Ryuichi Sakamoto. The other essence of cool.

carlo de marchis
20 min readApr 2, 2023


I am writing this the day the news of Sakamoto san unexpected death was announced.

It is with a heavy heart that I reflect on the passing of Ryuichi Sakamoto, a visionary artist whose extraordinary legacy will undoubtedly continue to resonate within the hearts of countless musicians and fans. Many have likened Miles Davis to “the essence of cool,” but in my eyes, Sakamoto, with his entirely different background and story, embodied a distinct and equally captivating version of “cool.”

As a music enthusiast, I had the pleasure of discovering Ryuichi Sakamoto’s work in the 1980s, during the “New Wave” scene explosion, through his collaboration with David Sylvian’s band, Japan. I was immediately drawn to his innovative and experimental approach to music, which blended traditional Japanese music with avant-garde and electronic influences.

Since then, I have followed Sakamoto’s career with great admiration, immersing myself in his solo work, collaborations, and film soundtracks. His music has continued to inspire and fascinate me, from his early experimental electronic albums to his recent collaborations with Alva Noto.

In fact, I recently purchased vinyl records of their collaboration, which showcases Sakamoto’s ability to evolve with the times while maintaining his signature style. His music is timeless, with a universal appeal that transcends genres and boundaries.

Ryuichi Sakamoto’s legacy as an innovative and influential musician will continue to resonate with music lovers for generations to come, and I feel fortunate to have been able to witness his incredible career firsthand.

What never ceased to amaze me was the multifaceted nature of Sakamoto’s career and work — his relentless pursuit of the unknown, an eternal quest to venture beyond the familiar. This spirit of exploration serves as a beacon of inspiration for artists everywhere, pushing them to transcend boundaries and reimagine the realm of possibility.

As we mourn the loss of this extraordinary talent, let us also celebrate the indelible impact Ryuichi Sakamoto has had on the world of music — an impact that will continue to reverberate for generations to come.

Here is a detailed analysis of his extraordinary career:

  1. Early Life and Education: Ryuichi Sakamoto was born on January 17, 1952, in Tokyo, Japan. His interest in music began at a young age, and he started playing the piano when he was just three years old. He later attended the Tokyo University of the Arts, where he studied electronic and ethnic music, laying the foundation for his genre-defying career.
  2. Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO): Sakamoto rose to prominence in the late 1970s as a member of the pioneering electronic music band Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO). Alongside Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi, Sakamoto helped define the sound of electronic pop music in the late 70s and early 80s. YMO’s innovative use of synthesizers and drum machines influenced countless artists and played a significant role in the development of electronic and synth-pop music.
  3. Solo Career and Collaborations: Throughout his career, Sakamoto released numerous successful solo albums, such as “Thousand Knives” (1978), “B-2 Unit” (1980), and “Async” (2017). His work encompassed a wide range of styles, including electronic, classical, and experimental music. Sakamoto was also known for his numerous collaborations with artists like David Sylvian, Iggy Pop, and Alva Noto, showcasing his versatility and willingness to push musical boundaries.
  4. Film Scoring and Soundtracks: Sakamoto made a significant impact on the world of film music. His breakthrough came in 1983 when he composed the score for Nagisa Oshima’s “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence,” in which he also starred alongside David Bowie. He received international acclaim and an Academy Award for Best Original Score for his work on Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Last Emperor” (1987). Other notable film scores include “Sheltering Sky” (1990) and “The Handmaiden” (2016).
  5. Activism and Humanitarian Work: In addition to his musical accomplishments, Sakamoto was an active advocate for environmental causes and human rights. Following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, he became a vocal critic of nuclear power and organized the Kizuna World Project, raising funds for disaster relief efforts.
  6. Awards and Recognitions: Ryuichi Sakamoto’s incredible body of work earned him numerous accolades throughout his career, including an Academy Award, a Grammy, and a Golden Globe. He was also recognized with the Japan Record Award for his contributions to Japanese music.


Ryuichi Sakamoto’s music is a testament to his diverse influences and willingness to experiment with various styles and genres. Let’s take a closer look at some key aspects of his work:

  1. Synthesis of Electronic and Classical Music: Sakamoto’s music often combined elements of electronic and classical music, creating a unique sound that set him apart from his contemporaries. His background in both electronic and ethnic music allowed him to meld traditional orchestration with innovative electronic techniques. This synthesis can be heard in albums like “Illustrated Musical Encyclopedia” (1986) and “Playing the Piano” (2009), where he masterfully blends acoustic piano with electronic textures.
  2. Avant-Garde and Experimental Approach: Sakamoto was never afraid to push the boundaries of conventional music, often incorporating avant-garde and experimental elements into his work. Albums such as “B-2 Unit” (1980) and “Neo Geo” (1987) showcase his innovative use of noise, sampling, and unconventional song structures. His collaborations with experimental artists like Alva Noto and Christian Fennesz further demonstrate his commitment to exploring new musical frontiers.
  3. Ambient Music and Soundscapes: Sakamoto’s music frequently ventured into the realm of ambient and atmospheric soundscapes. His albums “Beauty” (1989) and “Async” (2017) feature lush, introspective compositions that create immersive sonic environments. Additionally, his work on film scores often incorporated ambient elements to enhance the mood and atmosphere of the movies.
  4. Melodic and Emotional Depth: Throughout his career, Sakamoto displayed a remarkable talent for crafting memorable melodies and imbuing his compositions with emotional depth. His work on “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” (1983) and “The Last Emperor” (1987) exemplifies his ability to evoke strong emotions through music. Many of his pieces, like “Forbidden Colours” and “Energy Flow,” have become iconic for their haunting beauty and emotional resonance.
  5. World Music Influences: Sakamoto’s music often drew inspiration from various global musical traditions. His interest in ethnic music led him to incorporate elements of African, Asian, and Latin American music into his compositions. Albums like “Beauty” (1989) and “Heartbeat” (1991) display a fusion of world music influences, showcasing Sakamoto’s ability to seamlessly blend diverse styles.

Ryuichi Sakamoto’s music is a rich tapestry of styles, genres, and influences, reflecting his adventurous spirit and boundless creativity. His work transcends conventional musical boundaries and has left an indelible mark on the world of music, inspiring generations of artists to come.

Solo work

Ryuichi Sakamoto’s solo work spans various genres and styles, showcasing his immense talent as a composer, musician, and producer. His solo discography includes both experimental and accessible albums, as well as soundtracks for films and stage productions. Here are some highlights from his solo career:

  1. Thousand Knives of Ryuichi Sakamoto (1978): Sakamoto’s debut solo album, “Thousand Knives of Ryuichi Sakamoto,” is an experimental electronic album that showcased his early interest in synthesizers and cutting-edge technology. The album features a blend of electronic, classical, and avant-garde music elements, hinting at the diverse and innovative direction his career would take.
  2. B-2 Unit (1980): “B-2 Unit” is another early experimental electronic album from Sakamoto, which includes tracks like “Riot in Lagos,” a pioneering electro-funk composition that influenced many electronic and hip-hop artists in the years to come.
  3. Left Handed Dream (1981): “Left Handed Dream” saw Sakamoto exploring a more accessible pop sound while maintaining his experimental edge. The album features collaborations with Robin Scott (M) and former Japan drummer Steve Jansen.
  4. Illustrated Musical Encyclopedia (1984): This album features a mix of electronic, pop, and world music influences, including the hit single “Field Work,” a collaboration with Thomas Dolby.
  5. Neo Geo (1987): “Neo Geo” is a fusion of electronic music, pop, and world music elements, with Sakamoto incorporating various musical styles and collaborating with artists such as Iggy Pop and Bill Laswell.
  6. Beauty (1989): “Beauty” is a genre-defying album that combines elements of pop, world music, and electronic music. It includes collaborations with musicians like Brian Wilson, Robert Wyatt, and Youssou N’Dour.
  7. Discord (1997): “Discord” is an avant-garde, experimental album that showcases Sakamoto’s interest in contemporary classical and electronic music. The album features four lengthy compositions that explore themes of discord and resolution.
  8. Chasm (2004): “Chasm” is an ambient and experimental electronic album that reflects Sakamoto’s concerns about environmental and political issues. The album’s compositions merge atmospheric soundscapes with electronic textures and melodies.
  9. async (2017): “async” is an ambient and experimental album that was inspired by themes of life, death, and rebirth. The album features a mix of electronic and acoustic elements, with influences from classical music, film scores, and experimental music.

Throughout his solo career, Ryuichi Sakamoto has consistently explored new musical territories, pushing the boundaries of electronic, ambient, and contemporary classical music. His innovative approach to composition and willingness to embrace new technologies and genres have made him one of the most respected and influential figures in the world of music.

Movie soundtracks

Ryuichi Sakamoto has composed scores for numerous films throughout his career, showcasing his ability to create emotionally resonant and evocative music that enhances the storytelling of each movie. Here’s an overview of some of his most notable film scores:

  1. Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983): Sakamoto’s breakthrough as a film composer came with his haunting score for Nagisa Oshima’s “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence.” The film, set in a World War II Japanese POW camp, starred David Bowie and Sakamoto himself. The main theme, “Forbidden Colours,” which features vocals by David Sylvian, became an iconic piece of music and solidified Sakamoto’s reputation as a talented composer.
  2. The Last Emperor (1987): Sakamoto earned international acclaim and an Academy Award for Best Original Score for his work on Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Last Emperor.” The film’s score is a blend of traditional Chinese instruments and Western orchestration, perfectly capturing the story’s cultural and historical context. Sakamoto collaborated with David Byrne and Cong Su on the score, which also earned a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or Television.
  3. The Sheltering Sky (1990): Sakamoto composed the score for another Bernardo Bertolucci film, “The Sheltering Sky,” based on the novel by Paul Bowles. The music is a fusion of North African and Western musical elements, reflecting the film’s setting and themes. The soundtrack earned Sakamoto a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score.
  4. High Heels (1991): For Pedro Almodóvar’s “High Heels,” Sakamoto created a score that complemented the film’s unique blend of melodrama, comedy, and mystery. The soundtrack features a mix of orchestral arrangements, electronic elements, and Spanish guitar, creating a rich and varied musical landscape.
  5. Little Buddha (1993): In “Little Buddha,” another collaboration with Bernardo Bertolucci, Sakamoto composed a spiritually-infused score that blends traditional Tibetan music with Western orchestration. The soundtrack enhances the film’s exploration of Buddhist themes and adds depth to the storytelling.
  6. Snake Eyes (1998): For Brian De Palma’s thriller “Snake Eyes,” Sakamoto composed a suspenseful and atmospheric score, incorporating elements of electronic and orchestral music. The soundtrack effectively builds tension and supports the film’s intricate plot.
  7. Femme Fatale (2002): Sakamoto reunited with Brian De Palma for the film “Femme Fatale,” crafting a sensual and mysterious score that underscores the film’s themes of deception and seduction. The soundtrack features a combination of orchestral and electronic elements, creating a captivating and enigmatic soundscape.
  8. The Handmaiden (2016): In Park Chan-wook’s “The Handmaiden,” Sakamoto’s score adds a layer of emotional depth and complexity to the film’s intricate narrative. The soundtrack is a blend of traditional Japanese and Korean music, Western classical elements, and Sakamoto’s signature electronic soundscapes.
  9. “Minamata” is a recent project by Ryuichi Sakamoto, which is both a film and a soundtrack. The film tells the story of W. Eugene Smith, an American photographer who documented the devastating effects of mercury poisoning on the citizens of Minamata, Japan, in the 1970s. Sakamoto composed the film’s score, which is a haunting and emotional reflection of the film’s themes.
    The soundtrack features a mix of electronic and acoustic elements, blending traditional Japanese music with contemporary classical and experimental music. Sakamoto also collaborated with various musicians, including Laurie Anderson, Adan Jodorowsky, and Anohni, to create a diverse and compelling musical experience.
    Sakamoto’s work on “Minamata” reflects his ongoing commitment to using his music to raise awareness of social and environmental issues. The film and soundtrack both serve as powerful statements about the devastating effects of industrial pollution and the importance of environmental justice. Sakamoto’s music adds an additional layer of emotional depth to the story, enhancing the film’s impact on audiences.

These are just a few examples of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s extensive work as a film composer. His ability to adapt his musical style to suit the needs of each film, while still maintaining his unique voice, has made him one of the most respected and sought-after composers in the industry. His scores have left an indelible mark on the films they accompany, and his contributions to the world of film music will be remembered for years to come.


Ryuichi Sakamoto has collaborated with numerous artists throughout his career, showcasing his versatility and ability to work across different genres and styles. Some of his most famous collaborations include:

  1. David Sylvian: Sakamoto’s collaboration with the British musician David Sylvian, the former lead vocalist of the band Japan, produced the iconic song “Forbidden Colours.” The track, which served as the main theme for the film “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” (1983), is a haunting piano-based melody featuring Sylvian’s emotive vocals.
  2. Alva Noto: Sakamoto’s partnership with German electronic artist Carsten Nicolai, known as Alva Noto, resulted in a series of innovative albums that explored the intersection of electronic and classical music. Their works, such as “Vrioon” (2002), “Insen” (2005), and “Summvs” (2011), demonstrated the incredible synergy between the two artists, with each album pushing the boundaries of ambient and experimental music.
  3. Iggy Pop: Sakamoto collaborated with rock legend Iggy Pop on the track “Risky” for Sakamoto’s 1987 album “Neo Geo.” The song features Iggy Pop’s distinctive vocals over Sakamoto’s blend of electronic and world music elements, creating a unique fusion of styles.
  4. David Byrne and Cong Su: For the soundtrack of “The Last Emperor” (1987), Sakamoto worked alongside Talking Heads’ frontman David Byrne and Chinese composer Cong Su. Their collaborative effort earned them the Academy Award for Best Original Score, showcasing the power of their combined talents.
  5. Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO): As a founding member of the pioneering electronic music group Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO), Sakamoto’s collaborations with fellow members Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi produced a series of influential albums that shaped the future of electronic music. YMO’s unique blend of electronic, pop, and traditional Japanese music has had a lasting impact on the music world.

These are just a few examples of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s many collaborations throughout his career. His ability to work with a diverse range of artists and to adapt his musical style to suit different projects demonstrates his versatility and immense talent as a composer and musician.

With Alva Noto (Carsten Nicolai)

Ryuichi Sakamoto’s collaboration with German electronic artist Carsten Nicolai, better known as Alva Noto, resulted in a series of innovative and experimental works that pushed the boundaries of electronic and ambient music. Their partnership began in the early 2000s and continued until Sakamoto’s passing, producing several critically acclaimed albums and live performances.

  1. Vrioon (2002): “Vrioon” marked the beginning of Sakamoto and Alva Noto’s collaboration, with the album consisting of six tracks that seamlessly combined Sakamoto’s piano compositions with Alva Noto’s minimalist electronic soundscapes. The result is a hypnotic and meditative listening experience, showcasing the incredible synergy between the two artists.
  2. Insen (2005): In “Insen,” Sakamoto and Alva Noto continued to explore the interplay between piano and electronic sounds. The album features delicate piano melodies juxtaposed against glitchy, microtonal textures, creating an immersive sonic experience that blurs the line between acoustic and electronic music.
  3. Revep (2006): “Revep” is an EP that further developed the duo’s experimental approach, featuring three tracks that blend piano, electronic processing, and field recordings. The EP contains an extended version of the track “Ax Mr. L,” which was originally featured on “Insen.”
  4. Summvs (2011): “Summvs” is the final installment in the duo’s main series of collaborative albums. The album retains the minimalist aesthetic of their previous work while incorporating subtle orchestral elements, adding a new layer of depth to their sound. Tracks like “By This River” showcase the duo’s ability to create deeply emotional and introspective compositions.
  5. Glass (2017): Sakamoto and Alva Noto teamed up once again for “Glass,” a live improvisational performance recorded at architect Philip Johnson’s iconic Glass House. The album captures the duo’s spontaneous interaction with the unique acoustics of the space, resulting in a mesmerizing and hauntingly beautiful soundscape.
  6. TWO — Live at Sydney Opera House (2019): This live recording features Sakamoto and Alva Noto performing a selection of their collaborative work at the Sydney Opera House. The performance showcases the duo’s incredible synergy and their ability to create captivating live experiences.

Throughout their partnership, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto pushed the boundaries of contemporary music, exploring the intersection of acoustic and electronic sounds. Their collaboration is a testament to their shared vision, creativity, and commitment to innovation, leaving a lasting impression on the world of experimental and ambient music.

Japan and David Sylvian

Ryuichi Sakamoto’s collaboration with the British band Japan and its lead vocalist, David Sylvian, has produced some memorable and influential work. Although Sakamoto was never a member of the band, his creative partnership with Sylvian has resulted in a series of collaborative projects that have left a lasting impact on the music world.

  1. Forbidden Colours (1983): “Forbidden Colours” is one of the most iconic collaborations between Sakamoto and David Sylvian. The song, which was the main theme for the film “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence,” features Sakamoto’s haunting piano melody accompanied by Sylvian’s emotive vocals. The track became a hit and is still regarded as one of the most memorable pieces of music from the 1980s.
  2. Bamboo Houses/Bamboo Music (1982): Before their work on “Forbidden Colours,” Sakamoto and Sylvian collaborated on a double A-side single, “Bamboo Houses/Bamboo Music.” The songs showcase an early fusion of electronic and organic sounds, blending Sakamoto’s synth work with Sylvian’s atmospheric vocals.
  3. Heartbeat (Tainai Kaiki II) (1991): Sakamoto and Sylvian teamed up again for the track “Heartbeat (Tainai Kaiki II),” featured on Sakamoto’s 1991 album “Heartbeat.” The song is a blend of electronic, ambient, and world music elements, with Sylvian’s distinctive voice adding a layer of emotional depth to the composition.
  4. World Citizen (2003): In 2003, Sakamoto and Sylvian collaborated on the song “World Citizen” for Sakamoto’s “Chasm” album. The track addresses themes of global unity and environmental concerns, reflecting the artists’ shared passion for activism and social issues.

Additionally, Sakamoto has worked with other members of the band Japan. For instance, he contributed to the production of Japan’s bassist Mick Karn’s solo album “Titles” (1982) and collaborated with drummer Steve Jansen on the track “Movement 4” from Sakamoto’s album “Left Handed Dream” (1981).

Although Ryuichi Sakamoto and David Sylvian’s collaborations were not as frequent as their work with other artists, their partnership has produced some notable and enduring pieces of music. Their shared artistic sensibilities and innovative approach to music have left a lasting impression on both their fans and the wider music community.

Beyond music

Ryuichi Sakamoto was a multi-faceted individual with interests that extended beyond music. Some of these interests included:

  1. Environmental Activism: Sakamoto was a vocal advocate for environmental causes, particularly after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. He became an outspoken critic of nuclear power and worked to raise awareness of the dangers associated with it. In response to the disaster, he organized the Kizuna World Project, which raised funds for disaster relief efforts and promoted the use of renewable energy sources.
  2. Human Rights: Sakamoto was deeply concerned with human rights issues and used his platform as a musician to raise awareness and inspire change. He supported various causes, including the Tibetan freedom movement and the fight against human trafficking. He also composed music for the documentary “The U.N. World Chronicle: Human Traffic” to shed light on the issue of modern-day slavery.
  3. Acting: In addition to his work as a musician and composer, Sakamoto had an interest in acting. His most notable role was in Nagisa Oshima’s “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” (1983), where he played the character of Captain Yonoi alongside David Bowie. Sakamoto’s performance was praised by critics, and his work on the film’s score further established him as a versatile artist.
  4. Visual Arts and Design: Sakamoto had an appreciation for visual arts and design, which was evident in the aesthetic of his album covers, music videos, and live performances. He often collaborated with visual artists, photographers, and designers to create a cohesive and captivating visual identity for his projects.
  5. Technology and Innovation: Sakamoto was fascinated by technology and its potential to shape the future of music. Throughout his career, he embraced new technologies, such as synthesizers and digital audio workstations, to push the boundaries of his compositions. He also had an interest in artificial intelligence and its potential impact on creativity and art.

Ryuichi Sakamoto’s diverse interests and passions reflect his curious and adventurous spirit, which fueled his constant exploration and innovation in both his music and his life.


Ryuichi Sakamoto’s acting career was relatively limited compared to his extensive work as a musician and composer. However, his foray into acting showcased his versatility and ability to immerse himself in different artistic mediums. The most notable roles from his acting career are as follows:

  1. Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983): Sakamoto’s most prominent acting role was in Nagisa Oshima’s “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence,” where he played the character of Captain Yonoi. Set in a World War II Japanese POW camp, the film starred David Bowie, Tom Conti, and Takeshi Kitano alongside Sakamoto. His portrayal of the stern and conflicted Captain Yonoi received critical acclaim, highlighting Sakamoto’s talent as an actor.
  2. The Last Emperor (1987): Although Sakamoto had a minor role in Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Last Emperor,” his primary contribution to the film was as a composer. He shared the Academy Award for Best Original Score with David Byrne and Cong Su for their collaborative work on the film’s soundtrack.
  3. The Sheltering Sky (1990): Sakamoto had a cameo appearance in another Bernardo Bertolucci film, “The Sheltering Sky,” in which he played a piano player. Similar to “The Last Emperor,” Sakamoto’s main involvement with the film was as the composer of its score.
  4. The Yen Family (1990): In this Japanese TV movie, Sakamoto played the role of Yen. Although not as widely known as his other acting roles, it showcased his ability to take on different characters and contribute to various film projects.

While Ryuichi Sakamoto’s acting career was limited in scope, his performances demonstrated his willingness to explore different artistic avenues and his ability to excel across various creative platforms.


Ryuichi Sakamoto has long been known for his pioneering work with synthesizers, which he began experimenting with in the late 1970s. He quickly became a master of these electronic instruments, pushing the boundaries of what was possible and opening up new possibilities for music creation.

Sakamoto’s early work with synthesizers was heavily influenced by the German electronic music scene, particularly the work of Kraftwerk and Klaus Schulze. He was fascinated by the unique soundscapes that could be created with these instruments, which allowed him to merge elements of electronic and classical music into his compositions.

One of Sakamoto’s most famous works involving synthesizers is “Riot in Lagos,” a track from his 1980 album “B-2 Unit.” The song featured a distinctive sound that was created by layering African rhythms over electronic beats, with the help of a Roland TR-808 drum machine.

Sakamoto’s love for synthesizers continued throughout his career, and he constantly embraced new technologies to push the boundaries of his music. He often combined different synthesizers, samplers, and other electronic instruments to create unique sounds and textures.

In 1996, Sakamoto co-founded the software company, Korg Inc., which specializes in the development of synthesizers and other electronic music products. He was instrumental in the creation of some of Korg’s most popular synthesizers, including the Triton and M1.

Sakamoto’s relationship with synthesizers has been fundamental to his music career. It allowed him to create new and unique sounds, break down barriers between genres, and explore new musical possibilities. His innovative use of synthesizers has been an inspiration to many musicians who have followed in his footsteps.


Ryuichi Sakamoto’s relationship with the music technology company Korg began in the early 1980s when he began using their synthesizers in his music. He quickly became known for his mastery of these instruments, which he used to create innovative and groundbreaking music.

In 1996, Sakamoto co-founded Korg Inc. with fellow musicians and music industry veterans. The company is known for developing some of the most iconic synthesizers of all time, including the M1, the Triton, and the Wavestation. Sakamoto played a significant role in the development of many of these instruments, helping to shape their sound and functionality.

As the chief advisor to Korg’s R&D department, Sakamoto was able to provide invaluable insights into the needs and desires of musicians. He encouraged the development of instruments that would allow artists to explore new sonic possibilities and break down barriers between genres.

Sakamoto’s work with Korg has had a significant impact on the music industry. His collaborations with the company resulted in the creation of many groundbreaking instruments that have been used by countless musicians around the world. Today, Korg continues to be a leading innovator in the music technology industry, with a legacy that owes much to the vision and creativity of Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Live concerts

Ryuichi Sakamoto is widely regarded as one of the most innovative and influential live performers in the world of music. Throughout his career, he has performed at countless venues and events, captivating audiences with his unique blend of electronic, classical, and world music. Here are some of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s top live concerts:

  1. Playing the Orchestra (2013): “Playing the Orchestra” was a series of concerts that saw Sakamoto performing with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. The concerts featured a mix of Sakamoto’s original compositions and classical pieces, showcasing his incredible versatility as a composer and musician.
  2. Async Live (2017): “Async Live” was a series of concerts that accompanied the release of Sakamoto’s album “async.” The shows featured a mix of live instrumentation, electronic music, and visuals, creating an immersive and deeply moving experience for audiences.
  3. Coda (2018): “Coda” was a concert tour that saw Sakamoto performing alongside his longtime collaborator, the German electronic artist Alva Noto. The shows featured a mix of ambient, electronic, and classical music, as well as stunning visuals and lighting effects.
  4. Playing the Piano (2009): “Playing the Piano” was a series of concerts that saw Sakamoto performing solo piano arrangements of his most famous compositions. The shows were intimate and deeply personal, allowing audiences to experience the full emotional range of Sakamoto’s music.
  5. Yellow Magic Orchestra Reunion Tour (2008): The Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO) reunion tour marked the first time in nearly 25 years that Sakamoto had performed with his pioneering electronic music group. The tour was a celebration of YMO’s legacy, featuring hits like “Computer Game” and “Rydeen.”

These are just a few examples of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s many incredible live performances. Whether performing with orchestras, electronic artists, or solo, Sakamoto’s concerts are always unforgettable and showcase his immense talent as a composer and musician.

Japanese culture

Ryuichi Sakamoto’s relationship with Japanese culture has been a significant influence on his music and artistic vision throughout his career. As a native of Japan, Sakamoto grew up immersed in Japanese traditions, music, and art, which have deeply informed his work.

Sakamoto has often incorporated traditional Japanese music elements into his compositions, blending them with modern and Western music influences to create a unique and distinct sound. He has also been a strong advocate for preserving and promoting traditional Japanese music, working with musicians and institutions to showcase its beauty and importance.

Sakamoto has also been involved in various projects related to Japanese culture, including film, theater, and art installations. He composed the music for the film “The Last Emperor” (1987), which tells the story of the final emperor of China, and won an Academy Award for Best Original Score for his work. He has also composed music for various other films with Japanese themes, such as “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” (1983) and “Gohatto” (1999).

In addition, Sakamoto has collaborated with Japanese artists across different fields, such as photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto and artist Mariko Mori. He has also been involved in projects that explore Japanese history, culture, and philosophy, such as the NHK television series “Japanology Plus,” which explores various aspects of Japanese culture.

Overall, Ryuichi Sakamoto’s relationship with Japanese culture has been a fundamental part of his artistic vision, helping to shape his unique musical style and his contributions to various artistic and cultural projects.

I guess many people from different angle will miss his contribution to the world of art.

This article has been put together by also curating elements from ChatGPT4.



carlo de marchis

@CDM / Advisor. 35 years in sports & media tech. Electronic Label and Musician (NEOM Records). Vinyl selector as Carlo's Turntables.