Award-winning Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, member of YMO, passes away

Famous Japanese musician and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, who is also the keyboard player for the legendary electronic music band Yellow Magic Orchestra, better known as YMO, has passed away, his office announced Sunday. He was 71 years old.

Sakamoto revealed in June 2022 that he was battling stage four cancer. This Tokyo native also starred in the 1983 war film “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” and won an Oscar and a Grammy for his score in 1987’s “The Last Emperor.”

Ryuichi Sakamoto speaks in an interview on March 25, 2017 in Tokyo. Favorite

The office said the funeral for Sakamoto, who died last Tuesday, was actually held with only relatives present. The cause of death was not immediately known.

With his interest in environmental and peace issues, Sakamoto has been actively involved in the anti-nuclear movement in recent years in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by a deadly earthquake and tsunami.

The son of Kazuki Sakamoto, a famous editor at the Kawade Shobo Shinsha publishing house, Sakamoto began studying music writing at the age of ten and was fascinated by The Beatles and Debussy.

As a high school student in the late 1960s, he participated in student demonstrations. Later, he revealed in an interview that this experience “was at the heart of who I am.”

In 1978, Sakamoto founded YMO with Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi. Their futuristic art-pop, which makes full use of synthesizers, was in sync with the times in the late 1970s, when “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and the arcade game “Space Invaders” became hits.

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In January, Takahashi, the drummer for YMO, died of aspiration pneumonia.

A file photo taken in July 2010 in Yokohama shows Ryuichi Sakamoto (center) with fellow Yellow Magic Orchestra members Yukihiro Takahashi (left) and Harumi Hosono. Favorite

Dressed in Mao-like suits, the trio’s performances were well received in the United States and Europe, and their music, such as “Technopolis” and “Raden”, from an album released in 1979, became popular in Japan following their success abroad. YMO’s melodies also include “Kimi ni Mune Kyun” (My Heart Beats for You), a song released in 1983.

After obtaining a master’s degree from the Tokyo University of the Arts Graduate School, Sakamoto was known for his theoretical views and extensive knowledge of classical and folk music, earning him the nickname “Professor”.

He has scored more than 30 films, including Nagisa Oshima’s “Happy Birthday, Mr. Lawrence,” in which he also played the Japanese commandant of a prison camp, “The Last Emperor” and “The Sheltering Sky,” both directed by Bernardo Bertolucci in 1987 and 1990 respectively.

File photo shows the team that made “Happy Birthday, Mr. Lawrence” in Paris on May 11, 1983: producer (from left) Jack Thomas, music composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, star David Bowie and director Nagisa Oshima. (AP/Kyudo)

File photo showing Ryuichi Sakamoto playing the keyboard during Yellow Magic Orchestra’s reunion concert at Tokyo Dome in June 1993 (Kyudo)

The musician also leads More Trees, a Tokyo-based forest conservation group founded in 2007.

Sakamoto, who began spending most of his time in New York in the early 1990s, announced a diagnosis of throat cancer in 2014 and a diagnosis of rectal cancer in 2021. The cancer later spread to his lungs, requiring surgeries in October and December. 2021.

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Sakamoto discussed in detail his cancer diagnosis and how he was coping with it in an article titled “Living with Cancer” published by the literary magazine Shinshu in June 2022.

This article was the first installment in a series of articles titled “How Often Will I See the Full Moon?” which the musician composed for the monthly magazine, and deals mainly with his musical activities and his views on life and death.

“Since I’ve come this far in life, I hope to be able to compose music until my last moment, like Bach and Debussy, whom I adore,” he said in a statement issued at the launch of the series.

Sakamoto was one of the few Japanese celebrities in the entertainment industry willing to make political statements, including saying after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 that the situation surrounding the attacks was “created by the dominant country in the United States”.

After the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami devastated northeastern Japan in 2011, he became the music director of the Tohoku Youth Orchestra, formed by children affected by disasters.

A file photo shows Ryuichi Sakamoto (4th of L) with members of the Tohoku Youth Orchestra as its Musical Director on March 31, 2019 in Tokyo. Favorite

In March 2022, while battling stage 4 cancer, Sakamoto participated in the orchestra’s concert in Tokyo, where he composed a new symphony called “Ima jikan ga katamoe te” (Time is Tending Now).

The symphony ends with the sound of bells, and it is made clear to the audience from the stage that earthquakes and wars share the same prayer for the repose of slain souls.

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The concert took place amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and noted that the symphony had some similarities to the Ukrainian national anthem, adding: “It is up to each one of you to decide if the sound of the bells (at the end of the symphony) sounds like a requiem or a hope.”

Singer-songwriter Akiko Yano is his ex-wife, and musician Mio Sakamoto is his daughter.


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