Ryuichi Sakamoto can do it all: synth-pop, classical music, film soundtracks, alternative… his discography collects dozens of genres, particulary a recently founded genre titled “Neo Geo”, which combines Western and Asian music with wordly grooves and melodies to create a truly memorable and unique sound. Sakamoto’s claim to fame was first as the founder of the legendary Japanese synth-pop band, Yellow Magic Orchestra, which had several notable successful songs that were well known all over the world. Oh, did I mention that he also won an Academy Award? He won it for creating the soundtrack for Bernardo Bertolucci’s acclaimed film, The Last Emperor alongside David Byrne. He has also produced most of his albums, and acted alongside David Bowie in the film, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence along with creating the soundtrack. So, he is a musician, a producer, and an actor… winning a prestigious award in each category? Yep, that’s about right. Sakamoto is a man of many talents.

The seven songs below range in content dramatically. The absolutely beautiful ‘Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence’ is the main song off of the soundtrack with the same name. The same keys are used throughout the song, but the structure and brilliance provides such a vivid imagery of the country of Japan, whether you’ve seen the film or not. Let’s now change direction entirely for the three tracks from Yellow Magic Orchestra. All three are from the classic Solid State Survivor and in a genre of their own. Excluding the fun Beatles cover of ‘Day Tripper’, the other two are mainly instrumental synth gems. Instrumental synth? It may sound a bit dull, but trust me on this one that it’s not. ‘Rydeen’ is a pure thrill and sounds like a mix between some sort of Sega video game and traditional Japanese music and ‘Behind The Mask’ builds up to be very exciting as well. Now to his solo career: Sakamoto’s most well known solo release is Beauty, which seems more like a compiliation of sorts because of the varying types of songs. ‘You Do Me’ is a very 80s sounding type of dance song with mainly Western female vocals, while ‘Tokyo Calling’ has a very obvious Asian theme in the center, and ‘Futique’ seems to be a mixture of both, in an experimental sense, resulting in the best song on the album. Sakamoto has an extensive collection of songs in his discography and most are well worth checking out, regardless of what type of music it is.


Ryuichi Sakamoto – Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence



Yellow Magic Orchestra – Rydeen



Yellow Magic Orchestra – Day Tripper



Yellow Magic Orchestra – Behind The Mask



Ryuichi Sakamoto – You Do Me



Ryuichi Sakamoto – Calling From Tokyo



Ryuichi Sakamoto – Futique


Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

Send your music to [email protected].

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.