MOSMA 2020 Distant Worlds: The Music of Studio Ghibli – Concert Summary

After a successful and very satisfactory 5th edition of MOSMA a week ago, today we bring you the first special article about the festival, written by our collaborator Reme Díaz.


Reme, an expert in the music of Studio Ghibli and the organizer of a benefit concert with the music of Joe Hisaishi for their films last year in Malaga (read more), tells us in this article her impressions of the concert “MOSMA Distant Worlds: The Music of Studio Ghibli” held on Friday 11/9 at the Echegaray Theatre.



In these uncertain times, where reality hits us every day with discouraging news, the fact that we could enjoy one more edition of a festival like MOSMA has been almost a miracle. In fact, two days before the start of the Festival, which this year was scheduled from September 10 to 12, there was the possibility of cancellations due to the evolution of the pandemic in Malaga. Nevertheless, we must appreciate that, both from the management of the Festival de Malaga and the organizers of the event, taking a step forward and continuing with the Festival, always guaranteeing security measures and following all health recommendations.


According to the tradition that happens in each MOSMA where a concert is dedicated to Japanese music, this year the impossibility of traveling turned into a successful tribute to the music composed by Joe Hisaishi for Studio Ghibli, the most famous Japanese animation studio.


The concert, which took place on past Friday, September 11, at Echegaray Theater in Malaga, was undoubtedly one of the highlights of this “shortened formatMOSMA. And we mean shortened for the days of celebration, for the capacity of the venues, for not having the parallel activities of meetings with composers or signing sessions, but not reduced in talent or motivation.

MOSMA Distant Worlds: The Music of Studio Ghibli - Echegaray Theatre


On the stage, 16 musicians of the Movie Score Málaga Assemblé Orchestra and exceptional collaborators such as Joan Martorell (who conducted the Ennio Morricone tribute concert the day before) on the synthesizer, under the always passionate and masterful baton of Maestro Òscar Senén, who also composed the arrangements for the concert. If we think about it, although we are used to the grandiosity of a symphony orchestra, Joe Hisaishi himself began composing with a lot of these electronic sounds in his early works, so it was not surprising to see two synthesizers between violins, trumpets, and percussion that announced that an original concert was awaiting for us.


The program was the following:

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind:

  • Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Opening Theme)


Castle in the Sky:

  • Castle in the Sky
  • The Girl Who Fell from the Sky


Kiki´s Delivery Service:

  • On a Clear Day


Porco Rosso

  • Porco e Bella


Princess Mononoke:

  • The Legend of Ashitaka
  • Ashitaka and San


Spirited Away (It was played in reverse order to the one announced, which was the chronological order of the film):

  • The Sixth Station
  • One Summer Day


Howl´s Moving Castle:

  • Merry Go-Round of Life


Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea:

  • Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea Theme


The Wind Rises:

  • Naoko (Meguriai)


The Tale of the Princess Kaguya:

  • The Sprout
  • The Procession of Celestial Beings I


My Neighbor Totoro:

  • My Neighbor Totoro Theme


Only the first chords of the main theme from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind were necessary to move us to that “distant world” of Ghibli and make us dream of that magical universe created by Hayao Miyazaki. Those 16 musicians became in hundreds of sounds, some born from the orchestra and others from the synthesizers that replaced those instruments impossible to have on stage (piano, harp, mandolin or accordion among others) and also amplified with sound effects (sounds of the wind or the surprising crackle of demons in Legend of Ashitaka, from Princess Mononoke) that creativity of the playlist carefully chosen for the program.

MOSMA Distant Worlds: The Music of Studio Ghibli - Concert


It is precisely worth noting that choice of themes where some of the best known and most recognizable pieces (such as Merry Go-Round Of Life from Howl’s Moving Castle or Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea Theme) were combined with other themes not as famous and, for sure, not quite often played in concerts such as Porco e Bella from Porco Rosso or Naoko (Meguriai) from the last movie directed by Miyazaki, The Wind Rises.


After almost chronologically reviewing all the music composed for Miyazaki’s films, the concert reached two of Hisaishi’s most emotional compositions, with clear oriental reminiscences, this time created for the latest film by Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata (who passed away in 2018): The tale of Princess Kaguya. This soundtrack was composed at the same time as The wind rises and it’s often relegated to oblivion because concerts use to focus on Miyazaki-Hisaishi collaboration, but the composer includes it whenever possible in his repertory. We must mention that Takahata was the one who recommended that a young composer called Mamoru Fujisawa (Joe Hisaishi is his artistic nickname, in honor of his idol, Quincy Jones) to compose Nausicaä of the valley of the wind, starting a collaboration between the musician and the Studio that has lasted more than 36 years. Thank you, Takahata-san.

MOSMA Distant Worlds: The Music of Studio Ghibli - Concert


The concert ended with the positive energy of My Neighbor Totoro’s Theme, to leave a better taste of an audience that completely filled the Echegaray Theater (at least within the permitted capacity of 65 % of the seats, in a sold-out concert). Maybe a larger venue would have allowed more people to enjoy this concert, which was a bit short for us, both in the length of some themes (Nausicaä or Mononoke) and in its total duration, but maybe because Ghibli fans are insatiable. Besides, Maestro Òscar Senén had to continue conducting the second concert programmed that Friday, at the Albeniz movie theater, this time dedicated to TV series soundtracks.


However, they gave us two encores, repeating Ponyo on the cliff by the sea Theme and My Neighbor Totoro Theme, to the delight of the audience, especially the youngest, who didn’t want to miss this opportunity to enjoy the live music of this Japanese animation studio.

MOSMA Distant Worlds: The Music of Studio Ghibli - Concert


In summary, a concert that from the beginning moved us to the fantasy world of Ghibli, making us forget for a moment the harsh reality and letting ourselves be captivated once again by the pleasure of reuniting with friends, those whom MOSMA gathers every year through our love for soundtracks. That emotion for the music that perhaps made us shed a small tear during the concert, and that we tried to hide with the omnipresent mist of the mask.

MOSMA Distant Worlds: The Music of Studio Ghibli - Concert

Article by Reme Díaz

Pictures by Gorka Oteiza