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Kitaro's style is the epitome of the contemplative, highly melodic synthesizer music often associated with the new-age movement. Interestingly enough, this famous Japanese composer taught himself to play electric guitar in high school -- inspired by the R&B music of Otis Redding. In the early '70s, Kitaro formed the Far East Family Band, which released two albums of progressive rock. In 1972, however, he met the innovative German synthesist Klaus Schulze during a trip to Europe. Kitaro was hooked. He built his first synthesizer and began experimenting with all kinds of unusual sounds. His first solo album, Astral Voyage, appeared in 1978 and quickly gained a cult following. Two years later, he produced the first of several soundtracks for Silk Road, a Japanese television documentary series that ran for five years. Several albums of music from Silk Road were released to a growing international contingent of fans who admired his combination of lush, majestic textures and gentle, almost naive, melodies. Kitaro, however, was still considered an underground artist in America until he signed with Geffen Records in 1986, which re-released seven of his earlier albums and gave him the support to expand his scope in many ways. For instance, after years of creating albums in the privacy of his home studio near Japan's Mt. Fuji, Kitaro produced his 1987 release, The Light of the Spirit, with the help of Mickey Hart. The album featured an array of American musicians and was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best New-Age Performance category. That same year, Kitaro also made his first live tour of North America and sold two million albums in the U.S. alone. Kitaro's style had changed as well, becoming more theatrical and assertive while retaining a certain level of innocence and purity. His more recent recordings also show a renewed interest in the rock and pop elements that originally attracted him to music in the late '60s; in 1998, he also released the soundtrack to Cirque Ingenieux, a production bound for the Broadway stage. Thinking of You followed a year later; Ancient appeared in spring 2001. It was well received, leading to a sequel of sorts in the like-minded Ancient Journey in 2002. His contributions on the soundtrack to the controversial Chinese drama The Soong Sisters came out the same year, as did a live album and DVD. ~ Linda Kohanov
1953 in Toyohashi, Japan
'70s, '80s, '90s, '00s