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Robert Zildjian Dies: Top 10 Facts You Need to Know

Robert Zildjian Dies, Sabian Cymbals

Robert Zildjian, founder of the world’s second largest cymbal manufacturer, passed away on Thursday, March 28, at the age of 89. Here’s what you need to know about this giant in the drum industry.


1. Robert “RZ” Zildjian Founded Sabian Cymbals
Robert Zildjian, Robert Zildjian Dies
Robert “RZ” Zildjian founded Sabian Cymbals in 1981 after splitting from his father’s cymbal company, the Avedis Zildjian Company. Sabian Cymbals is one of the most popular brands of cymbals today. While certainly at an age where he could have retired, Zildjian remained active in Sabian management until recently, spending the rest of his days in a cottage in Meductic, New Brunswick.


2. He Died of Cancer
Robert Zildjian Dies
Zildjian died Thursday at the age of 89 following a battle with cancer.


3. A Statement on the Sabian Company Website Commemorated Zildjian

It is with deep, deep sorrow that we announce the passing of Robert “RZ” Zildjian, our beloved founder and leader. A tireless and dynamic force within the drum industry, he inspired each one of us in the Sabian family to work harder, to reach farther, to make a difference — and he led us by example.

His professional story is well known. 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. With his bare hands he shaped the Sabian cymbal brand into his life’s story — and by extension we became his family.

We mourn his passing, and he will be forever in our hearts. But we are better people for having known RZ, and we are richer for having worked alongside him. We draw comfort from the knowledge that his spirit will live on in the music made by drummers the world over.

Rest in peace, RZ.


4. His Father Founded the Zildjian Company in 1928
Robert Zildjian, Robert Zildjian Dies, Avedis Zildjian Cymbals

Avedis Zildjian

Robert Zildjian comes from a well-known family rich in accomplishments. Avedis Zildjian I was a 17th century Armenian alchemist. According to the Zildjian Company website, “while attempting to make gold by combining base metals, he discovered an alloy of copper, tin and traces of silver with unique sound qualities.” Avedis used this new material to create magnificent-sounding cymbals and started Avedis Zildjian Cymbals in 1623. The family company has been passed down to Zildjians ever since. Robert Zildjian’s father, Avedis Zildjian III, came to America from Constantinople in 1909 and founded the Zildjian Company in 1928. The Zildjian Company went on to become the number one largest cymbal manufacturing company in the world. Before the Zildjian Company, cymbals were hardly used in popular music in America. Avedis Zildjian helped transform the percussion industry as we know it today.


5. The Zildjian Company is the Longest Family Run Business in America
Avedis Zildjian, Robert Zildjian, Robert Zildjian Dies
In 1927, Avedis received a letter from his uncle in Turkey, Aram, telling him that it was his turn to take over the family business of the ancient art of cymbal making. Instead of returning to Turkey, Avedis convinced Aram to move the company to America. The company had a rough start, since demand for cybals was low and especially after the Great Depression hit, but the Zildjian Company still went on to become the largest cymbal maker in the world.

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6. Robert and His Brother Became Key Players in Popularizing the Zildjian Brand

Robert Zildjian, Robert Zildjian Dies

Robert’s brother Armand Zildjian (right), posing with Country singer Johnny Tillotson, producer Michael Lloyd
and West L.A. Music’s Don Griffin.


Robert and his younger brother, Armand, took over their father’s company and became the ambassadors of the Zildjian brand.


7. He Left His Family’s Cymbal Company After His Father Died
Avedis Kiljian, Robert Kildjian, Robert Kildjian Dies
When Avedis died in 1979, a dispute arose between the two brothers because although family tradition had it that the family secrets of the company would be passed down to the eldest son, Avedis shared the information with both Robert and Armand. Robert left the company and went on to creating a rival company, Sabian Cymbals.


8. Sabian is the Second Largest Manufacturer of Cymbals in the World

Sabian Cymbals is the second largest manufacturer of cymbals in the world, of course, only after the Zildjian Company. The above video is a tour of the Sabian Cymbals factory.


Robert Zildjian, Robert Zildjian Dies

Robert Zildjian’s son, Andy Zildjian.


9. Sabian is an Acronym for His Children’s Names

Sabian is an acronym based on the first two letters of each of Zildjian’s children, Sally, Bill and Andy.


10. Sabian Cymbals Are Used by Many Famous Drummers Around the World
Sabian Cymbals are used by some of the world’s most famous drummers, including Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Neil Peart of Rush, and drumming legend Mike Portnoy, formerly of progressive metal giants Dream Theater.

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