November 21, 2011, I was sitting in the second row of the Gulbenkian Grand Auditorium to see one of the most remarkable concerts of my life. On the left-hand side of the stage, at the piano, Ryuichi Sakamoto released slowly and with remarkable delicacy notes of themes like Energy Flow, Solitude, Rain, Bibo no aozora that echoed among his listeners.
There are concerts and concerts. And then there are those in which we have to take a deep breath, forget about what surrounds us, being vulnerable and let the music play its part – that of piercing our soul and carry us to other worlds.
Sakamoto was this and much more.
I met Sakamoto when my father offered me his cd entitled “Ryuichi Sakamoto | Playing the Orchestra.” The album included several songs, including the movie themes from Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (Nagisa Ôshima, 1983) – a film where Sakamoto participates alongside David Bowie and The Last Emperor (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1987). But it was Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence that, instantly, took my feet off the ground.
Composer, producer and actor, Sakamoto studied at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music and majored in composition, being considered one of the most acclaimed Japanese musicians.
He released its first album in 1978, that includes songs like “Thousand Knives” and “The End of Asia“. At the same time, he became a member of the electronic group “Yellow Magic Orchestra“. Names such as David Sylvian, Alva Noto, Caetano Veloso and Rodrigo Leão are some of the artists with whom Sakamoto worked.
The Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence theme has a version sung by the beautiful voice of David Sylvian who is purely wonderful. The theme Forbidden Colors – whose title has been taken from a novel writen by Yukio Mishima – talks about homosexuality. This song is perhaps one of Sakamoto’s most renowed compositions.
To this day, Sakamoto never ceases to explore different musical styles. From classical music to electronic, environmental and experimental genre, such as his collaboration with Alva Noto in albums like Vrioon and Insen to more folk melodies, like his album Beauty, known as a kind of collage of several musical genres: rock, techno, classical, flamenco and African and Japanese rhythms.
In reflecting on what music is, whether it is a narrative, an illustrative or abstract medium, Sakamoto said: “I have visions sometimes when I am writing contemporary music, even when it is very logical. For example, for one of my songs on the album Beauty, I was always having visions of Amazonian rainforests, a little plane flying very low over the trees, trees, trees, and some birds. But the title of the song is ‘Calling from Tokyo‘”.
Recently, after 5 years absent due to cancer, Sakamoto has returned with Alva Noto for the soundtrack of The Revenant and released his 20th album last April. async is a humble record of how to appreciate the little things in life and absorb the fullness of sound even in its most delicate state.
Sakamoto is this and much more.
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