Home World Ryuichi Sakamoto of Yellow Magic Orchestra dies at 71 : NPR

Ryuichi Sakamoto of Yellow Magic Orchestra dies at 71 : NPR



Ryuichi Sakamoto posing for a portrait in Paris in 1996.

Thomas Coex/AFP by way of Getty Photographs

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Thomas Coex/AFP by way of Getty Photographs

Ryuichi Sakamoto posing for a portrait in Paris in 1996.

Thomas Coex/AFP by way of Getty Photographs

Ryuichi Sakamoto, a trailblazing composer and producer who was one of many first musicians to include digital manufacturing into widespread songcraft, has died on the age of 71.

Sakamoto died on March 28 after a multi-year battle with most cancers, in keeping with an announcement printed on his web site Sunday. “We want to share one in every of Sakamoto’s favourite quotes,” the assertion learn. “‘Ars longa, vita brevis.’ Artwork is lengthy, life is brief.”

The Japanese composer had an exceptionally wide-ranging profession: he was by turns a synth-pop idol, the composer of each sweeping movie scores and quiet, mild sound environments, and a collaborator of such artists as David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Bernardo Bertolucci.

As a member of Japan’s vastly influential band Yellow Magic Orchestra and as a solo artist, he was a grandfather of digital pop music, making songs that influenced early hip-hop and techno.

Born on January 17, 1952, Sakamoto loved a culturally wealthy childhood; his father was the editor for such postwar Japanese novelists as Kenzaburo Oe and Yukio Mishima. He started taking piano classes when he was 6 years previous, and later began writing his personal music. As an adolescent, he grew to become enamored of the work of Claude Debussy — a composer who himself had been impressed by Asian musical aesthetics, together with that of Japan.

As Sakamoto instructed Weekend Version in 1988, “I feel my music is predicated on a really Western system, as a result of there is a beat, there is a melody, there’s concord. So that is Western music. However you realize, some feeling, some ambiance, or sense of sound is just a little bit Asian, possibly 25, 30 p.c.”

By the point Sakamoto reached college to review composition, his musical life was already following a number of paths concurrently. At college, he was absorbing heady works by the giants of post-war European modernism, like Stockhausen, Ligeti, Xenakis and Boulez. However he was additionally enjoying Okinawan people music and free jazz in his spare time, in addition to combing file shops for Kraftwerk.

In 1978, he joined multi-instrumentalist Haruomi Hosono and drummer Yukihiro Takahashi to type the band Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO). Sakamoto performed keyboards, and all three members sang.

YMO proved to be an infinite cultural pressure not simply in Japan, however internationally. With its playful, closely layered and complex use of electronics, the band — and its members’ solo tasks, together with Sakamoto’s observe “Riot in Lagos” — grew to become a guiding gentle for the burgeoning hip-hop and techno communities.

YMO did a activate Soul Prepare, performing their track “Pc Video games.” Afrika Bambaataa sampled their “Firecracker” for his “Dying Combine (Half 2).” In 1993, a bunch of main ambient, home and techno musicians paid tribute to YMO’s affect with an album known as Hello-Tech/No Crime, that includes YMO remixes from producers together with The Orb, 808 State and Orbital.


In 1983, he acted alongside David Bowie in Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, directed by Nagisa Oshima. Sakamoto additionally wrote the film’s rating, his first. At his preliminary assembly with Oshima, Sakamoto instructed The Guardian in 2000, he requested to jot down the film’s music — marking the beginning of an extended and notable profession as a movie composer.

Sakamoto went on to attain such movies as Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Final Emperor (1987) — for which he gained an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a Grammy, together with co-composers David Byrne and Chinese language composer Cong Su — in addition to Bertolucci’s The Sheltering Sky in 1990, for which he additionally gained a Golden Globe. He additionally wrote the scores for Pedro Almodovar’s Excessive Heels in 1991, and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Babel in 2006 and The Revenant in 2015, amongst others.

As Sakamoto’s profession matured, his curiosity in aesthetic and mental exploration grew. All through the Eighties, Nineteen Nineties and 2000s, he collaborated with a wide selection of worldwide musicians, together with Thomas Dolby, Youssou N’Dour, Iggy Pop, Jaques Morelenbaum, Carsten Nicolai (aka Alva Noto) and an particularly frequent associate, singer-songwriter and experimental composer David Sylvian. Sakamoto additionally partnered with visible artists, together with Nam June Paik and Shiro Takatani, collaborating with the latter for the 1999 multimedia opera, LIFE.

In 2017 — three years right into a publicly acknowledged combat with throat most cancers — Sakamoto launched a lush ambient album known as async; he continued to make music till the very finish.


In his later years, Sakamoto grew to become an vital voice in protesting nuclear energy, significantly within the wake of the 2011 Daiichi nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima prefecture. His public activism is a basic a part of the 2017 documentary movie, Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda, as is his battle towards most cancers.

“I truthfully do not know what number of years I’ve left,” he stated in a single Coda scene. It may very well be 20 years, 10 years, or a relapse reduces it to only one. I am not taking something without any consideration. However I do know that I need to make extra music. Music that I will not be ashamed to depart behind — significant work.”

Sakamoto publicly introduced that he had been recognized with rectal most cancers in January 2021. In a message posted on his web site, he wrote: “Any further, I shall be dwelling alongside most cancers. However, I’m hoping to make music for a short time longer.”



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