Kitaro (喜多郎) [1953 - Present]

Kitarō (喜多郎) or Masanori Takahashi (高橋正則) was born on February 4, 1953, in Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture, Japan and is a composer and multi-instrumentalist. His stage name was given later by friends because of a Japanese television cartoon character named Kitarō, from Ge Ge Ge no Kitarō. He is the son of shintoistic farmers.

Inspired by the R&B music of Otis Redding, Kitaro taught himself how to play guitar. He says of teaching himself, "I never had education in music, I just learned to trust my ears and my feelings." He gives credit for his creations to a power beyond himself. "This music is not from my mind," he said. "It is from heaven, going through my body and out my fingers through composing. Sometimes I wonder. I never practice. I don't read or write music, but my fingers move. I wonder, 'Whose song is this?' I write my songs, but they are not my songs."

While attending Toyohashi Commercial High School, he organized the "Albatross" band with his friends. At that time, they performed in parties and clubs. "In high school, I was in an amateur band. I started out playing the guitar but then changed to the keyboards. Before one of our gigs, the drummer was injured. I had no experience at all on the drums, but I had to learn it because I was the leader of the band, and we had to do the gig. My drumming was not very good, but we got through the show in one piece. Later, the bassist had injuries, so I had to learn how to play the bass. These accidents are the main reasons why I can play all these instruments; I had a crash course in how to play them. It was a hard time for me, but a very good experience. It created the base knowledge of all the instruments I use and need to create my current brand of music. After graduating, I really wanted to be in the music business, so I moved to Tokyo and started looking for bands to play with. I basically did it for the experience and to get a feel of all the clubs that were available in Tokyo and Yokohama. At that time I played keyboards, and then I discovered the synthesizer. This was a revelation. First of all, the instructions for the thing were in English so I couldn't read them. I was trying to make sounds but couldn't! I tried for a whole day, but no sound ever came out because I didn't know how to program it or set it up. Finally, the first sound I got off this thing was a wind-like sound, but I was so elated that I actually made some noise, it didn't matter. I turned one of the knobs slowly to make more wind-like noises. Then I decided to buy another synthesizer to form a different type of sound. I just loved the analog sound that it made compared to today's digital sound. Now, my equipment and synthesizers are all analog. But technically, digital is much easier to use for editing and other stuff."

His parents were first opposed to the idea of their son having a musical career. They had other plans for him and in an attempt to get him to see their way, made arrangements for him to take a job at a local company. However he left home without telling them before. He supported himself by taking on several part time jobs such as cooking and civil service work while composing songs at night.

In the early '70s he changed completely to keyboards. He joined the band "Far East Family Band" and toured with them around the world. In Europe he met the German synthesizer musician and former Tangerine Dream member Klaus Schulze. Schulze produced two albums for the band and gave Kitaro some tips for the use of synthesizers.

In 1976 he left the band and travelled through Asia (China, Laos, Thailand, India).

Back in Japan Kitaro started his solo career in 1977. The first two albums Ten Kai and From the Full Moon Story became cult favorites of fans of the nascent New Age movement. He performed his first symphonic concert at the 'Small Hall' of the Kosei Nenkin Kaikan in Shinjuku, Toyko. During this concert Kitaro used a synthesizer to recreate the sounds of 40 different instruments, a world's first. But it was his famous soundtrack for the NHK series "Silk Road" which brought him the international attention.

He struck a worldwide distribution arrangement with Geffen Records in 1986. In 1987 he collaborated with different musicians, e.g. with Micky Hart (Grateful Dead) and Jon Anderson (Yes) and his record sales soared to 10 million worldwide. He was then nominated twice for a Grammy and his soundtrack (for the movie "Heaven & Earth") won a 1994 award for best original score. His biggest musical success was the Grammy Award 2001 for his album Thinking of You.

Kitaro is a very modest person. "Nature inspires me. I am only a messenger", he once said. "To me, some songs are like clouds, some are like water". Since 1983, his reverence for nature has led Kitaro to annually give thanks to Mother Nature in a special "concert" on Mount Fuji or near his house in Colorado. On the day of the full moon of August he beats on the Taiko drum from dusk to dawn. Frequently his hands become bloodied, but he continues to pound.

From 1983 until 1990 Kitaro was married to his first wife, Yuki Taoka. Yuki is a daughter of Kazuo Taoka, godfather of Yamaguchi-gumi, the largest Yakuza syndicate. Kitaro and Yuki have a son, Ryunosuke, who lives in Japan. They reportedly separated because Kitaro worked mostly in the United States while Yuki lived and worked in Japan. In the mid-nineties, Kitaro married Keiko Matsubara, a musician who played on several of his albums. Along with Keijo's son, the couple lived Ward, Colorado on a 180 acre spread and composed in his 2500 square foot home studio "Mochi House" (it is large enough to hold a 70 piece orchestra). Kitaro and Keiko recently relocated to Occidental, California.

He has also worked with Virtuoso Guitarist Marty Friedman, formerly of Megadeth, on the "Scenes" album, which had a significal impact on the forthcoming Kitaro's "Mandala" release.

Also, Kitaro composed the soundtrack of the Oliver Stone film Heaven and Earth.