Kenji Kawai’s Music for Ghost in the Shell

The composer’s soundtrack is eerie, ancient, and absolutely spell-binding.
Ghost in the Shell OST

Last week, I posted the first trailer for Ghost in the Shell: Arise, the latest Ghost in the Shell series. One of the most distinctive elements of the Ghost in the Shell animé franchise, beyond its stellar animation and thought-provoking storylines, has been its music, especially Kenji Kawai’s haunting work on the Mamoru Oshii-directed Ghost in the Shell movies. (Yoko Kanno and Cornelius have composed the music for the television series.)

This video comes from a 2007 concert performance of Kawai’s various soundtracks, and features a medley of themes from Ghost in the Shell, beginning with the opening theme. It’s all very stirring and evocative stuff, but the highlights are the kimono-dressed female choir (who sing an ancient Japanese Min’yō chant mixed with elements from Bulgarian music) and some pretty intense taiko drumming. More info about Kawai’s soundtrack can be found here.

If it seems odd that an animé soundtrack would incorporate Bulgarian elements, this isn’t the first time that an animé composer has been so, shall we say, eclectic. Indeed, for the first Ghost in the Shell television series — Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex — composer Yoko Kanno collaborated with Russian singer Origa on the series’ theme ​“Inner Universe”, which features Russian, English, and Latin lyrics set to some driving electronica. (Read my review of the Stand Alone Complex soundtrack here.)

Read more about Ghost in the Shell and Kenji Kawai.