Award-winning Musician Sakamoto Dies at 71

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Ryuichi Sakamoto

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Ryuichi Sakamoto, an Academy Award-winning Japanese musician who composed music for many movies and was known as the keyboardist in the legendary electronic music band Yellow Magic Orchestra, died on Tuesday. He was 71.

Sakamoto contracted oropharynx cancer in 2014, and said in 2021 that he had been diagnosed with rectal cancer.

While fighting the diseases, he continued with musical activities. On Jan. 17 this year, he released “12,” his first original album in six years.

He also wrote music for Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda’s latest film “Monster,” set for release in June.

Sakamoto studied composing at Tokyo University of the Arts. In 1978, he released his first solo album “Thousand Knives.”

YMO, which Sakamoto formed with Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi in 1978, led a “techno pop” boom and was popular globally. “Technopolis” and “Tong Poo,” two of the band’s most popular works, were composed by Sakamoto.

The main theme for Japanese director Nagisa Oshima’s 1983 film “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence” became one of Sakamoto’s signature works.

He became the first Japanese to win an Oscar for Best Original Score in 1988 for director Bernardo Bertolucci’s film “The Last Emperor.” Sakamoto appeared as an actor in both films.

Sakamoto’s works included contemporary music, rocks and pops. He provided music for and performed with many musicians in Japan and abroad.

He was also active in promoting environmental preservation and peace. He was musical director of the Tohoku Youth Orchestra, an orchestra organized by young people affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

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