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Music: Yellow Magic Orchestra

Yellow Magic Orchestra is a hugely influential early Techno band that has been called the Japanese equivalent of Kraftwerk, while their influence inside their home country has been likened to The Beatles. They helped pioneer synthpop, modern J-pop, techno, and house music. The band was one of the first to use Sampling.

Core members Haruomi Hosono, Yukihiro Takahashi, and Ryuichi Sakamoto had worked together off and on throughout the 1970s, and each had worked with early electronic instruments. However, it was Sakamoto's introduction to Kraftwerk, as well as a desire to make music that didn't ape Western musicians, that pushed them to create their own band. Shortly after Hosono's 1978 exotica-tinged album Paraiso (credited to Harry Hosono and the Yellow Magic Band, which featured Sakamoto and Takahashi contributing,) they decided to use the name Yellow Magic Orchestra, parodying a fascination with the black magic fad in Japan at the time. Their debut album was intended to parody Western stereotypes of Asia while also exploring Asianness and the use of synthesizers.

Intended mostly as a joke, the album was a surprise hit, prompting the band to go on tour. One of these live performances was seen by an American A&M Records executive, and by the end of 1978 they had an international record deal, prompting the three to shift from solo careers to full support of YMO.

Over the next few years, YMO was the most popular band in Japan, and was regularly charting in America and Europe, with sold-out tours in all three areas. For 1979's Solid State Survivor, the band brought in Chris Mosdell to write English lyrics. Both it and the follow-up, ∞Multiplies, were on the Oricon charts at the same time for seven weeks, a record that still stands. The band's music became a major influence on early Techno and Hip Hop pioneers, with the song "Riot in Lagos" is seen as one of the first to have a "techno" beat. After sampling "Firecracker" for his song "Death Mix," Afrika Bambaataa jokingly claimed YMO "invented Hip Hop."

After making the music-based movie "Propaganda," the band "spread out" in 1984: Although they shifted back to solo careers, the members would frequently perform with each other. They briefly reunited to record Technodon under the name of Not YMO in the early 90s, and occasionally performed live as Human Audio Sponge. They officially reunited in 2007 as HASYMO' first for a Kirin beer commercial and single "RYDEEN 77/07," and then live at the Live Earth, Kyoto event on July 7, 2007. The band officially reverted to the name YMO in 2009.

  • Yellow Magic Orchestra (1978)
  • Solid State Survivor (1979)
  • X∞Multiples /増殖 (Multiplation) (1980)
  • BGM (1981)
  • Technodelic (1981)
  • Naughty Boys (1983)
  • Service (1983)
  • Technodon (1993)

This band provides examples of:

XeraMusiciansRoy Zimmerman
YazooMusicians/Electronic IndustrialYousei Teikoku
YazooThe EightiesYes

alternative title(s): Yellow Magic Orchestra
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