Ghost of Tsushima: The music of Iki Island

Chad Cannon (left) Bill Hemstapat (right) photo by Justin Fields

It was a tremendous pleasure to reunite with Chad Cannon to compose new music for Iki Island, the new territory included in Ghost of Tsushima: Director’s Cut. Chad and I worked very closely while arranging and orchestrating Shigeru Umebayashi’s “Tsushima Suites” for the game’s original release and really enjoyed that collaboration. As was the case with the original score, we were incredibly fortunate to have some of the best musicians in Japan, China, Nashville, and Los Angeles contribute to these new pieces. Many of these talented individuals are featured in this blog, speaking about their performance and the instruments used on the recordings. We hope you enjoy this behind-the-scenes look at the music.  

A deeper dive on Jin Sakai

The story of Iki Island is personal, focusing on a traumatic chapter from Jin Sakai’s past. With this in mind, we wanted to make sure that the music was reflective of the heart and soul of the character, Jin himself.

Ilan Eshkeri wrote an incredibly emotional and iconic theme for Jin. The piece served as a “call to adventure” for the players of the original game to immerse themselves in the world and for Jin to begin his journey towards becoming The Ghost. With the Iki Island story, both Chad and I sensed an opportunity to add a greater dimension to Jin Sakai by exploring different ways of adapting and expanding Ilan’s brilliant theme. 

The result of our exploration is the piece “The Tale of Clan Sakai,” which represents Jin, his father, and other Samurai with the Sakai name. It explores the very heart and soul of the emotional baggage Jin has to carry; not only is he the last samurai on Tsushima, but the last of the entire Sakai clan. 

The piece features the Biwa, an instrument used by Ilan in “Heart of the Jito” in the original game. Although, in this new version of Jin’s theme, we are using the Chikuzen-style Biwa instead of the better-known Satsuma-style Biwa. Chikuzen-Biwa was traditionally performed by Buddhist monks instead of the Samurai. The monks used it for storytelling and ceremony rather than for practicing discipline. 

From Chad:

“Bill and I were super excited to involve a Chikuzen-style Biwa player from Fukuoka named Cyouka Ogata. Ogata Sensei was really happy to be involved in the Tsushima score, having grown up around the Mongol invasion sites. She introduced Bill and me to her instruments over Zoom and then worked with us over a couple of months, sending us samples of her playing different ideas, trying things out, etc. Check out her video! She went and played the Jin Sakai theme on the Hakata beaches, where some of the Mongol fights took place!”