Roland Visionary Founder Kakehashi Dies

US His work was massively influential      03/04/17

Roland Visionary Founder Kakehashi Dies

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Few people in our industry are as influential as Roland's founder Ikutaro Kakehashi. His passing on the 2nd of April aged 87,  marks the end of an era for many. As founder and head of Roland, Kakehashi was in charge of what many would call golden years of electronic music instruments, without him it could be argued that may genres of music would not have emerged. The technology Roland enabled under his charge made a real difference to the culture of popular music.

As with many pioneering engineers, Mr K - as became known, started with repairs. In his case it was electronic organs, then going on to build his own.

He quickly progressed to drum machines and was instrumental in the notion of pattern based rhythms now a universal standard. This progression  eventually resulted in the TR-808 and the TR-909, classic machines without which entire genres of music would not exist - their sounds and GUIs still have a major part in what are used today.

Throughout his career, Kakehashi was enormously respectful of musicians, he was on friendly terms with many of the greats  - Ellington, Oscar Peterson were consulted in early instrument designs. These relationships with musicians continued throughout his career.

Without Kakehashi, MIDI would have not been a widely adopted standard either, the weight Roland put behind the emerging technology when it was first presented by Dave Smith and Chet Wood in a paper at AES in 1981 was a major factor in making it one of the worlds most long lasting technological standards.

In March 2013, aged 83 Kakehashi stepped down from Roland.  It was also the year that  he received a technical Grammy for contributions to music technology. Since then the company has undergone many major internal transformations, with a management buyout in 2014, ushering the new era of AIRA instruments, many of which reference the great products released under Mr K.

It is a paradox, that one of the worlds most influential music technology giants, never learned to play an instrument himself, though his designs have influenced so many.

He will be missed, but leaves a legacy that will endure for many years to come.



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