Samuragochi’s ghostwriter speaks

Disgraced composer isn't even deaf, his 'partner in crime' says

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

The man who ghostwrote works credited to “deaf” composer Mamoru Samuragochi for the past 18 years stepped forward Thursday as his “partner in crime.”

Takashi Niigaki, 43, a composer and part-time lecturer at Toho Gakuen School of Music in west Tokyo, also revealed that Samuragochi, who has claimed to have gone completely deaf at age 35, has normal hearing.

He said that Samuragochi, christened by the media as a modern Beethoven, often listened to Niigaki’s compositions and then offered comments.

Niigaki’s revelations came at a news conference at the Hotel New Otani in Tokyo a day after Samuragochi confessed that his music had been written by someone else.

Saying he could no longer live a lie, Niigaki revealed that he penned more than 20 classical musical scores credited to Samuragochi, a Hiroshima native and son of atomic bomb survivors, including the well-known “Hiroshima Symphony” and “Sonatina for Violin.” The sonatina will be used in the short program performance of figure skater Daisuke Takahashi at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, next week.

Niigaki said he wanted to come clean before Takahashi’s performance, explaining that if the truth were revealed afterward, Japan might come under fire internationally for using music with a tainted provenance.

Since composing the first score under Samuragochi’s name in 1996, Niigaki has received a total of about ¥7 million, he said.

“I continued to write pieces under Samuragochi’s instruction, knowing that he was deceiving the public, and releasing the music. I’m Samuragochi’s partner in crime,” Niigaki said.

Thursday’s news conference was hosted by the Shukan Bunshun weekly magazine, which published an article by nonfiction writer Norio Koyama on Wednesday about Niigaki’s confession.

“I am deeply sorry” for the deception that took in people who listened to the music and musicians “who gave brilliant performances,” Niigaki said, admitting that he felt joy seeing the public accept his work.

Niigaki said he fretted over the impact that his confession would have on Olympic figure skater Takahashi.

He said he decided in the end to tell the truth because he wanted Takahashi to know the full story and compete with dignity.

On Wednesday, following Samuragochi’s confession, Takahashi’s management released a statement saying he will skate to “Sonatina for Violin” at the Olympics.

His coach, Yoshiko Kobayashi, said the news has not affected the Vancouver Olympic bronze medalist and former world champ.

Niigaki said he and Samuragochi initially met in 1996 through a mutual friend. Samuragochi, then 33 years old, had asked the friend to find someone who could compose a piece for a film based on Samuragochi’s idea.

Niigaki said he accepted the proposal without thinking about it deeply.

“At the time I saw myself as an assistant” to Samuragochi,” he said. “But when he started saying to the public that he was deaf, and released scores (Niigaki had written) with his name on it, I felt bad. But I continued to compose music under his instruction.”

Niigaki said he created the pieces based on Samuragochi’s instructions and images. He said Samuragochi is incapable of penning his own scores.

As Samuragochi’s media exposure increased — partly for being deaf and also being son of a hibakusha in Hiroshima — Niigaki said he became uneasy, worrying that the long years of lying would someday be revealed.

Niigaki said he told Samuragochi to come clean for the first time last July and several times after that, but he wouldn’t agree.

Samuragochi first established his name as composer in the late 1990s with music for video games, including “Biohazard” (“Resident Evil).”

He shot to fame with his Symphony No. 1, “Hiroshima,” released in 2011, which sold more than 100,000 copies.

Samuragochi was reportedly taught piano by his mother from age 4 and was playing Beethoven and Bach when he was 10. He is described as a self-taught composer.

Samuragochi’s revelation Wednesday has prompted music shops to pull his CDs from their shelves and event organizers to cancel his concerts. Nippon Columbia Co., Samuragochi’s music label, said it will stop shipping his CDs and selling his music online.

Music publisher Tokyo Hustle Copy Inc. also decided to cancel Samuragochi’s music scores scheduled to be released next week.

Information from Kyodo added

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