lundi 2 octobre 2017

Sakamoto Ryuichi (坂本 龍一) & YMO- Eng

Militant and unclassifiable artist, Sakamoto Ryuuichi has, like his nearly homonym Sakamoto Kyû, reached an internationale fame, in the 80s for him, in part thanks to the famous Yellow Magic Orchestra with Hosono and Takahashi. But the main reason may probably be that this Japanese pioneer of electronic music, easy in classical too, signed some of the greatest soundtracks of the... occidental cinema ! 

Sakamoto Ryûichi (坂本 龍一)

And the Yellow Magic Orchestra

1e publication : 2017/10/02
Dernière MaJ: 2021/01/23


Sakamoto Ryûichi (坂本 龍一), born on the 17th of January 1952 in Tokyo, gets interested quite soon in music and learns piano. He graduates from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music where he specialized in electronic and ethnic music. His 1st album, fusion of these both genre, is released in 1978 (Thousand knives) and he then joins Haruomi Hosono (bass) and Yukihiro Takahashi (drums and main vocal) to form Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO), a pioneer and internationally acclaimed band in synthpop.
Among his love relationships, the most noticeable (regarding music) starts during this period. He meets indeed Yano Akiko (矢野 顕子), a popular jazz pianist and singer, then collaborating with the trio, who he spouses and with who he has a daughter in 1980: the J-Pop singer Sakamoto Miu (坂本 美雨). They finally get separated in the 90s and divorce in 2006.

Haruomi "Harry" Hosono (細野 晴臣) was born on the 9th of July 1947 in Tokyo and is the grand-son of the lone Japanese passenger and a survivor of the Titanic ! He starts the electric bass by the end of the 60s, start of the 70s in psychedelic rock or folk bands such as Happy End (whose song Kaze wo Atsumete will far later be featured in the original soundtrack of Lost in Translation). Hungry for musical discoveries, he starts synthesizers and multiplies the collaborations and short-lived bands.
That's the way we find him working for Miyazaki Hayao when he composes the promotional song of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, or for the great Idols of the 80-90s: Matsuda Seiko and Moritaka Chisato ! He manages his own label, Daisy World, to launch experimental artists. He is the one at the origin of YMO, after he helped Sakamoto on his 1st album, the of their rebands.
This leadership and eclectism granted him a 44th ranking in the Top 100 Japanese artists the most important by HMV in 2003.

Yukihiro Takahashi (高橋 幸宏) was born on the 6th of June 1952 in Tokyo too. He joins in 1973 as a drummer the Sadistic Mika Band led by the guitarist Kato Kazuhito and his wife Mika as singer, who is the 1st J-Rock band ever to tour in England (as the 1st part of Roxy Music) ! Singer, he also follows a very productive solo career by adding the synthesizer to his skills. He has a noticeable participation to the soundtrack of the famous anime among otakus: Nadia and the Secret of Blue Water (ふしぎの海のナディア, Fushigi no umi no Nadia), in particular the song Families !

YMO is inspired by bands like Kraftwerk and uses intensively synthesizers, beatboxes, sequencers, vocoders..., and computing to experiment new sounds and fuse them to several more classical styles. In Japan where their concerts are quickly full, they participate to the start of the synthpop (or technopop) and of new-wave trend which will produce in Japan a style close to the Eurodance in the 90s (TRFGlobe...).
Their album Solid State Survivor in 1979 (a good year !) spreads abroad one of their biggest hits, used in an ad in 1978: Behind the Mask (then covered by Michael Jackson, Eric Clapton...), and the album sales beyond 2 millions units in the world.
The following in 1980, X ~ Multiplies, makes nearly the same with worldwide hits Computer GameFirecracker... which allow them to do a world tour.
They disband at the end of 1983 to go back to solo projects. They sometimes reunit for lives, under the name Human Audio Sponge or HASYMO.

1983, is by the way the year of personal consecration for Sakamoto Ryûichi who just acted in a English-Japanese movie featuring in particular Kitano Takeshi, until then member of a comic pair who will become the famous actor-director of Zatoishi among others, and some... David Bowie for one of his greatest roles, who refuses to deal with the composition of the Original Soundtrack, then granted to Sakamoto.
There is no doubt that this Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, was really a Christmas miracle for these actors and for Sakamoto in particular, as his original soundtrack, in a more classical style, won a BAFTA from British Academy and the recognition from a wide public with the tune Forbidden Colours whose lyrics where written by David Sylvian, an English new-wave singer already known in Japan.
As an anecdote, the Japanese title of the movie of Ôshima is Senjô no Merry Christmas (戦場のメリークリスマス, "Battlefield's merry Christmas").

Afterward, he will sign severeal other reknown OST (The Last Emperor - which granted him an Oscar, Little BuddhaSnake EyesSilk, High Heels... and a participation to the one of the 1st animation movie in cell-shading: Appleseed) or also the Opning Ceremony of the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992. 
He also collaborates a lot, on pop and rock tunes with singers like Iggy Pop, Youssou N'Dour, Césaria Evora... and numerous other opus more or less experimental, between purely electronics compositions, fusion with traditional musics, or even more mainstream tries of bossa-nova (among others with the Morelenbaum couple), of rap, or even... the "operaLIFE (featuring the XIVth Dalaï-Lama and Salman Rushdie for the writing part among others), etc.

In 1999, the release of the album BTTB, aka Back To The Basics, is to be noted as it has got a certain success in Japan with the theme of the movie Snake Eyes, and in particular with the single Ura BTTB (ウラBTTB) whose "A Face" was used in an ad: Energy Flow, at the origin of the "healing music" trend but curiously absent from the Japanese version of the above album (added in the international version), which reaches the 1st place of the weekly Oricon charts (a first time for an instrumental tune), which stays 4 weeks in a row and finishing 4th  in the yearly ranking with more than 1.5 millions sales ! As a "back to the basics", this album contains only classical or traditional instruments. Funnily, as it was an order for an ad, Sakamoto explained he did it in 5 minutes without thinking a lot, and that he didn't understand why it had become so famous ! This must be genious... 😜
Album Ongakuzukan (1984, reedition of 2015); the booklet details for instance the schedule in studio !
In 2014, he has got a throat cancer, that he manages to get healed to comeback in 2015 with the OST of... The Revenant 😉 ! He then releases in 2017 a new personal album, Async, 8 years after the previous one (Out of Noise), mostly oriented to experimental music. On the same year, he is awarded with the Samurai prize at the 30th Tokyo International Film Festival.
The one who put into a new music the Japanese version of the pacifist poem Shinda Onna no Ko and who perfomed it in 2005 with the traditional singer Hajime Chitose in front of the atomic explosion Dome of Hiroshima for the 60 years ceremony does not hide his reluctance regarding the political projects of Abe Shinzô to modify the Article 9 of the Constitution which prevented until 2016 Japan from sending soldiers abroad... 


Of course, the "modern classical" Sakamoto Ryuuichi is worldwide famous for his movies soundtracks : as said, he won 1 BAFTA and 1 Oscar, but also 1 Grammy and 2 Golden Globes, and was also nominated 3 times for BAFTA and 4 times for Golden Globes !
But he is also, even mainly, one of the pioneers of electronic music not only in Japan but in the world, and explored its fusion with classical and traditional musics, in solo and with the famous band Yellow Magic Orchestra who had a lot of influence in Occident. And they are more or less directly the godfathers of the nowadays Japanese electronic scene and of its diversity (chiptune, Vocaloid, electro-popToho-kei...), when considering their numerous experimentations and the positive aura they brought to this genre.
Their masterpieces are not only must-know of J-Music, but a part of the world's music heritage. In 2009, Sakamoto was thus awarded the France's Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for his contributions to music. 

Similar Artists

Japan: Joe Hisaishi (see his OST for the animation movie of Studio Ghibli Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind)... By heritage, YMCK, Hatsune Miku, Perfume, World Order...

World: Vangelis, Mike Oldfield, Kraftwerk, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Brian Eno, Jean-Michel Jarre, Daft Punk...

Great Standards

First performer:

- Behind the Mask (YMO)
- Computer Game (YMO)
- Forbidden Colours (Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence)
- Energy Flow

Reprises :

Shinda Onna no Ko
- les chefs-d'œuvre du compositeur de la bossa nova Antônio Carlos Jobim
- Tighten up

Discography (selection) :

Affiliated links to CDJapan with audio samples. Thank you for allowing cookies to support the site, if you enjoyed the article. m(_ _)m

11/1978: reedition in 2003 of the 1st album (Japanese vers.) of YMO ; includes Firecracker, Computer Game (Invaders vers.)...

08/2009: best of YMO, includes Computer Game (Soccer vers.), Behind the Mask, Tighten up, Rydeen, Firecracker...

3/2009: reedition of the 1st album (10/1978) by Sakamoto Ryuichi in HQ ; includes Thousand Knives, The End of Asia...

11/2013: special reedition for the 30 years of the OST of the famous movie of 1983, Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence...

03/2015: reedition of this "Illustrated Musical Encyclopedia" of 10/1984, 1st album post-YMO ; includes Tibetan Dance, M.A.Y in the Backyard...

UF (Ultimate Film) / Ryuichi Sakamoto
Ryuichi Sakamoto
10/2002: Best of Original Soundtracks of movies (parts) of Sakamoto ; includes Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, Snake Eyes, The Last Emperor...

Silk / Ryuichi Sakamoto
Ryuichi Sakamoto
12/2007: Original Soundtrack of the movie Silk.

09/2009: album of live perfomances ; includes Energy Flow, Tibetan Dance, Forbidden Colours (Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence), The Last Emperor, High Heels, Thousand knives, cover of Behind the Mask (of YMO)...

Little Buddha / Original Soundtrack (Music by Ryuichi Sakamoto)
Original Soundtrack (Music by Ryuichi Sakamoto)
08/2015 (reedition): OST of the movie Little Buddha (1993).

Original Soundtrack "The Revenant (Yomigaerishi Mono)" / Original Soundtrack (Music by Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto, Bryce Dessner)
Original Soundtrack (Music by Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto, Bryce Dessner)
02/2016: OST of the movie The Revenant


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