Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto dies aged 71

Japanese composer Mr Ryuichi Sakamoto.
Japanese composer Mr Ryuichi Sakamoto. Copyright Domenico Stinellis/AP
By Euronews with AP
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Ryuichi Sakamoto was first diagnosed with throat cancer in 2014. In 2022, he revealed that he was terminal, a year after he disclosed he was suffering from rectal cancer.

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Ryuichi Sakamoto, a world-renowned Japanese musician and actor who composed for Hollywood hits such as 'The Last Emperor' and 'The Revenant' has died. He was 71.

Japan’s recording company Avex said in a statement on Sunday that Sakamoto died on March 28 while undergoing treatment for cancer.

Sakamoto was a pioneer of electronic music in the late 1970s and founded the Yellow Magic Orchestra, also known as YMO, with Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi.

He was a world-class musician, winning an Oscar and a Grammy for Bernardo Bertolucci's 'The Last Emperor.'

Sakamoto was also an actor, starring in the BAFTA-winning 1983 film 'Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence.'

Born in Tokyo in 1952, Sakamoto started studying music at the age of 10 and was influenced by Debussy and the Beatles.

An album on his deathbed

Despite his battle with cancer, Sakamoto released his full-length album '12' on his 71st birthday in January. In an official statement released with his last album, he said composing had a small healing effect on his damaged body and soul.

It also said that despite his sickness when he was feeling well enough, he kept working on his music in his home studio: “To his final days, he lived with music.”

The statement expressed gratitude to the doctors who had treated him in the US and Japan, as well as to all his fans around the world. It referenced the words Sakamoto loved: “Ars longa, vita brevis,” which points to the longevity of art, no matter how short human life might be.

Environmental activist

Sakamoto also left his mark as a pacifist and environmental activist. He spoke out against nuclear power following the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant meltdowns caused by an earthquake and tsunami.

He took part in rallies and made speeches in Tokyo, and was part of a group of respected Japanese artists, like the Nobel-winning novelist Kenzaburo Oe, who was not afraid to take an unpopular stand on political issues.

In a July 2012 rally, he got up on stage and read from notes on an iPhone, warning Japan not to risk people’s lives for electricity.

“Life is more important than money,” he said in Japanese, then added in English, “Keeping silent after Fukushima is barbaric.”

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