Ikutaro Kakehashi, founder of the Japanese electronic instruments manufacturer Roland, has died at 87. The news was first announced on Facebook by longtime Roland demonstrator Tommy Snyder.
Kakehashi was born in Osaka in 1930. He began his career in the 1950s, repairing electronic organs and creating new prototypes while running an electrical appliance shop. In 1960, he launched his own organ company, Ace Tone, which eventually evolved into Hammond Organ Japan.
Kakehashi left Ace Tone and Hammond in 1972 to found the Roland Corporation, and under his leadership, the company created iconic synthesizers and drum machines like the TB-303, the TR-909, and of course the TR-808. Although it was initially seen as a commercial failure and discontinued in 1983 after only three years on the market, the 808 became a defining element in the sounds of hip-hop and dance music.
In the early ’80s, Kakehashi worked with audio engineer and Sequential Circuits president Dave Smith to spearhead the develop of the MIDI standard, a protocol that allowed a wide variety of electronic instruments and devices to connect and communicate. Kakehashi and Smith received Technical Grammy Awards in 2013 for their roles in the development of MIDI.
Watch the trailer for 808, a 2015 documentary about the revolutionary drum machine narrated by Zane Lowe and featuring interviews with artists like Damon Albarn, Questlove, and Phil Collins, below.