Roland Founder and MIDI Pioneer Ikutaro Kakehashi Dies at 87

This is Niche Gamer Tech. In this column, we regularly cover tech and things related to the tech industry. Please leave feedback and let us know if there’s tech or a story you want us to cover!

If you’ve played a number of video games, chances are you’ve played a game whose soundtrack was output through the MIDI standard. Coming from this, we’ve learned the unfortunate news that Ikutaro Kakehashi, the founder of electronic instrument company Roland and MIDI pioneer, has died at 87.

Kakehashi founded Roland Corporation in Osaka back in 1972, to which the company focused on producing not just drum machines but synthesizers, audio interfaces, and even tricks with electric guitar.

Game developers have used Roland hardware for a long time, beginning with things like Roland’s MT-32 sound module for DOS games, with the later Roland SC-55 finally allowing developers to create soundtracks that could play across multitudes of sound cards from various manufacturers.

Roland was also paramount in the development of the MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) standard, which enables music hardware and software to communicate. The standard isn’t used much anymore as technical restraints have mostly gone to the wayside, but there are throwback games still mimicking its process.

Titles with iconic, breathtaking soundtracks like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Suikoden II, to pretty much anything you can think of predating the past couple game hardware generations probably used the MIDI standard.

Roland’s hardware even powered or inspired a number of popular musicians and hits throughout the decades, including Nine Inch Nails, Phil Collins, Marvin Gaye, and even Kanye West.

Kakehashi retired back in 2013, but not before getting recognized for his contributions to the music industry via a Technical Grammy, as well as a spot on Hollywood’s Rock Walk of Fame.

What’s your favorite game soundtrack done through MIDI? Sound off in the comments below!

Brandon Orselli

About

Big Papa Overlord at Niche Gamer. Italian. Dad. Outlaw fighting for a better game industry. I also write about music, food, & beer. Also an IT guy.