Masanori Takahashi (高橋正則 Takahashi Masanori), better known as Kitarō (喜多郎), (4 February 1953) is an award-winning Japanese musician, composer, and multi-instrumentalist who is regarded as a pioneer of New Age music.
Kitaro was born in Toyohashi, Aichi, Japan. After graduating, Kitaro moved to Tokyo to experience and become a part of the music scene, and it was there that he discovered the synthesizer. His first synthesizer was analog, and he recalls having “just loved the analog sound that it made compared to today's digital sound”.
His parents were first opposed to the idea of their son having a musical career. In an effort to maneuver him towards their vision, they made arrangements for him to take a job at a local company. In return, he left home without telling them. 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 1970s, he changed completely to keyboards. He joined the Japanese music group Far East Family Band which was formed in 1965, and toured with them around the world. While in Europe, he met the German electronica and former Tangerine Dream member Klaus Schulze. Schulze produced two albums for the band and gave Kitaro some tips for controlling synthesizers. In 1976, Kitaro left Far East Family 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 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, Tokyo.
The Silk Road: The Rise And Fall Of Civilizations is an NHK Tokushu documentary series that first aired in April 7th, 1980, broadcast over a 10 year period. It took 17 years in production to complete what many consider a landmark in Japan's broadcasting television history. The intention of the program was to reveal how ancient Japan was influenced by the Silk Road trade route. The documentary was narrated by Ishizaka Koji with music composed by Kitaro, who insisted that the show be broadcast in stereo. The music was composed mainly using a Mini-moog. The series of soundtracks sold millions and the success created from the program brought Kitaro international attention.
He entered into a worldwide distribution arrangement with Geffen Records in 1986. This included a re-releasing of six prior albums titled Astral Voyage, Full Moon Story, Millennia, India, Silver Cloud and Asia (each packaged with Japanesque obi strips) as well as a new album, aptly titled Towards the West. In 1987, he collaborated with Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead for the album The Light of the Spirit and in 1992 with Jon Anderson (Yes) for the album Dream. In 1988, his record sales soared to 10 million worldwide following a successful US tour. He was nominated three times for Grammy Award during his tenure at Geffen Records. His soundtrack for the movie Heaven & Earth won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score. In 1989, he wrote the Japanese theme for the film Return from the River Kwai.
Kitaro produced an album Scenes released by Shrapnel Records with former Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman. Kitaro has also worked with Hong Kong Cantopop singer Anita Mui on the song "Years Flowing Like Water (似水流年)".
When asked about his music, he said, "I never had education in music, I just learned to trust my ears and my feelings." He credits ‘powers beyond himself’ for his music, saying, "This music is not from my mind. 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."
Since his 1994 début for Domo Records, the Grammy-nominated Mandala (featuring a bold use of electric guitar), Kitaro has released twelve studio albums. Among them, the live An Enchanted Evening (1995), the deeply spiritual Gaia-Onbashira (1998) and Ancient (2001) are all Grammy nominated. In 1999, Thinking of You, which allmusic.com calls a “journey to ecstasy” and “one of the most beautiful CDs of all time,” won the Grammy for Best New Age Album. In total, Kitaro's albums with Domo Records have received 11 Grammy nominations.
Kitaro’s music has long been recognized for its messages of peace and spirituality. In the wake of 9/11, the artist began recording Sacred Journey of Ku-Kai, a series of peace-themed albums inspired by the Shikoku Henro Pilgrimage, the travel of Kūkai more than 1100 years ago. The four volumes in the album series were released in 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2011, respectively. The event of September 11 occurred while he was en route from Japan to Los Angeles. Kitaro's flight was diverted to Honolulu for five days, during which time the conceptual endeavor, which he envisioned as an artistic means to help unify people globally, first took shape. Every track on the 4 volumes of Sacred Journey Of Ku-Kai contains samples from ancient Japanese temple bells (Peace Bells) from 88 sacred temples on the island of Shikoku, Japan.
In 2007, Kitaro composed the music for Impression West Lake, a large-scale opera, directed by the renowned Chinese film director Zhang Yimou. The opera reflects Hangzhou city’s history and culture through music and dance. Using modern technology, the stage is 75 centimeters below the lake’s surface during the day so as not to affect the landscape and boating activities. In the evening, the stage is a few centimeters below the lake’s surface so actors can walk and perform freely over a surprising water mirror that compose with the lights and colors. The one-hour event had its opening night in March 2007. In 2009, Domo Records released the original soundtrack album Impressions of the West Lake which was nominated for the 2010 Grammy Award.
In 2007-2009 he launched the ‘Love and Peace World Tour,’ an international tour with which Kitaro hoped to inspire his message of world peace with his music. Kitaro toured Southeast Asia in 2007, Greece in 2008 and Hong Kong, Japan, Southeast Asia in 2009. During his visit to Greece, Kitaro met Greek musician and composer Vangelis, and exchanged musical experience and creative ideas.
In 2010, Kitaro performed in Singapore in March, in Mexico for the Zacatecas Cultural Festival in April, in Xi'an, China for the opening event of Daming Palace National Heritage Park in September, in Aichi, Japan for the Thousand Drums Event at COP10 for the Convention on Biological Diversity in October. From March to April, 2011, Kitaro toured Thailand, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. He donated part of the CD sales and concert profits to Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami Relief.
While Kitaro has been touring, Domo Records released Kitaro's Grammy Nominated compilation Album, soundtracks to Toyo's Camera and 442 - Live With Honor, Die With Dignity, as well as the Grammy nominated Sacred Journey Of Ku-Kai, Volume 4.
From 1983 until 1990 Kitaro was married to Yuki Taoka. Yuki is a daughter of the late Kazuo Taoka, third godfather of the Yamaguchi-gumi, the largest Yakuza syndicate. Kitaro and Yuki had 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-1990s, Kitaro married Keiko Matsubara, a musician who played on several of his albums. Along with Keiko's son, the couple lived in Ward, Colorado on a 180 acre (72.85 hectare) spread and composed in his 2500 square foot (230 m²) home studio "Mochi House" (it is large enough to hold a 70 piece orchestra). About 2007 they relocated to Sebastopol, California.