Monday, March 18, 2013

Here's to a Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence

Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence

I've never watched the movie. Nor do I plan to watch it anytime soon. 
But I know the premise of it which is set in the World War 2, Japanese occupation period. Amongst the more interesting facts of the movie was that it starred David Bowie (Mr Ziggy Stardust himself) and a composer known as Ryuichi Sakamoto. 

Impressively, Mr Sakamoto is also an activist, a composer, a record producer, a writer, a singer, a pianist, and an actor. From my reading of wikipedia over his achievements, I understand that he is pretty experimental in music as well. 

He composed the theme for the movie Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence entitled "Forbidden Colours". Over time, the title of the song eventually became Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence

When I first heard the song, I thought it was one of the most beautiful oriental pieces ever written. It is a mellow tune, where the intro starts of rather softly, the same 3 notes over and over a few bars until the melody begins. There is much variation to it but the same continues until it reaches the bridge, where you get the same melodic sequence but in a heightened and climatic fashion. 

Now I'm not too fond of the original score with David Sylvian in vocals. I very much preferred the song without the lyrics sung. So I shall not post the same herein. 

But here is perhaps the original score in the movie. And yes, the young Japanese bloke in it is Mr Sakamoto himself. 

Now this is the lone piano version of the song which is also beautiful in its way. 

And this is another beautiful version of the same, played by Ryuichi Sakamoto himself and Everton Nelson on violin and Jacques Morelenbaum on cello. Equally as beautiful. 

The song would not be complete without a guitar version of it. And the best guitar version I was able to find on the internet is the one below. Sakamoto on piano, but only playing a supporting role and Kaori Muraji (a finger-style guitar artiste in her own right) on guitars. I am still trying my hand to play the song, but I'm stuck in the intro. Perhaps with great will and might, I 'might' be able to play the song one day. But below is the beautiful guitar version of it. 

And just when you thought that the song already has its share of versions, then there is the pop version. Utada Hikaru mixes it up with some pop sensibilities and makes the song sound good in an RnB fashion. I like it. It's not usual for me to like remixes, but this is far from a remix and may stand as an RnB song on it's own right. 

So by now, you would probably guess that in writing this blogpost, I would looped all the above versions of Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence. Bored do I get? I assure you not. I'm in love with this song, and perhaps I will keep looking for the different variations of this song. 

In case you are fed up of this song already, Ryuichi Sakamoto was also the composer for The Last Emperor. I remember as a kid, I found the movie to be slow and boring, but had a good impression of the music in the movie. Of course when I watched The Last Emperor much later in life, I found the movie to be a beautifully directed movie by Bernardo Bertolucci and it's victory as the best movie of 1987 was quite fitting. My impression of the music however was further fortified. 

So Ieave you with two haunting tracks from The Last Emperor perhaps evidencing the brilliance of Mr Sakamoto as a musician. Take the time to listen to these beautiful tracks. I keep saying beautiful, because that's as plain as it can get. Beautiful.

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