Ikutaro Kakehashi, the Japanese engineer who founded synthesizer giant Roland Corp. and had a defining impact on shaping the sound of electronic, hip-hop and dance music, has died. He was 87.
ATV Corp., a company Mr. Kakehashi founded in 2013, after he left Roland, declined to give details about his death, citing the family’s wishes for privacy. Japanese media reports said Mr. Kakehashi died April 1.
Mr. Kakehashi founded Roland in 1972, and the company’s first product was the rhythm machine. Since then, Roland instruments have graced the stage of top artists, including Lady Gaga and Omar Hakim.
Mr. Kakehashi received a Grammy in 2013 for developing MIDI, or Musical Instrument Digital Interface, which digitally connects instruments.
“Music literally would not be what it is today without Mr. Kakehashi,” said Steven Fisher, now at Yamaha and a former employee at Roland, who worked with Mr. Kakehashi on electronic percussion and drum products.
Mr. Kakehashi was born in Osaka, Japan, on Feb. 7, 1930. According to a biographical account in the Times Higher Education Supplement, he was orphaned at 2 and nearly died of tuberculosis at 20, and he ran an electrical appliance store, repairing watches and building radios, before making musical instruments in his late 20s.
Mr. Kakehashi always stressed that the advent of electronic music was not at odds with acoustic instruments nor was it trying to undermine the rich legacy of music. But amplification held great potential, including the possibility to create various speakers as well as present music to far larger audiences, like the hundreds at concert halls, not the previous dozens in old-style chamber settings, he said.
One Roland product he liked to show off was a guitar that was a collaboration with Fender. The instrument could not only play Stratocaster riffs but also the sounds of an acoustic guitar, sitar and 12-string acoustic guitar, as well as instantly drop octaves and distort notes.
“The options have widened,” Mr. Kakehashi said of electronic music at a Roland seminar in 2012. “I believe the ways of musical expression have expanded.”