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Saturday, August 27

You can't sing any worse than Ryuichi Sakamoto. So what's your excuse for not singing?

It isn't only that he has a crummy voice for singing but amazingly, given his brilliance as a composer, he can't even carry a tune.  Yes, for all his many accomplishments as a composer and pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto can't sing. 

Well too bad for the audience because he wanted to sing a couple songs for his 1992 Heartbeat concert at Nippon Budokan ("Rock 'n Roll's Eastern Palace") in Tokyo. Come to think of it Bob Dylan sounds like two tomcats fighting at 3 AM when he sings but that never stopped him either. 

However, Ryuichi's singing for Sayonara was so awful that at one point in the five-minute set I felt sorry for the band members, all of them accomplished musicians in their own right, and the backup singer.    

The sympathy was wasted. To my utter disbelief -- I had to listen to the set twice before I'd believe my ears -- the troupe onstage, with two violinists leading the charge, transformed Sayonara into a paean to lyricism. 

So, was the whole thing a setup, meant to provoke the very sequence of feelings I experienced? Well, this is Ryuichi Sakamoto I'm talking about. He is a philosopher and performer in addition to being a musician and highly innovative composer. And he has very strong ideas about music and musicality. Indeed, it might be said that he stuck with music as a career to flesh out his ideas. From a Guardian interview in 2009: 
In the old days people shared music, they didn't care who made it; a song would be owned by a village and anyone could sing it, change the words, whatever. That is how humans treated music until the late 19th century. Now with the internet we are going back to having tribal attitudes towards music.
Everybody in the tribe has to pitch in with the music, right? The designations of good and bad singing evolved from performance art. They have nothing to do with singing as the language of the heart.            

[smiling] Then again, maybe he just wanted to sing.  


Here's a list of the musicians who accompanied him, which I found at a YouTube posting of another set from the same concert.    

Ryuichi Sakamoto - Heartbeat Tour - Asadoya Yunta 
Live at the Budokan, Tokyo (1992) featuring:


Victor Bailey - Bass (Weather Report)
Manu Katché  - Drums (Sting, Peter Gabriel)
Derek Sivers (Founder of CD Baby)
Everton Nelson - Violin (Peter Gabriel, Soul 2 Soul)
Prabjote Kur Osan - Violin  
Scott Roberts - Percussion
Vivian Sessoms - Vocals

And for people who can't get enough of the Heartbeat concert, here's Triste:



See also Heh. So he can carry a tune (August 28).

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