Robert Zildjian Dies: Sabian Cymbal Founder Changed Drummers' Sound

Friday, 29 Mar 2013 08:26 AM

By Megan Anderle

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Robert “RZ” Zildjian, founder of the Sabian Inc., one of the most popular cymbal manufacturing companies in the world, has died. He was 89.

The company announced Zildjian's passing on its website Thursday and said it would be closed until Monday. The announcement had no details about his death.

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Most concert goers have probably heard Sabian cymbals. Drummers Chad Smith of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Neil Peart of Rush, and Mike Portnoy, of progressive metal band Dream Theater, use the cymbals, according to Exclaim! Magazine, a Canadian music magazine.

Zildjian worked for his father's company, Avedis Zildjian Co., a major cymbal maker, for most of his life. When his father passed in 1979, he faced a serious legal battle with his brother Armand over the inheritance of the company. Zildjian went his own way, founding rival company Sabian in 1981 in Meductic, New Brunswick. The companies are competitors to this day.

Zildjian is credited with reinventing the cymbal industry, remaining active in the company for years.

"Having been dealt a major career setback at an age where most men would have opted for retirement, RZ instead chose to re-invent the cymbal business with his own hand-crafted brand, a brand that would forever change the face and sound of popular music," the company wrote of the entrepreneur on its website.

His company is named after Zildjian's children, Sally, Bill and Andy.

Zildjia comes from a long line of cymbal makers. Avedis Zildjian I was a 17th-century Armenian alchemist.

"While attempting to make gold by combining base metals, he discovered an alloy of copper, tin and traces of silver with unique sound qualities," the Zildjian Company website says.

In 1618, Avedis used the secret alloy to create cymbals of clarity and power that was unparalleled at the time. The Armenian Sultan invited Avedis to live at court and make cymbals for elite bands, which started his reputation and career in the industry.

Five years later, the cymbal maker started his own business. The company has been passed down generation after generation until the family relocated to the United States in 1929, at which point Zildjian's father was in charge. Before then, cymbals were hardly used in America.

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