Tuesday 21 May 2019

Beta: Let's hear it for Japan's Beethoven

Takashi Niigaki (R), a part-time university professor, bows during a news conference in Tokyo.Niigaki has admitted that he has been the ghost writer for nearly two decades for Mamoru Samuragochi. Photo: Reuters.
Takashi Niigaki (R), a part-time university professor, bows during a news conference in Tokyo.Niigaki has admitted that he has been the ghost writer for nearly two decades for Mamoru Samuragochi. Photo: Reuters.
Salt Ashes
The Villagers

Niall Byrne

It's the most bizarre story in music at the moment. No, not Garth Brooks in Croke Park. The legacy of composer Mamoru Samuragochi was sure to be a long-lasting one in Japan. The 50-year-old is known for his soundtrack and score work in the 90s on video games like Resident Evil and his magnum opus Symphony No 1 Hiroshima.

What made that work even more special was that Samuragochi has been deaf since the age of 35 due to a degenerative illness. "Losing my hearing was a gift from God," he told Time magazine in 2001.

The man who was compared to Beethoven was revealed last week as a fraud when Takashi Niigaki said that he had worked as Samuragochi's ghostwriter for the last 18 years and had written all of his material in that time. Even more incredibly, Niigaki said that the deafness was "an act that he was performing to the outside world" and that Samuragochi could hear normally.

In a statement issued through his lawyer, Samuragochi said sorry as he has "betrayed fans and disappointed others" and that "he could not possibly make any excuse for what he has done."

Niigaki, a music teacher in Tokyo, says that he entered into the agreement lightheartedly and that Samuragochi conversed with him normally and critiqued the work he had written on his behalf. "He told me that if I didn't write songs for him, he'd commit suicide," he said.

The final straw for Niigaki appears to be the commission of a piece that figure skater Daisuke Takahashi was to dance to at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, which left Niigaki feeling that he couldn't continue the charade.

In reaction, Nippon Columbia Co, his record company, has said it will stop selling his music. The public broadcaster NHK apologised for airing a documentary about Samuragochi last year that helped establish his reputation as a contemporary Beethoven. You couldn't make this up.

New Artist Of The Week

Salt Ashes

There's quite a lot of R&B influenced electronic production around at the moment. Whether it's American singers like Tinashe, Banks or Kelela, or UK singers like Jessie Ware, or Rosie Lowe, it's in vogue. Veiga Sanchez is a 22-year-old Brighton singer who fits into that mould but then breaks out of it by displaying some more classic influences.

She's just at the debut single stage but nevertheless, her two songs Somebody and Little Dove are both quite different. The latter has touches of that lush R&B soul music that London Grammar peddle and the former has nods to Giorgio Moroder and basement disco.

Her voice is a hard one to pin down, it's pitch-shifted in Little Dove but sounds like a cross between Kylie and Niki & The Dove on Somebody.

"Somebody take me ... away," she sings and judging by those first moves, Salt Ashes will be whisked away to a music lab to make things pop on a larger scale.


Tracks of the Week

Villagers – Occupy Your Mind

It's been a whole year since Villagers' second album Awayland was released. A chance meeting between Conor O'Brien and producer James Ford at the MOJO Awards has led to a brand new single. The track was released as the Sochi Winter Olympics began with a message of solidarity to the "gay brothers and sisters".


Hozier - From Eden

Andrw Hozier Byrne is wasting very little time in his attempt to become a household name. He's got dates lined up at Uk and Irish festivals this summer, SXSW appearances and a new EP, From Eden, out in March, the title track of which is a live favourite that showcases Hozier's gospel-sould warble at its best.


Klaxons - There is no Other Time

It was difficult to imagine where the English band Klaxons would go after nu-rave and frazzled psychedelic pop but for their third album they've returned to the glowsticks somewhat.


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