From his well-deserved induction at Rockwalk.

I was saddened to learn this morning that earlier today, Tsutomu Katoh, founder and chairman of Korg, passed away. He was a rare visionary, not only the founder of one of the great electronic instrument manufacturers, but – unlike the vast majority of his counterparts – someone who stayed at the helm of the business he created. Founded nearly 50 years ago, Korg, started with Tadashi Osanai, was one of the first businesses to popularize electronic instruments as we now know them. Kato, a veteran Shinjuku nightclub owner, bet on the legendary DoncaMatic drum machine – an innovation that recently earned him a cameo with the Gorillaz – and the rest is history. One of the fathers of modern electronic music making, he will be sorely missed, and the news is even sadder in this difficult week for our friends in Japan. Our thoughts are with you, as with the former founders’ friends, family, and colleagues, as his vision lives on.

From a letter circulated earlier today:

Dear Sirs and Madams,

I would like to inform you that our founder and chairman Mr. Tsutomu Katoh passed away early this morning (March 15, 2011) after a long fight with cancer.

Since he founded Korg Inc. in 1963, Mr. Katoh has led our company with great talent, vision and leadership. He was loved and respected by all the employees, all Korg family members and made a huge contribution to the lives of countless musicians around the world.

Plans for a memorial service will follow very soon.

I would appreciate your prayers for him and hope he can rest peacefully now.


Seiki Kato
Korg Inc.

Remembering Tsutomu Katoh:
40 Years Of Korg Gear: The History Of Korg, a three-part series by Gordon Reid for Sound on Sound; pt. 2, pt. 3

Video interview at NAMM

I welcome your memories and thoughts here, and any other obituaries you see; we’ll do a retrospective soon.

Matrixsynth has an especially nice story with more images and video and stories:
RIP Mr. Tsutomu Katoh – Founder of Korg

  • emplo

    Tsutomu-san –

    Salute. May God be with you and your homeland.

  • Sad news. My first synth was a Korg, I remember drooling over it for months until I could actually afford to buy it, that was 18 years ago, was still one of the best synths I've ever owned.

    May he rest in eternal peace.

  • Another loss of a great founding figure of the scene. The history of how these companies began, and how their founders boot-strapped their way into global significance, is fascinating.

    Would love to read a feature on this – something for you in Keyboard, Peter?

  • Julien

    I'm sure many will laud the classics, and rightly so, but what amazes me is, unlike the other two Japanese giants of synthesizers, Korg has adapted, managed to stay current, in tune with the needs of all musicians, not just the big stage keyboard players who could afford an OASYS keyboard.

    The Kaoss pad, the microKeyboards, the monotron, the virtual versions of their own classic instruments for VST, iPad, Nintendo DS… None of these made a lot of sense. I mean, micro-keys? a blinky stylophone? And all of these have become some of the most sought-after music-making tools around today. There's a pattern.

    This is a man with vision, who made musicians' lives better. He made music itself better.

    Thanks, Mr. Katoh.

  • glomag

    I just bought a microkorg today. Thanks for the great post, Peter.

  • Wow, Korg has lost a great man. Let's hope there are more (wo)men with vision at this innovative company.

  • Rest in peace. Thanks for everything.

  • Rest in peace dude 😉

  • KORG fan forever. May he rest in peace.

  • fab aisling

    i won't forget the beautiful moments ,using all the keyboards you created .
    rest in peace .

  • Damon

    Wow, RIP

    I should note, of all the gear I have used, I always found Korg to be the most friendly. The spirit of Korg gear always seems to me encouraging rather than maliciously destructive and domineering. Dare I say, family positive. And that is quite a unique and admirable legacy in the times we live in.

  • No mention of the Entrancer.
    We need more of these products…

  • Duncan

    Great respect for the man.
    Love what he has done for music.
    May he rest in peace.

  • microKORG, KAOSS Pads, Monotron

    Korg and Tsutomu Katoh have given us a lot of products that greatly changed what was available to the average producer or dj. Rest in peace.

    I fear that this is a sign of what is to come, many of the pioneers are in the later parts of their lives. Will these companies try to find replacements as a face for the their companies (i.e. will there be another Linn, Moog, or even Katoh)?