The headline news in this morning’s paper was astonishing to me. It was the sad news about the death of Ryuichi Sakamoto, one of my greatest and most favorite Japanese composer.
When I listened to his band, Yellow Magic Orchestra’s first album “Yellow Magic Orchestra”, he blended electronic pop with Asian melodies with game music beat (8bit) essence, I thought I was going to get a concussion because it was so novel sound and seemed very fashionable. (I was 12 yrs. old and fed up with Japanese Johnny’s idols’ songs)
Then, the next time his song grabbed my heart was his movie’s sound track: “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence”. Although the theme song evoked Claude Debussy, in his piano song, he honed out the emotional and dramatic melody with minimum notes. Thinking about it now, this movie, the director Nagisa Oshima wanted to draw a serious turning point for our repressed values until now and the freed values in the future.
The last song I want to introduce you is “Yae no Sakura” (original sound track for TV series). This is the domestic Japanese TV drama and you may not know this song.
Every spring, when the cherry blossoms bloom majestically and the pretty flowers are fluttering, I am reminded this beautiful song. The heroine is Ms. Yae Niijima, known as Japan’s Jeanne d’Arc hailed from Fukushima and fought against the new government power as a shooter.
Mr. Ryuichi Sakamoto spun the Yae’s handsome spirit and wove her dynamic but sensitive life for a new style of woman. Moreover, he engraved turbulent period of the history changing from Edo era to the new Meiji era vividly by putting military reminiscent sound. Whenever I play this song with piano, I feel Mr. Ryuichi Sakamoto wrote this song as an homage not only for Ms. Yae but also for the lost spirits of samurai.
He had a vast knowledge about music from traditional Japanese music to world music and his Japanese fan called him “教授,” professor with respect. Thank you, 教授, and rest in peace.
Without craftsmanship, inspiration is a mere reed shaken in the wind.
Yae no sakura