Roland founder, digital music pioneer Kakehashi dies at 87

Posted April 07, 2017

The legendary engineer and entrepreneur who pioneered the ubiquitous TR-808 and 909 drum machines and TB-303 bass synthesiser had led Roland for 41 years until his retirement 2013.

Tommy Snyder, a former adviser for Roland, reported his death on Saturday.

MIDI was proposed by Ikutaro Kakehashi, the founder of the iconic electronic musical instrument manufacturer Roland, in the early 1980s.

Late past year, 808, a documentary helmed by Alexander Dunn, Alex Noyer and drum machine maven, Arthur Baker, charted the beloved kit's impact on the music world, through the eyes and ears of those it touched, including Questlove, Pharrell, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis.

According to this in-depth history of Roland published in 2004, Kakehashi was born in Osaka in 1930. Among his accomplishments are the Ace Tone and Roland drum machines, and also the MIDI standard.

Kakehashi began his career in electronics repairing electronic organs in the 1950s, while running an electrical appliance shop. It was doing so that he considered how electronic sounds could be taken further.

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David Bowie worked with the Roland GR-500 guitar synth to record his 1980 hit Ashes to Ashes while Marvin Gaye used the iconic TR-808 drum machine on his smash single Sexual Healing. The Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer as one of the earliest programmable drum machines.

The sounds of the 808 continue to be heard in R&B, pop and electronic dance music and they are starkly in the foreground in the current production style called trap.

Many musicians also paid tribute to Kakehashi on Twitter.

Kakehashi continued to work on developing devices to play electronic music.

He received a technical Grammy in 2013 for contributions to the development of MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) technology, along with Sequential Circuits founder Dave Smith.