Roland founder and music pioneer dies aged 87
The music world is mourning the loss of Roland founder and electronic instrument pioneer Ikutaro Kakehashi, who has died aged 87. The Japanese engineer created many popular drum machines, including the iconic TR-808. Its sound is a staple of hip-hop and electronic music, used by everyone from Kanye West to Marvin Gaye.
Kakehashi received a technical Grammy in 2013 for contributions to electronic music technology. Dave Smith – Kakehashi’s co-winner told the BBC he “was just an amazing man, a good friend, a very good competitor of course and just innovative continually all that time”.
Before leading Roland for 40 years, Mr Kakehashi founded Ace Tone in the 1960s. The firm made amplifiers and primitive drum machines, laying the groundwork for the engineer’s future success. Roland TR-808: The drum machine that refused to die. The sound of the TR-808 proved a game-changer in the 1980s and 90s.
It appears on Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing”, and in the opening bars of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”. Rapper Kanye West’s 2008 album 808s & Heartbreak showcases the machine throughout. Musicians have shared their tributes to Mr Kakehashi online, calling his impact immeasurable.
Marc Almond of synthpop duo Soft Cell called him “a man who changed music”.
Martyn Ware, who played keyboards for The Human League, told the BBC: “Roland was central to everything that we did for the whole of the first two albums – they featured on every track.” “We were loyal to them like people would be loyal to a football team.”
In 2015 the TR-808 was the subject of a documentary featuring Pharrell Williams, Fatboy Slim, and Phil Collins – among many others. In a farewell to Mr Kakehashi, his colleague for almost four decades, Roland developer Tommy Snyder wrote: “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. RIP dear Taro.”