Synthesizer pioneer Ikutaro Kakehashi, founder of Roland, dies at 87

by

Staff Writer

Ikutaro Kakehashi, an influential figure in the 1980s pop music scene and founder of electronic instrument makers Roland Corp. and ATV Corp., has died at the age of 87, an ATV spokeswoman told The Japan Times on Monday.

Kakehashi founded Roland in Osaka in 1972 and headed the company as an engineer and businessman, where he oversaw the invention of synthesizers and many other revolutionary instruments that changed the direction of music.

The TR-808 and TR-909 drum machines, as well as the TB-303 bass synthesizer, are a few examples of instruments invented by Roland under Kakehashi’s leadership. These became popular pieces of equipment among producers of Detroit techno, Chicago house, new wave and other pop genres of the 1980s. They remain classics and are still used by many musicians today.

In 2013, Kakehashi won a Technical Grammy Award for his contribution to the development of MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) technology. MIDI is a technical standard for electronic instruments that allows synthesizers made by different manufacturers to synchronize.

In 2000, he left a set of handprints on Hollywood’s Rockwalk hall of fame.

Tommy Snyder, a drummer for Japanese rock band Godiego, was one of the first to report Kakehashi’s death, sharing a message via Facebook on Saturday.

“Ikutaro Kakehashi, founder of Roland, father of the TR-909, TR-808, Godfather of MIDI, and someone who I have collaborated with for 38 years, and also considered him as my second father, passed away at the age of 87,” Snyder wrote.

Many musicians also paid tribute to Kakehashi on Twitter.

Marc Almond, a member of English new wave duo Soft Cell, wrote: “A man who changed music Ikutaro Kakehashi the man behind the Roland synth, 808 and more has sadly passed. Thanks for the electro sounds.”

Chris Carter of English industrial music pioneer Throbbing Gristle, wrote that his rock band “could have sounded quite different without Roland.”

Kakehashi left Roland and founded ATV in 2013 after a clash with Roland’s management.

A private funeral for Kakehashi will be attended only by close family members, the ATV spokeswoman said.