Roland Aira – Forget NAMM, the show has been stolen….

It’s the NAMM show next week where all the major music technology announcements will be made but Roland has already stolen the show with a product that we reckon won’t even been there: Aira. Fanning the flames of hype? Yes, we are…

Speculation that Aira is a brand new TR-808 – Roland’s classic dance drum machine – is rife. Not surprising given that the only thing Roland is saying is ‘now the evolution begins again’ after a video about the TR-808. In the latest issue of MusicTech, out now, we’ve included a lot of speculation and background about Roland’s announcement. Editor Andy Jones says…

“The rumours have been doing the rounds for a few weeks now. In a nutshell, Roland will be announcing something very big at the upcoming NAMM Show. Or actually maybe not, because it might be something that the company is not ‘officially’ showing that will end up making the headlines.

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We’ve heard that part of Roland’s stand will be roped-off – with no cameras allowed – and only specially invited people will be given clearance to catch a glimpse of new prototype Roland products. Further rumours suggest that these are products that have been worked on in top-secret for some time now. What these will turn out to be is obviously open to speculation, so we’re going to do just that…

Engineer, entrepreneur, founder and former Roland boss Ikutaro Kakehashi has been the driving force behind the company for the last 40 years, and has always had a very definite opinion on the products that the company should be releasing – or, should I say, not releasing…

He was adamant that Roland would definitely not produce anything that would go into a computer, telling this correspondent just that when I put that very question to him during a visit to the company back in 2002. He was also against rebuilding classic Roland gear, and the company always cited prohibitively expensive analogue components as being the primary reason that classic gear such as the Roland TB-303 and TR-808 – the two pieces of Roland hardware that were never actually intended to do dance music but ended up being the driving force behind it in the late 1980s and early 90s – would never be rebuilt.

“But Kakehashi is now no longer at the helm of the Japanese giant, so there are no such restrictions on future releases, and the obvious big ‘reveal’ could well be products that sit in either of these categories: classic or computer-based.”

And with Aira looking like a futuristic, Tron-like version of the 808, it looks like our speculation is spot on. The only question now is: is it just one of a new range of Roland instruments? Given that there are eight slots on the Roland website (www.roland.co.uk/aira/) and only one has been revealed we’d say ‘probably’. 

We will, of course, give you all the latest developments as they happen, and there’s more background, speculation and predictions in the new issue iof MusicTech, on sale today.

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