Ever love a restaurant but hate the music they play and wish you could take over their playlist? Great Japanese artist Ryuichi Sakamoto, of Yellow Magic Orchestra, countless film scores and more, did just that for Kajitsu, a Japanese Shojin vegan restaurant in NYC's Murray Hill neighborhood. The New York Times has the story:

He is not in the habit of complaining when he has a problem with music in public spaces, because it happens so often. “Normally I just leave,” he said. “I cannot bear it. But this restaurant is really something I like, and I respect their chef, Odo.” (Hiroki Odo was Kajitsu’s third chef, and worked there for five years, until March. Mr. Odo told me the music had been chosen by the restaurant’s management in Japan.)

“I found their BGM so bad, so bad,” Mr. Sakamoto said, using the industry term for background music. (“BGM” was also the title of a Yellow Magic Orchestra record from 1981.) He sucked his teeth. “Really bad.” What was it? “It was a mixture of terrible Brazilian pop music and some old American folk music,” he said, “and some jazz, like Miles Davis.”

Some of those things, individually, may be very good, I suggested.

“If they have context, maybe,” he replied. “But at least the Brazilian pop was so bad. I know Brazilian music. I have worked with Brazilians many times. This was so bad. I couldn’t stay, one afternoon. So I left.”

He went home and composed an email to Mr. Odo. “I love your food, I respect you and I love this restaurant, but I hate the music,” he remembered writing. “Who chose this? Whose decision of mixing this terrible roundup? Let me do it. Because your food is as good as the beauty of Katsura Rikyu.” (He meant the thousand-year-old palatial villa in Kyoto, built to some degree on the aesthetic principles of imperfections and natural circumstances known as wabi-sabi.) “But the music in your restaurant is like Trump Tower.”

The owners, unsurprisingly, agreed to Sakamoto's offer. (What Zen Buddhist Japanese restaurant would say no?) Initially he wanted to have ambient music ("not Brian Eno, but more recent") but found it too dark for Kajitsu's warm, bright dining room, and went through many drafts of the playlist with the restaurant before settling on one that includes Aphex Twin, Wayne Shorter, Oneohtrix Point Never, John Cage, Gal Costa, Nils Frahm, Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufield, Nicolas Jaar, and more. You can listen to the playlist below.

The article also talks to other chefs and restaurant owners about their philosophy on music in their restaurants, including Brooks Headley of Superiority Burger.

Meanwhile, there's a new documentary about Ryuichi Sakamoto, Coda, that is making its way around North America this summer:

One of the most important artists of our era, Ryuichi Sakamoto has had a prolific career spanning over four decades. From techno-pop stardom to Oscar-winning film composer, the evolution of his music has coincided with his life journeys. Following Fukushima, Sakamoto became an iconic figure in Japan’s social movement against nuclear power. As Sakamoto returns to music following a cancer diagnosis, his haunting awareness of life crises leads to a resounding new masterpiece. RYUICHI SAKAMOTO: CODA is an intimate portrait of both the artist and the man.

You can watch the trailer for the film below. The documentary is currently being shown at Lincoln Center and will also be shown at two brunch screenings at Williamsburg's Nitehawk Cinema on Saturday, August 4 and Sunday, August 5 at 11:30 AM. Those are both part of their Music Driven series (co-presented by BrooklynVegan) and tickets are on sale. You can check out a list of all upcoming screening dates for Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda, below.

In related news, five solo albums by Sakamoto's Yellow Magic Orchestra bandmate, Haruomi Hosono, are being reissued in the U.S.


RYUICHI SAKAMOTO: CODA screening dates

Atlanta GA — July 20 - 26
Plaza Theatre

Tucson, AZ — July 19, 21, 22
The Screening Room

New York, NY — July 27 - August 2
Cinema Village

Chicago, IL — July 27 - August 2
Facets Cinematheque

San Francisco CA — July 27 - August 2
4-Star Theatre

San Rafael, CA — July 29, August 2
Smith Rafael Film Center

Cleveland, OH — July 31
Capitol Theatre

Pittsburgh, PA — July 31
Southside Works Cinema

Albuquerque, NM — August 3, 4, 5, 6
Guild Cinema

Brooklyn, NY — August 4 - 5 (Brunch Screenings!)
Nitehawk Cinema

Hudson, NY — August 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, 26
Time & Space Limited

Anchorage, AK — August 6
Bear Tooth Theatrepub

Portland, OR — August 10 - 16
Living Room Theaters

San Diego CA — August 10
Angelika Film Center

Amherst, MA — August 22
Amherst Theatre

Honolulu, HI — August 23, 26, 28
Doris Duke Theatre

Hartford, CT — August 24 - 30
Real Art Ways

Webster Groves, MO — September 14
Webster Film Series

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