Roland Founder and MIDI Pioneer Ikutaro Kakehashi Dies at 87

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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


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.

  • Uncle Ocelot


  • InkViper

    In Your Honour Mr MIDI.

    For Whom the Bell Tolls (Metallica) MIDI

  • Matthew Sigler
  • RPG

    I have a Roland electronic drum kit and I love it. Roland has always been the golden standard in e-drum kits.
    As to a favorite video game Midi soundtrack, I don’t think I could even make that decision. DOOM, Castlevania, the list goes on and on.
    Rest in piece Kakehashi san. Thank you for all of the amazing things you have brought us.

  • NukeA6

    R.I.P. Midi is one of my favorite music hardware and I liked when it was the standard for the Internet back in the day (especially for the Halloween web sites).

  • [F]

  • Fenrir007

    Rest in Peace, Square Enix PC ports composer.

  • Γεώργιος Αρχαιοκαπηλίδης

    RIP. :(

  • BubbaHoTep

    Roland synths were behind many of the big classics; the MT-32 was used a fair bit by Sierra for games like King’s Quest and Space Quest, as well as Lucas Arts for Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle. Then there’s both Doom and Duke Nukem 3D that were composed on a Roland SC-55, same with Final Fantasy VI which used samples from the SC-55 for it’s SNES soundtrack, with the later SC-88 being used to create the soundtrack for Final Fantasy VII and Earthworm Jim. R.I.P.

  • Neojames82

    I grew up with MIDI in lots of music and also love MIDI remixes of many video game and other music tracks. RIP Mr. Kakehashi.

  • UnpluggedBeta

    It’s a shame we only hear about these guys when they pass away.