Photo/Illutration Ryuichi Sakamoto speaks during an interview in 2019. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Award-winning composer Ryuichi Sakamoto stressed the need to prevent novel coronavirus infections, but he said it is “unfair” for the government to call on musicians to voluntarily cancel concerts without offering financial assistance.

Sakamoto canceled a March concert of the Tohoku Youth Orchestra, for which he serves as representative director and musical director.

“What’s important is to prevent the spread of infections,” he said. “Humans are part of nature, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

The coronavirus pandemic has put the music industry in dire straits because artists are highly dependent on concerts to compensate for declining CD sales.

“Humans have experienced similar things many times throughout history, but music has never disappeared. We have no choice but to explore new ways to adapt to this situation,” Sakamoto said.

However, he said he was confused by the government’s request for musicians to cancel their shows.

“It’s unclear whether the government intends to abandon us or support us with concrete measures,” he said. “The question is how it thinks about the importance of culture.”

Sakamoto said that he has often been reminded of what his musician friend Kiyoshiro Imawano, who died in 2009, used to say.

He quoted Imawano as saying: “A crisis can be easily exploited by people in power. An earthquake is followed by war. Be careful.”

Sakamoto said: “He had sounded a warning. It’s amazing.”

The musician expressed strong concerns that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been given the power to declare a state of emergency to restrict private rights to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

“It reminds me of the emergency provisions used by the Nazis,” Sakamoto said. “The latest legal revision is extremely dangerous. It was approved in the Diet after (some) opposition parties supported the proposed amendment.

In the years to come, I think it will be remembered as an event that brought us one step closer to a totalitarian tendency.”