A titanic force in contemporary art and music, Ryuichi Sakamoto managed throughout his working life to combine popular acclaim with serious-minded artistic ambition: while enjoying chart-topping successes as a member of synth-pop innovators Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO), Sakamoto would simultaneously pursue a solo career as a composer of experimental electronic music. Sakamoto’s career in film scoring began auspiciously with his work on Nagisa Ōshima’s 1983 Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, in which he also starred opposite David Bowie and Takeshi Kitano. The music of Mr. Lawrence, which combines synthesizers, orchestral arrangements, and traditional Japanese instruments, was immediately recognized as a major accomplishment and marked the beginning of a remarkable 40-year run of film scoring that saw Sakamoto collaborate with such directors as Bernardo Bertolucci, Pedro Almodóvar, Jun Ichikawa, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and Alejandro G. Iñárritu. Always a musical pioneer, never content with the commonplace, Sakamoto’s film work was only one facet of his extraordinary creative life, but it would have been more than enough by itself to make him a legend.


Portrait © 2015 Wing Shya