Roland founder and electronic music pioneer Ikutaro Kakehashi died on April 1, 2017. at the age of 87. Mr Kakehashi was an engineer, an entrepreneur, and the founder of Ace Tone, Roland Corporation and ATV Corporation, Japanese manufacturers of electronic musical instruments. He was known for his role in the development of Ace Tone and Roland drum machines including the iconic TR-808. The official press release can be read here. Mr Kakehashi Passes Away-ATV Press_Release
Mr Kakehashi loved Australia, and had many life-long friends here. Australia in some measure helped launch his products, through the foresight of Geoff Brash, John Egan and others. Roland Corporation Australia, established in 1976, was the first in a network of 50/50, joint venture global distributors, another example of his unique approach to business at that time. Current Roland Australia Managing Director, Mr Brendan Callinan, remembers him as “a large presence, who constantly impressed with his ability to boil down complex ideas and concepts into simple, yet incisive statements. He was that rare combination of someone who was driven and focused, but at the same time warm, charismatic and personable”.
Ikutaro Kakehashi was a self-taught engineer, entrepreneur and writer. Under his leadership, Roland introduced many of the most iconic products in electronic music, including the System 700 modular synthesizer; TB-303 bassline synthesizer; TR-808 and TR-909 drum machines; and Jupiter-8 & D-50 synthesizers.
Kakehashi, along with Dave Smith, was presented with a Technical GRAMMY in 2013 for contributions to the development of MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) 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”.
In more recent years, Mr Kakehashi remained active, founding a new company, ATV Corporation, dedicated to creating expressive electronic instruments, including the aFrame electronic percussion instrument. Former Managing director of Roland Australia, and more recently ATV Australia, Glenn Dodson said, “I feel such a deep loss after so many years of association and friendship with Taro. He touched and influenced so many people’s lives during his lifetime, myself included. A man who had a unique vision for the future of electronic musical instruments and an unwavering philosophy towards business. Always funny and quick-witted. His dream lives on with his “new baby”, ATV Corporation. My thoughts are with his family”.
He led an extraordinary life, his home-spun approach to spreading his message about music and music products, led to amazing product developments. He always valued highly the input of musicians in product development and he honoured them and in return was a second Father to some according to the grief expressed by some at his passing.
On behalf of the industry we salute his life and contribution to the music products industry, and we send our condolences to his wife of 66 years, Masaka, and three children.
The electronic music world has begun paying tribute to the great Ikutaro Kakehashi. There is a particularly detailed history of Mr Kakahashi’s times written by Brian Majeski, Editor of the US Music Trades magazine – we have, with permission reproduced it this most interesting read. Music Trades Obituary Mr Kakehashi
We also searched the Australian Musician archives and found this 2001 interview with Mr K in Melbourne at the time of Roland’s 25th Anniversary. Australian Musician Interview with Rob Walker and Mr Kakehashi 2001.