Ikutaro Kakehashi, Founder of Roland, Passes

Ikutaro KakehashiAnother great pioneer in the music world has left the building. If you’ve ever owned a Roland or Boss piece of gear (and I’d go as far as to say that’s everyone), then you’ll be saddened to know that the founder of those fine companies, Ikutaro Kakehashi, has passed. He was 87 years old.

Kakehashi was instrumental in creating many devices that have changed music, most notably the Roland TR-808 and 909 drum machines and the TB-303 bass synthesizers, instruments that weren’t big hits when introduced but were later adopted as the sound of  house music and hip-hop. He was also one of the founders of MIDI, which we all take for granted today but was revolutionary when it launched.

What’s not well known is that the man had a passion for drum machines and that one of his earliest inventions (and arguably the first drum machine), was the Rhythm Ace, which was originally part of the Ace Tone organ line (if you remember either one then you’ve been in this business for a looong time). In fact, Roger Linn told me on my podcast that the Rhythm Ace was actually the inspiration for his LinnDrum (the first drum machine with real samples). Ace Tone was Kakehashi’s first company and lead the way for him to create Roland, and later Boss as well.

He received a technical Grammy in 2013 for his many contributions, and was also awarded an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music in 1991. Kakehashi published an autobiography, I Believe In Music, in 2002 and released the book An Age Without Samples: Originality and Creativity in the Digital World earlier in the year.

We know the names of most of the giants of the musical instruments world, but somehow the name of Ikutaro Kakehashi managed to fall under the radar. It’s a shame that many of us are first hearing about him for the first time. That said, let’s celebrate his life by breaking out that old Juno synth, Jazz Chorus or 808 and playing a tune in his honor.

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