Roland founder, digital music pioneer Ikutaro Kakehashi dies

Tomas Mccoy
April 7, 2017

In January of this year, Kakehashi published An Age Without Samples: Originality and Creativity in the Digital World, while in 2013, he was awarded a Technical Grammy along with Dave Smith for his contributions to MIDI and electronic music technology.

The company went on to develop a huge range of electronic musical instruments under the Roland brand, and professional video, audio and computer music equipment under the V-MODA brand and guitar equipment under the BOSS brand.

Ikutaro Kakehashi, who, as founder of the Roland corporation, influenced electronic music, has died.

Ikutaro Kakehashi, founder of Japanese electronic musical instrument maker Roland which defined much of the sound of 1980s pop, has died aged 87.

Dave Smith, Kakehashi's co-winner of the 2013 Technical Grammy, told the BBC he "was just an fantastic man, a good friend, a very good competitor of course and just innovative continually all that time".

Introduced in 1980 and discontinued in 1983, the TR-808 - TR stands for "transistor rhythm" - was an analog device that made artificial drum and percussion sounds: tinny handclaps, hissing high-hats and a dinky cowbell.

Roland synthesizers were the main instrument of popular electronica bands including Aphex Twin and the Prodigy and can be heard on the opening of the Marvin Gaye hit "Sexual Healing". Later it would become the focal point of Kanye West's "808s and Heartbreak" album, as well as being used in songs by Beastie Boys, Outkast and Talking Heads.

Many musicians also paid tribute to Kakehashi on Twitter.

Among them were Soft Cell's Marc Almond, who called Kakehashi "a man who changed music".

The 808 was also the subject of a 2014 documentary aptly titled 808, narrated by Zane Lowe and featuring interviews by Rick Rubin, Questlove, and more.

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