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Roland Corporation founder Ikutaro Kakehashi has died

The engineer whose company launched the TR-808 and other legendary drum machines and synthesizers has died aged 87

Ikutaro Kakehashi died on 1 April, announced Tommy Sydner, former advisor at Roland Corporation, via Facebook. “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,” read the post. “He was a super funny, wonderful and gifted human being, and his contributions to the musical instrument world, and music, touched millions of people worldwide.”

Born in Osaka on 7 February 1930, Kakehashi was an engineer and entrepreneur who founded Ace Tone and Roland Corporation. He’s best known for the part he played in the development of electronic drum machines and the MIDI standard.

In the 1950s Kakehashi starting working with electronic organs, eventually founding Ace Tone in 1960. Under that company he invented a hand operated electronic drum called the R1 Rhythm Ace in 1964. A few years later he created the preset rhythm-pattern generator, launched in 1967 as the FR-1 Rhythm Ace, which Hammond and other companies integrated in the manufacture of their instruments.

Roland Corporation was established in Osaka, with its first TR-33/TR-55/TR-77 Rhythm machines going on sale in 1972. A year later Roland’s first synthesizers went on the market; the company participated in the NAMM Show in the USA; and the electronic effects outfit MEG Electronics Corporation (now called BOSS Corporation) was established. In 1980 Roland created the TR-808 Rhythm machine, which made it possible for musicians to programme an entire track. In 1983 Kakehashi launched the MIDI protocol for which 30 years later he was awarded a technical GRAMMY alongside Sequential Circuits' Dave Smith.

In 2002 Kakehashi published his autobiography I Believe In Music; in 2014 he helped found the ATV Corporation.