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[Analysis] Ruyichi Sakamoto – Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence by CANACANA Family

The world has lost a genius of a musician Ruyichi Sakamoto this year, but we can preserve and recreate his works and keep them evergreen. One of the worth checking out is by CANACANA Family on the iconic piece on Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. By keeping his works alive, we can continue to appreciate his contributions to music and honour his legacy for future generations.

Celebrating the Life and Music of Ruyichi Sakamoto, A True Musical Genius

Ruyichi Sakamoto is a Japanese musician, composer, and producer who has been active in the music industry for over four decades. Born in Tokyo in 1952,

Ruyichi Sakamoto at 2017 TIFF MyMusicSheet Tokyo International Film Festival
Ruyichi Sakamoto

Sakamoto began his career in music as a member of the pioneering electronic music group Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO) in the late 1970s. After YMO disbanded in the early 1980s, Sakamoto pursued a successful solo career as a composer and performer, creating a diverse range of music that draws on a wide range of influences, from classical music to jazz, rock, and electronic music.

Sakamoto's music is known for its minimalist, atmospheric soundscapes, and its ability to blend traditional Japanese music with modern Western musical forms. He has worked on a number of film scores, including for the award-winning films "The Last Emperor," "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence," and "The Revenant."

He has won numerous awards for his music, including an Academy Award, a BAFTA, and a Golden Globe. Throughout his career, Sakamoto has been a strong advocate for environmental and humanitarian causes and has used his music to raise awareness about issues such as climate change and nuclear disarmament. This year, on March 28th 2023 at 71 Ruyichi Sakamoto left this world, but he and his music will always be in our hearts.

From Film Soundtrack to Chart-Topping Hit: The Story of Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence's Theme Song.

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence is a 1983 British-Japanese war film directed by Nagisa Oshima, starring David Bowie, Tom Conti, Ruyichi Sakamoto, and Takeshi Kitano.

Movie Poster of Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence MyMusicSheet
Movie Poster of Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

The film was based on the novel "The Seed and the Sower" by Laurens van der Post, which was inspired by his experiences as a prisoner of war in World War II. The movie depicts the story of four prisoners of war held captive by the Japanese during World War II and their interactions with their captors. The film's soundtrack was composed by Ruyichi Sakamoto, who also played one of the main characters in the movie.

The song ‘Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence’; is one of the most famous songs of the movie and also the theme song of the movie. Another song with the same music as the theme song called ‘Forbidden Colours,’ which features the haunting vocals of David Sylvian. The song was released as a single and became a hit in several countries.

David Bowie and Ruyichi Sakamoto in the movie MyMusicSheet
David Bowie and Ruyichi Sakamoto in the movie

The theme song is a beautiful and melancholic ballad that perfectly captures the film's themes of loneliness, longing, and forbidden love. The Forbidden Colours' lyrics were written by Sylvian, and the melody was composed by Sakamoto. The song's opening piano notes immediately evoke a sense of sadness and longing, and Sylvian's voice adds a layer of emotional depth to the music. The lyrics are poetic and enigmatic, with lines like "Life lies a slow suicide, anatomize drowsy days" and "The mirror shows not, your values are all gone." The theme song has been at its peak for several weeks and forbidden colours were also well received.

Ruyichi Sakamoto playing Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence


Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

from the movie Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

Original Music by Ruyichi Sakamoto MyMusicSheet
Original Music by Ruyichi Sakamoto

- Artist: Ruyichi Sakamoto

- Released: September 1983

- Song Writer: Ruyichi Sakamoto

- Album: Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence OST

- Label: Virgin

- Genre: Electronic

- Key: Bb minor

- Length: 4'38"


Relax and Unwind with the Soothing Piano Music of the CANACANA Family

CANACANA Family YouTube Profile MyMusicSheet
CANACANA Family YouTube Profile

CANACANA Family is a Japanese brother and sister, who run a channel on YouTube. CANACANA Family joined YouTube on January 29th 2017 and they have grown so much in such a short time. With almost 1.4 million subscribers and 840 videos, they are gaining popularity steadily. With great content like different BGM either classical or a Ghibli movie, along with different JPOP, anime and Disney movies. There is something for everyone. The channel consists of the pianist the sister, who is a music graduate and now a proud mother along with the brother who does the video edits for the channel. It isn’t surprising that they have 1.1 billion total views as of April 2023 with their most popular video being called “トルコ行進曲/モーツァルト/Turkish March/Mozart/ピアノ-Piano/CANACANA” with over 14 million views was posted on November of 2017.

CANACANA Family hopes through their music, they can reduce the stress of people and can feel relaxed and tension free. This channel is very wholesome and the magic of piano is defiantly worth checking out.

CANACANA Family's Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

Experience the Magnificence of the CANACANA Family's Piano Cover of Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

This iconic song has been well recited many times, it will be still played again and again till the dawn of time. There have been countless piano renditions, CANACANA Family takes one step up with their own emotions and cover added. This was posted on YouTube on November 5th 2017 with 4.3 million views. The song has the key signature of Bb minor and the time signature of 12/8. The tempo of the song is 60 BPM. The song is longer than the original song.

This version is definitely worth checking out!

Full Version of Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence by Ruyichi Sakamoto

While listening to CANACANA Family’s song I could imagine a whole story where there is fear of entering into something new and eventually overcoming it. It can resemble a bit the story of Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence between British soldier Jack Celliers played by David Bowie and Japanese soldier Cpaiatin Yaanoi played by Ruyichi Sakamoto.

The original song starts with the opening music played which is very soft music and melodious beginning. In CANACANA Family’s song, it starts off very similar but a bit slower. It feels like setting the scene for the story to be played. It sounds magical, feels like everything is new and different. It feels like something which isn’t familiar. In the orchestra version, Sakamoto plays the piano for a minute and twenty-three seconds of iconic intro and then other instruments like strings and flutes as well join in. In CANACANA Family as well where the right hand plays the keys and the right-hand play certain chords. It feels like the setting of the scene, for a minute and twenty-one seconds. The intro part is so pure and the people who saw the film have nostalgia for remembering the movie. Then after a minute and twenty-two seconds later in CANACANA Family’s version there is a short pause and then starts the next part.

For the next part, CANACANA Family plays the piano from the higher octave to a middle to lower octave. It is slow and as well the keys are pressed very softly and gently gradually increasing the sound. This is the story contest feels like the next act where analyzing what is happening and looking around the unknown. This feels new, different something which might not be new but doesn’t feel oddly unfamiliar as well. After the thirty seconds to this part, the song is moved a bit higher tone, still playing it slowly yet the tempo feels a tad bit faster. The hand movements are so beautiful it is an indeed treat for ears as well as eyes.

Afterwards starting at two minutes and thirty-one seconds, the song picks up a small tempo and the keys are being played a bit faster as well. When continued in the story it feels like they are looking for different changes and sinking the whole thing around. To feel and understand, trying to deny the things, but cannot help it. In the extended part, there was where wind instruments like a trombone are played and Sakamoto is conducting the orchestra. Now with violin, cello, horn and more. It is a marvelous atmosphere built. CANACANA Family has done an exceptional job in creating a similar atmosphere. This is CANACANA Family ends at a three-minute mark and the extended version of Sakamoto’s is at two minutes and thirty seconds.

Then again the iconic piece being played in Sakamoto’s video is played by him on piano, and CANACANA Family is playing very elegantly and softly as melodiously as it can feel. On continuing the story there is a need to go back to things before changes, feels like the original might be better as it might feel known and hence feels safe. While listening to playing the piano we the audience can feel the emotions, it is played so softly and then there is an increase in pressure and speed and then it becomes slow. The control of hands is impeccable. It is well known that playing a song at a slower pace is as difficult as that fast, but the CANACANA Family pianist makes it look and feel easy, this is one of the great qualities of a pianist.

Then at three minutes and fifty-four seconds later, the pressure on the keys is increased and more chords are being played on the lower or the left side of the piano. Then the same chords are played. In the orchestra, there is tension being raised and instruments are being played faster at the mark of three minutes and twenty-three seconds. This whole atmosphere feels tense yet there is a sense of relaxation. Sounds surreal, this when continued with the strong is building up the courage to face the changes and work towards it. There are things that need to be worked with and upon in order to survive. Every instrument is synchronized with each other and Glockenspiel is playing the main chorus of the song in a higher pitch in contrast with lower-pitched other instruments. This CANACANA Family has done by playing the cord with the right hand and adding a layer by playing the left hand and then jumping to the main chorus of the song.

Subsequently getting back at the centre of the piano and playing the main chorus of the song. CANACANA Family at the mark of four minutes and nineteen seconds. This is creating a layer from the last part and with the chorus. While moving on to the story this is the part where there is acceptance of the changes making the best of the situation by adding people into our lives and incorporating all things that we have learned throughout the journey. This part is played fast and is the highlight of the whole song. In the orchestra, the song is conducted by Sakamoto himself. Then go up by a few notes and then on to the next part.

Here now at the mark of four minutes and thirty-nine seconds, where is left hand is playing the repeated and fast chords and the right hand is playing the chorus of the song. This can be a parallel to reminiscing the past and the past events and then still moving on with the life at hand. There are highs and lows throughout the song, where there are parts playing a bit faster and then there are parts that are played slower. It is intense after five minutes as it is reaching its peak, and the song is played faster and much stronger. Then gradually moving towards the left side of the piano and getting the music softer and slower.

At five minutes and twenty-one seconds, the song is slower and back at the middle part of the piano. Then there is the part where the repeated chords are played by the left hand on the left side of the piano and the right hand is playing keys in the middle and chords on the higher side. This is giving a dramatic effect and when going through the last piece of the story is the determination; to make this scenario the best that the previous one cannot make and to live on as the best without looking back. In the extended version of Sakamoto as well it is dramatic and the notes are raised as well to end it at a beautiful drop. In CANACANA Family’s video as well, in the song at final seconds there is the left hand playing a repeated three-finger cord and the right hand playing the final keys and then finally playing the ending chord at the right hand, again a repleted chord playing simultaneously and then ending it on it and pressing it for a second or so and gradually decreasing the sound of the piano.

It is nicely edited by the pianist’s brother and there is also a small top angle of the piano present alongside with side version which is taking most part of the screen on YouTube.

Overall, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence is a powerful and moving film that explores the complexities of human relationships in extreme circumstances. The film's soundtrack, particularly this song adds an additional layer of emotional depth and is a testament to the talents of Sakamoto. CANACANA Family did a marvelous job in creating the almost same effect and atmosphere that Sakamoto did create. From Soft Beginnings to a Thrilling Crescendo: CANACANA Family's Melodic Cover of Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. All piano enthusiasts and Sakamoto’s fans should definitely check out this and if interested should pick up the sheet music and start practicing, it would be a great tribute to Sakamoto and to keep him alive for generations.

If you love this arrangement, you can check the arrangement here. There are other CANACANA Family arrangements which are definitely worth checking out.

If you like this song or any other song, there are many more sheet music you can find on MyMusicSheet or

Until next time, Happy Music!

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