In the age of one-hit wonders and a constantly rotating cast of pop-stars there are but a few true artists that have both stood the test of time and continue to break new ground. Ryuichi Sakamoto is one of these rare gems. Few, if any, have a comparably diverse résumé as well as fan base. Young and old from all cultures and creeds have found inspiration in Ryuichi's music. Ryuichi Sakamoto is a composer, musician, producer, actor, and environmental activist; a true renaissance man.
Ryuichi has a vast range of musical endeavors; from pioneering early electronic music in his ?rst group; Yellow Magic Orchestra, to globally-inspired rock albums, classical compositions (including a massive opera), and over thirty ?lm scores. His catalogue even includes video game soundtracks, and mobile ringtones. Almost as expansive is his array of prestigious awards; an Academy Award, two Golden Globes, a Grammy, the Order of the Cavaleiro Admissão from the government of Brazil, and in July 2009, he was named an Of?cier of the coveted Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the government of France.
As a child, Sakamoto ?rst fell under the spell of English rock -- the ?rst record he ever bought: was "Tell Me" by the Rolling Stones -- and then French Impressionism. "Debussy was my hero," he says, and acknowledges that echoes of his teenage idol can still be heard in his new music. "Asian music heavily in?uenced Debussy, and Debussy heavily in?uenced me. So the music goes around the world and comes full circle." Furthermore, as a lefty, Sakamoto grew up with a distorted view about the importance of the right hand over the left in terms of melodies. However, at age 7, Sakamoto discovered the music of Bach, emphasizing the equal importance between the left and right hand, bringing him joy. Though born in Tokyo, Sakamoto has written music inspired by the traditions of Okinawa, Indonesia, and Brazil. He has also collaborated with David Bowie, David Sylvian, dramatist Robert Wilson, author William S Burroughs, the Three Tenors' Jose Carreras, and His Holiness The Dalai Lama, among many others. He also wrote music for the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona and the 400th anniversary of the city of Mannheim, Germany.
Sakamoto has devoted much of his time in recent years to environmental concerns -- to turning Ego into Eco, as he puts it. "I felt really scared in the 90s thinking about our children's future. I imagined my youngest son at my age, and wondered what the world would be like then. That was scary!" And so in 2007 Sakamoto started the innovative project "more trees," which contributes to carbon offset through active forestation. Within a year, his more trees foundation had a lease on two forests in Japan, and a third on the northern island of Hokkaido followed last year. Now, a fourth forest in the Philippines is being added. more trees leases the land for 50 or 60 years, planting seedlings and maintaining the forests, and offering carbon offset credits to corporations and individuals looking to reduce their carbon footprint. Since 3/11 in Japan, Sakamoto has been a strong voice for support and help for the victims of the earthquake, tsunami, and the anthropogenic nuclear meltdown in Fukushima. In response, Sakamoto has launched the following three charity organizations: "kizunaworld," "LIFE311" and "School Music Revival." Ryuichi continues to devote himself to denuclearization. In July 2012 he organized a two-day music event, NO NUKES 2012, that included many well known Japanese artists as well as Ryuichi's group Yellow Magic Orchestra and Germany's Kraftwerk. The festival had 18,000 attendees and was aimed at raising awareness of the dangers and illegitimate need for nuclear energy.
Recent releases include collaborations with leading electronic artists Alva Noto ('Summvs,' raster-noton), Christian Fennesz, ('Flumina,' Touch), and Christopher Willits ('Ancient Future,' Ghostly International). Following on previous collaborative works their newest releases find the artists exploring new, un-charted territory, while maintaining a razor-sharp focus on the individual visions of each collaboration. In fall of 2011, Ryuichi resurrected his piano, cello, and violin trio for a European Tour, showcasing new material as well as Ryuichi's timeless compositions accompanied by Celloist Jacques Morelenbaum, and Violinist Judy Kang. Immediately following the highly successful tour the trio entered a recording studio in Porto, Portugal to record a new album. The album, titled "THREE" includes new arrangements of Ryuichi's trio works, freshly recorded and re-imagined. The album was released in Oct. 2012 in Japan and Korea, an international release is currently being planned.
With such an extensive, yet varied catalogue of albums, film scores, and indeed almost every conceivable musical endeavor it can be difficult to place Sakamoto into one category. The one, clear strand connecting it all is the unparalleled passion of Ryuichi Sakamoto.