Ikutaro Kakehashi, founder of Roland and creator of the TR-808, dies at 87

(Image credit: PETER BROOKER/REX/Shutterstock)

Ikutaro Kakehashi, the founder of Roland and the man who helped to create a slew of iconic drum machines and synths, has died at the age of 87.

Kakehashi founded Roland in the 1970s, having previously created drum machines with Ace Tone branding. At Roland, he presided over a golden age of product innovation, giving the world not only the TR-808 and TR-909 drum machines, but also helping to create (among others) the TB-303, Jupiter-8 and D-50 synths.

In 2013, together with Dave Smith, Kakehashi received a Technical Grammy Award for the creation of MIDI, retiring from Roland that same year.

Commenting on Kakehashi’s passing, Smith said: “Kakehashi-san was a genuine visionary who dedicated his entire life to creating new ways for musicians to express themselves. Though we were always competitors, he recognized the value of industry cooperation, and he was always quick to share ideas. He will be deeply missed, but will live on through all his instruments.” 

Propellerhead Software was one of the first companies to clone the 303, 808 and 909 in software when it released ReBirth in 1998, and CEO Ernst Nathorst-Böös was also quick to pay tribute.

“I can’t think of a person who has had greater impact on synthesizers, as we know and use them today,” he said. “For Propellerhead, the work of Mr. K, as he was affectionately referred to, was completely seminal. If it wasn’t for the Roland TR-808, TR-909 and the TB-303, our company wouldn’t exist.” 

You can read more tributes below. 

Ben Rogerson
Deputy Editor

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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