Published: Fri, April 07, 2017
Life&Culture | By Kristin Armstrong

Roland founder, digital music pioneer Kakehashi dies at 87

Roland founder, digital music pioneer Kakehashi dies at 87

Ikutaro Kakehashi founded the Roland Corporation in 1972, which went on to manufacture all manner of music-making equipment, from effects pedals, to electric pianos and synthesizers.

Kakehashi is also responsible for the development of a grip of synthesizers, having founded the Japanese instrument company Ace Tone in 1960.

"Music literally would not be what it is today without Mr. Kakehashi", said Steven Fisher, now at Yamaha and a former employee at Roland, who worked with Mr. Kakehashi on electronic percussion and drum products.

The engineer was the man behind the drum machine and synthesiser range used across a wide range of music. The 808 debuted in 1980 and took root among generations of producers for its distinctive sound and affordability.

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But it was portable and could be programmed by untrained musicians and, with circuits that included the specific defective transistor, the 808's bass drum sound held thunderous low frequencies that could shake up clubs.

The TR-808 was also a staple of hip hop acts from Run DMC and Afrika Bambaataa to the Beastie Boys, while more recently the rapper Kanye West used it on every track of his 2008 album 808s & Heartbreak. The Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer as one of the earliest programmable drum machines. He moved onto form the company Roland during the 1970s.

Mr. Kakehashi was born in Osaka, Japan, on February 7, 1930. Drawn to engineering from a young age, he built his own shortwave radios while in high school during World War II. Its first product was its TR-77 rhythm box.

Beyond his influence in specific genres, Kakehashi arguably played a major role in the advancement of electronics and studio wizardry as a major part of music production. His most recent book, An Age Without Samples: Originality and Creativity in the Digital World, saw release this past January.

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