I had been wondering for a while how musician-composer Ryuichi Sakamoto（坂本龍一）was doing. With this year seeing so many famous people such as David Bowie and Alan Rickman passing away from cancer, and with Mr. Sakamoto himself announcing in 2014 that he came down with throat cancer, I was hoping that things were on the mend with him. I went over to his website and happily found out that he had announced last summer in 2015 that he has recovered.
As you folks probably know, I haven't done a whole lot of articles on instrumental pieces. I'm usually more for the sung songs. However, I have always made an exception for Yellow Magic Orchestra and there are also Sakamoto's solo works and his collaborations with other singers that always make me sit up and notice.
Case in point: I came across this video on YouTube for a track on the Professor's 1984 album "Ongaku Zukan"（音楽図鑑...Illustrated Musical Encyclopedia）called "Self-Portrait". Not nearly as technopop as any of his stuff with YMO, the opening plucky notes sounded very 80s before entering this innocent melody which could have fit nicely into any quiet scene of a Hayao Miyazaki animation. I just imagine the main character, a kid of course, bicycling through the cool forest as this song is playing. Perhaps a few sprites are accompanying him in the basket.
The original album hit No. 5 on Oricon. 31 years later, the 2015 edition was released including a new version of "Self-Portrait" including Minako Yoshida（吉田美奈子）on vocals. I actually like this one better with the more solemn/stately piano anchoring things. It almost sounds like the version used to highlight that same kid from the 80s grown up either to his late 30s or early 40s; he's been through the usual ups and downs over those decades and a mellower maturity has slowly been replacing his spiky energies of youth. And this time, it's his kids on the bikes. Whichever the version, I just have to say, "Sasuga, Sakamoto-san". And I hope things are going well with you now.