Ryuichi Sakamoto (坂本龍一, Sakamoto Ryūichi, born January 17, 1952, Nakano, Tokyo, Japan) is a Japanese musician, composer, producer and actor.
He attended the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, where he earned a B.A. in music composition and an M.A. with special emphasis on both electronic and ethnic music. Sakamoto recorded his first solo album in 1978, which included the songs Thousand Knives and The End of Asia.
Around the same time, Sakamoto joined the internationally successful Japanese synth J-Pop trio Yellow Magic Orchestra, along with co-founders Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi. The band charted a British top 20 hit with Firecracker in the late 1970s (and are also remembered for Technopolis, Behind the Mask and Tong Poo), and were a seminal influence on the acid house and techno movements of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Sakamoto has collaborated with David Sylvian on a number of singles and most of Sylvian’s albums. He has also collaborated with, among others, David Byrne, Fennesz, Towa Tei and Supa DJ Dmitry (from the group Deee-Lite), Alva Noto, Thomas Dolby, Bill Laswell, Nam June Paik, Boredoms, Roddy Frame (frontman for Aztec Camera), Iggy Pop, and Caetano Veloso.
He appeared in the 1983 Nagisa Oshima film Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (Senjou no Merii Kurisumasu, aka Furyo) alongside Takeshi Kitano and British rock singer David Bowie. Sakamoto also wrote the film’s musical score, and the theme song Forbidden Colours, sung by Sylvian, became a minor hit.
As a long time fan of Virginia Astley’s music he produced her 1986 album Hope In A Darkened Heart which included David Sylvian as a guest.
Sakamoto, David Byrne and Cong Su won the Academy Award for their score to the 1987 Bernardo Bertolucci film The Last Emperor, in which Sakamoto also played a small role. Among the other films Sakamoto has scored are Pedro Almodóvar’s 1992 film Tacones lejanos; Bertolucci’s 1993 film The Little Buddha; Oliver Stone’s 1993 television series Wild Palms; John Maybury’s 1998 film Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon; Brian De Palma’s 1998 film Snake Eyes; Nagisa Oshima’s 1999 film Gohatto, and 2002 film Femme Fatale.
Sakamoto continued his collaborations with others on his 1990 album Beauty, which featured a combination of pop songs and traditional Japanese tunes. Guest appearances included Jill Jones, Brian Wilson, and Robbie Robertson. His 1992 multi-lingual album Heartbeat looked to international horizons and drew from a global range of artists such as Dee Dee Brave, French rapper Marco Prince, Arto Lindsay, Youssou N’Dour, David Sylvian, and Ingrid Chavez.
In 1992, Sakamoto composed the score of the opening ceremony for the Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain, telecast live to an audience of over a billion viewers. He has also contributed to several albums by French producer Hector Zazou. In 1994, Sakamoto played Voltex of Love and Behind the Mask with Tetsuya Komuro at TK DANCE CAMP. In 1998, Italian ethnomusicologist Massimo Milano published Ryuichi Sakamoto. Conversazioni, a collection of essays and conversations.
In 1999, Heart of Asia (a dance track by the group Watergate) sampled his Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence theme.
Sakamoto was married to Japanese pianist and singer Akiko Yano, collaborating with her on some of her recordings. They finally divorced in August 2006, 14 years after a mutual decision to live separately.
In 2003, Sakamoto collaborated with Alva Noto (an alias of Carsten Nicolai’s) to release Vrioon, an album of Sakamoto’s piano clusters treated by Nicolai’s unique style of digital manipulation, involving the creation of «micro-loops» and minimal percussion. The two produced this work by passing the pieces back and forth until both were satisfied with the result. This debut, released on German label Raster-Noton, was voted record of the year 2004 in the electronica category by British magazine The Wire.
In 2005, Sakamoto and Nicolai released Insen, also on Raster-Noton. This album was produced in a similar manner to Vrioon, although it is somewhat more restrained and minimal.
In 2007, the soundtrack album for the French-Canadian production of Silk will be released. Silk tells the story of a married silkworm merchant-turned-smuggler in 19th century France traveling to Japan for his town’s supply of silkworms after a disease wipes out their African supply; during his stay in Japan, the man becomes obsessed with the concubine of a local baron.
In April Side-Line reported that Kraftwerk had joined in to support Ryuichi Sakamoto’s Stop-Rokkasho project by offering a free download of their track Radioactivity recorded live at Warszawa Sala Kongresowa. The track is available for remixing as well for all those that want to.
Finnish mobile phone manufacturer Nokia hired Sakamoto to compose ring and alert tones for their high-end phone, the Nokia 8800.
Recently, Ryuichi Sakamoto led a petition with around 75,000 signatures, stating that «whether something is vintage or not is not a matter for government officials to decide». The petition was made in response to Japan’s Electrical Appliance and Material Safety Law, which would have made the sale of pre-2001 items problematic.
He is also known as a critic of copyright law, arguing that it is antiquated in the information age.
Thousand Knives (1978)
Summer Nerves (1979)
Left-Handed Dream (1981)
The Arrangement (1981 - Japanese EP w/Robin Scott)
Left-Handed Dream (1981 - US version, includes tracks from The Arrangement EP)
Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983) (soundtrack)
Coda (1983 - piano versions of Merry Xmas Mr. Lawrence material)
The End of Asia - with Danceries (1983)
Illustrated Musical Encyclopedia (1985 - UK version of Ongakuzukan w/altered tracklisting)
Media Bahn Live (1986) (Live Album)
The Adventures Of Chatran (1986) (Soundtrack)
Image Sketch of Aile de Honnéamise (1986)
Ōritsu Uchūgun: Oneamisu no Tsubasa - Royal Air Force: The Wings of Honneamise (1987) (Soundtrack)
Neo Geo (1987)
Tokyo Joe (1988)
The Last Emperor (1988)
Playing The Orchestra - original limited edition art box version (1988)
Gruppo Musicale (1989) (Best of)
Arrangement - compilation of EPs (1990)
Sheltering Sky (1990) (Soundtrack)
Handmaid’s Tale (1990) (Soundtrack)
High Heels (1992) (Soundtrack)
Wuthering Heights (1992) (Soundtrack)
El Mar Mediterrani - Barcelona Olympics opening ceremony (1992)
Better Days of Ryuichi Sakamoto (1992)
Peach Boy (1993)
Wild Palms (1993) (Soundtrack)
Little Buddha (1993) (Soundtrack)
Sweet Revenge (1994)
Soundbytes (1994) (Best of)
Stalker (1997) (Soundtrack)
BTTB - original release version (1998)
Snake Eyes (1998) (Soundtrack)
Love Is The Devil (1998)
BTTB - second release version, added tracks (1999)
Pre L I F E In Progress (1999)
Raw L I F E: Live in Osaka (1999) (Live Album)
Raw L I F E: Live in Tokyo (1999) (Live Album)
Sampled L I F E (1999)
Gohatto (1999) (Soundtrack)
Intimate - with Keizo Inoue (1999)
L I F E (2000)
Monogatari No Youni Furusato Wa Toi - with Taeko Tomioka (2000)
Lack of Love - Dreamcast Game (soundtrack) (2000)
In The Lobby At G.E.H. In London (2001)
Zero Landmine (2001)
CM Works (2002) (CM refers to ‘commercial music’ in Japan)
Minha Vida Como Un Filme (2002) (Soundtrack)
Henkaku No Seiki: Century of Reform (2002)
Femme Fatale (2002) (Soundtrack)
World Citizen (2003) with David Sylvian
Chasm - original Japan version (2004)
Insen (2005) with Alva Noto
Shining Boy & Little Randy (2005) (Soundtrack)
Tony Takitani (2005) (Soundtrack)
Chasm - US version (2005)
cendre (March 2007) collaboration with Fennesz
Silk (2007) (soundtrack)
The Revenant (2015) collaboration with alva noto and Bryce Dessner (soundtrack)
Other works (classical music):
Suites for Piano (1970)
Composition for Orchestra (1973)
La dispersion, la limite, le sable; for piano (1976)
Repetition and Melody; for chamber orchestra (1976)
Just for Me; for piano (1981)
Novel; for mixed choir (1982)
Cantus omnibus unus; for mixed or equal choir (2005)