Revered composer Ryuichi Sakamoto has died

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Revered composer Ryuichi Sakamoto has died

Ryuichi Sakamoto
words by Lewis Noke Edwards

Revered composer Ryuichi Sakamoto has died, with his management having just released an official statement of his passing.

Revered composer Ryuichi Sakamoto has died, with his management having just released an official statement of his passing.

“We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of artist and musician, Ryuichi Sakamoto,” a statement on his official website read on Sunday, April 2.

Ryuichi Sakamoto lived to 71, having been battling rectal cancer since 2020, and producing music right up until recently.

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Sakamoto earned a B.A. in music composition from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music in the 70s, with focus on folk, electronic and ethnic music. His studies and passion for ethnomusicology led to him creating a vast body of work that transcended borders, genre and mediums, producing both traditional musical compositions and composing for film.

He is perhaps most famous for the score he composed for the 1984 film Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, having also starred alongside David Bowie in the film.

The 80s saw Sakamoto collaborating huge names like David Byrne and Iggy Pop for his solo work, to which he lent his unparalleled understanding of synthesisers to create a unique body of work.

Throughout the 90s he explored genre-bending music, his album Smoochy having been described as an excursion into the land of easy-listening and Latin.

More recently, Sakamoto continued producing solo albums, collaborating with some of the biggest names in music, and earned slew of awards throughout the 2000s.

2010 onwards saw a shift into visual art collaboration, and eventually, the documentary Coda was released in 2018. Detailing Sakamoto’s recovery from a throat cancer diagnosis in 2014, the film explores his return to creating music and art, while also being a stalwart protester of nuclear power in Japan. In 2021, Ryuichi Sakamoto formally announced he was in remission for throat cancer, but that he had in turn been diagnosed with rectal cancer, and was undergoing treatment after surgery.

The official statement relating to Sakamoto’s death included one of the artist’s favourite quotes: “Ars longa, vita brevis”, which translates to “Art is long, life is short” – a reminder of the weight of his influence and all that we can learn from the long-lasting impact of his tenacity as a protester, creator and artist.

Listen to Ryuchi Sakamoto’s discography here.