Ryuichi Sakamoto

Ryuichi Sakamoto (Japanese: 坂本 龍一, Hepburn: Sakamoto Ryūichi, January 17, 1952 – March 28, 2023) was a Japanese composer, pianist, record producer, and actor who pursued a diverse range of styles as a solo artist and as a member of Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO). With his bandmates Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi, Sakamoto influenced and pioneered a number of electronic music genres.

Sakamoto began his career as a session musician, producer, and arranger, while he was at university in the 1970s. His first major success came in 1978 as co-founder of YMO. He pursued a solo career at the same time, releasing the experimental electronic fusion album Thousand Knives in 1978, and the album B-2 Unit in 1980. B-2 Unit included the track “Riot in Lagos”, which was a significant contribution to the development of electro and hip hop music. He went on to produce more solo records, and collaborate with many international artists, David Sylvian, Carsten Nicolai, Youssou N’Dour, and Fennesz among them. Sakamoto composed music for the opening ceremony of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and his composition “Energy Flow” (1999) was the first instrumental number-one single in Japan’s Oricon charts history.

As a film score composer, Sakamoto won an Oscar, a BAFTA, a Grammy, and two Golden Globe Awards. Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983) marked his debut as both an actor and a film-score composer; its main theme was adapted into the single “Forbidden Colours” which became an international hit. His most successful work as a film composer was The Last Emperor (1987), for which he won the Academy Award for Best Original Score, making him the first Japanese composer to win an Academy Award. after which he continued earning accolades composing for films such as The Sheltering Sky (1990), Little Buddha (1993), and The Revenant (2015). On occasion, Sakamoto also worked as a composer and a scenario writer on anime and video games. He was awarded the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the Ministry of Culture of France in 2009 for his contributions to music.

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