Ryuichi Sakamoto, Revered Composer, Has Cancer

Marc Hogan

By Marc Hogan

Lead News Writer
on 07.10.14 in News

Ryuichi Sakamoto, the renowned Japanese composer, has canceled all his public appearances after being diagnosed with throat cancer.

The electronic pioneer, Yellow Magic Orchestra member and soundtrack giant said he had spent two years preparing for the Sapporo International Art Festival, which starts on July 19 and where he was scheduled to be a guest director. He also called off a July 30 performance at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, where he had planned to debut new material written for the hotel’s 20th anniversary.

The Oscar winner said doctors diagnosed his condition at the end of June. “After much thought and consideration, I have decided to take time off of work in order to concentrate on treating it,” the 62-year-old explained in a statement. “I promise to return after a full recovery.”

While a Japanese tabloid reported that Sakamoto, an anti-nuclear activist, would be forgoing radiation therapy, that remains unconfirmed. His management told the Japan Times it doesn’t know much about his treatment and declined to go into detail about the cancer’s stage of progression.

Sakamoto broke out in the late ’70s with “technopop” early adopters Yellow Magic Orchestra, where his experience with ARPs and Moogs helped make way for the global spread of synth-pop, techno and other electronic music. He won an Academy Award for Best Original Score for his work with David Byrne on Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1987 movie The Last Emperor. One of his other more formidable musical partnerships was with David Sylvian, with whom he worked on the soundtrack to 1983′s Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (Sakamoto also acted in both of these films).

As a film score composer, Sakamoto has also worked with Pedro Almodóvar, on the director’s 1991 film High Heels. Beyond Byrne and Sylvian, his musical collaborators have included Iggy Pop, Bootsy Collins and Tony Williams, on 1988′s Neo Geo, as well as Brian Wilson and Robbie Robertson, on 1990′s Beauty. He has continued to work in a more experimental realm in recent years, partnering with Fennesz, Alva Noto and Christopher Willits. Sakamoto put together the “No Nukes 2012″ concert, where the bill included Yellow Magic Orchestra and Kraftwerk.

Listen to Sylvian and Sakamoto’s “Forbidden Colours” below.