Sabian Cymbals founder Robert Zildjian dies aged 89

Part of the Zildjian family, Robert Zildjian began Sabian Cymbals in 1981
Part of the Zildjian family, Robert Zildjian began Sabian Cymbals in 1981

Robert Zildjian, the founder of Sabian Cymbals and a true giant in the drum industry, died today (28 March) at the age of 89 after a battle with cancer.

Robert was part of the legendary Zildjian family, makers of Armenian cymbals with a lineage that stretches back centuries. His father, Avedis III, founded the Zildjian Company in Boston in 1928. Robert and his older brother Armand became key players in popularizing the Zildjian brand and turning it into one premier manufacturers of cymbals in the world.

Avedis III passed away in 1979, and after an argument between the two brothers, Robert launched his own company, Sabian (the name is an acronym based on the first two letters of his children: SAlly, BIll, ANdy), in Meductic, New Brunswick, Canada, in 1981. The company quickly emerged as a powerhouse in the drum industry, with many of the world's top players choosing Sabian as their cymbal of choice.

A statement on the Sabian company website today reads as follows:

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.

Joe Bosso

Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar WorldGuitar PlayerMusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.