What Makes A Legend: Ryuichi Sakamoto

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published on May 13, 2011

One of the founders of Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO), Sakamoto was an electronic music innovator in 1978, straddling genres and countries before the global village was connected in earnest. He continues to create evocative moodscapes with an ear on the ambient and eye on the arresting.

Career Highs: He shared an Oscar with David Byrne and Cong Su for their score for the 1987 Bernardo Bertolucci film, The Last Emperor. He’s regularly worked with marquee directors of international cinema, like Almodovar, Oshima and DePalma. In 2009, Sakamoto received an award from the Ordre des Artes et des Lettres from the French ministry of culture.

Essential Listening: Solid State Survivor features the wacky east meets west sound of “Rydeen”, the original version of the regal “Behind the Mask” (which morphed into covers by Eric Clapton and Michael Jackson), and the totally new wave title track.

And if you like that you might like: Sakamoto’s work with David Sylvian (formerly of the band Japan), which is completely different. Of special interest is Sylvian’s Secrets of the Beehive, composed by Sakamoto: Some editions of the album include “Forbidden Colours,” their pair-up from Sakamoto’s memorable soundtrack for the film Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence which set the tone for further, fruitful Sylvian/Sakamoto collaborations.

What he’s doing now: Yellow Magic Orchestra is back, with dates booked in June at the Hollywood Bowl, at the Warfield in San Francisco and at Fuji Rock in July.  Sakamoto and German loop-maker Alva Noto released their fifth collaboration, Summvs this month; this week they performed at the annual Short Circuit Electronic Music Festival in London, hosted by pioneering electronic music label Mute. His song “You with Me,” turned up in the Bollywood film, Dhobi Ghat. Sakamoto is still very much charting territories as a global villager.

Quotable: Regarding the recent events in Japan, he said, “I urge us, everyone, to take this as a moment to recognize our arrogance in thinking we can control nature.”

Watch the Action Then: Yellow Magic Orchestra “Technopolis”

And Now: Ryuichi Sakamoto “Hwit”

 

 

 

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