father) and Rie (mother), are musicians. They had a studio with many instruments in their countryside home. Yoyoka started playing the drums at only one and a half years old, and she could play as loud as she wanted since they lived in a rural area.
Completely self-taught, Yoyoka began performing live with her family in the Kaneaiyoyoka family band when she was just five years old. The band played mostly originals.
One day, when Yoyoka was eight years old, Aki filmed her playing "Good Times Bad Times" by Led Zeppelin. He posted the video on Vimeo, and when he woke up, it had gone viral! Yoyoka gained worldwide fame and popularity from the video.
Iroha: What projects are you currently working on?
Yoyoka: Recently, I have been performing throughout Japan for my 2023 Tour. I did shows featuring original music and some covers in Tokyo and Sapporo. This is a solo tour while I have temporarily returned to Japan, but supporting musicians and special guest musicians have joined me on stage.
I am also appearing at various events, making my album, practicing a lot, and shooting music videos.
For the past nine months, I have attended a musical arts school in Oakland, California. However, we are moving to Los Angeles soon, so I will need to find another school to attend.
Iroha: What are your plans for the future?
Yoyoka: In the future, I want to make my own album with all original music. Right now, I feel like I have been too busy to write or record an album. Hopefully, I will be able to focus entirely on an album creation project as soon as possible.
Iroha: What are your thoughts regarding Asian hate and Asian glass ceiling issues?
Yoyoka: I have not felt or experienced anything like that. While in the United States the past 10 months, I never felt that anyone said or did anything negative against me for being Asian or Japanese. Since I went to a music school, I feel like everyone recognized and respected me as a musician. I am seen as a musician solely, so I feel there has always been an environment of respect.
However, overall, I do know this is an issue. I would like to try to use my platform to help make matters regarding Asian hate better. I hope to be a life changer – an inspiration or influencer who gives people reason to change negative behaviors. I hope we can eliminate Asian hate.
Iroha: Based on your background, do you have any advice or a message for others who want to follow in your footsteps?
Yoyoka: Please have fun while chasing your dreams. Please look for other drummers and musicians across many genres of music. Don’t limit yourself. Learn from and listen to many musicians with different styles and within different genres.
Iroha: What has been the hardest part of your journey thus far?
Yoyoka: Moving to the United States. It was very difficult. The language barrier was daunting.
Visas and costs were difficult – my family had to figure it out all by ourselves. I am grateful for my parents and their efforts.
Interview with Yoyoka’s Parents, Aki (Father) and Rie (Mother)
Iroha: How did your family get to where you are today? Where did it all begin?
Aki: My wife and I are both amateur musicians. We had our hobby home studio and all kinds of instruments. We enjoyed recording music, so Yoyoka and her younger brother, Shido, grew up in a home music environment.
Yoyoka just picked up drumsticks one day, and we saw she was a natural. We didn’t teach her or even really encourage her, we just started playing together whenever she wanted to play.
I do vocals and play guitar, bass guitar, and keyboard. Rie also does vocals and plays bass guitar, and Shido, who is 10 years old now, does vocals and plays guitar and drums.
When the Vimeo video went viral, we were all asleep. I woke up and saw all these emails and phone calls from the media and musicians. I didn’t speak or read much English, so I thought it was all spam. But then I saw the video mentioned in magazines, and famous musicians were doing reaction videos, so I realized, “Wow! It’s real!”
We immediately started going on TV shows for interviews and performances. We were offered opportunities in many different countries with many in the United States, including interviews with Billboard, NPR, and Rolling Stone. They were calling Yoyoka a drumming prodigy. We were so surprised! Her first big show was The Ellen Show.
Then, unfortunately, the pandemic hit. Our family remained in Japan and could not perform throughout the pandemic. We had to cancel all of the opportunities and offers until after borders began opening back up. When they did, we moved to the United States, and Yoyoka started being able to gain opportunities to perform again, little by little.
Iroha: Do you have any advice for others from a parent’s point of view?
Aki: We don’t feel like we’ve reached “success” yet. We just continue to keep trying.
My message to other parents would be to just keep trying. Just believe in your children’s abilities and potential. Do everything you can to make a better world for them and other children.
Rie: I feel the same as Aki. I do not feel like we are “successful” yet, but we are not doing it for the success, and never have. We do all this for the experience, love, and to support our children.
The most important thing is to communicate with my children. I want to know what they think and to watch and learn as they change. It is our priority to be involved in their lives.
Just do those things and supporting them in their desires and choices.
Continue conversations. Communication and just talking is so important for your relationship with your children.
Finally, respect your kid’s opinions and individuality. We both support our children and let them lead the way in what they want to do. I am so happy and proud that they took on the big challenge to move to the United States. We all decided together as a family, and the children’s opinions were just as valued as ours as parents in the discussion. Throughout the challenge of the move, they met so many people who helped them. It was an amazing experience and one I was proud to watch as their mother.
Iroha: Outside of work and music, what are you all most interested in right now?
Aki: Anatomy and body movement. I love to learn about anything that has to do with the body and motion, such as blood rushing through veins or muscle movements.
Rie: I like exercise, so I often enjoy yoga, walking, or jogging. I also love onsens!
Yoyoka: I have many hobbies, including drawing, reading books, sleeping, and eating.
Shido, my brother, loves drawing in any medium. He mostly loves drawing Japanese anime, people, and original characters. Oh, and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure! Shido loves drawing JoJo.
written by Jessica Woolsey