Roland founder and music pioneer Ikutaro Kakehashi dies aged 87

From the Guardian

Tributes paid to Japanese engineer who created drum machines and synths used throughout music scene in 1980s and 90s

The Roland TR-808 drum machine. Photograph: Publicity image

Tributes have been paid to the man behind the synthesiser and drum machines that revolutionised electronic music in the 1980s and 90s, Ikutaro Kakehashi, who has died aged 87.

The Japanese engineer founded the Roland Corporation in 1972 and invented a range of electronic drum machines and synthesisers used throughout popular music since the mid-1970s – by performers from Prince to New Order, Dr Dre to Kraftwerk.

Kakehashi led Roland for four decades, and in his time developed one of music’s best-known drum machines – the TR-808 – which formed the backbone of tracks in the hip-hop and dance music scenes of the 1980s and 90s. His death was revealed by a former colleague on Facebook.

Underground music producers of the 80s sparked a love affair with the drum machine because it was cheap, easy to use, and endlessly versatile. Musicians have likened its place in hip-hop and dance music to that of the Stratocaster guitar’s influence on rock music.

Graham Massey of 808 State, the Manchester dance act formed in 1987 and named after Kakehashi’s drum machine, said: “The Roland gear began to be a kind of Esperanto in music. The whole world began to be less separated through this technology, and there was a classiness to it – you could transcend your provincial music with this equipment.”

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