It is with great sadness that we have learned of the passing today of Riza Arshad, keyboardist extraordinaire, at the early age of 53.
I first heard his name in 1995 when a student of mine learning English told me that she was learning jazz piano from Riza. We later met on 22nd October at the first Pat Metheny gig in Jakarta, and she told me that Riza was there too, and she gave me a copy of simakDialog’s ‘Sampler Tape’.
It wasn’t until 2008 that I got to meet Riza at the launch of their album Demimasa and was suitably blown away at the blend of free jazz and Sundanese percussion. Following that, I interviewed Riza* through an email exchange, some of which I incorporated in the second edition of Culture Shock! Jakarta.
What came through was his wide musical interests, not just in jazz pianists, and that his “efforts [were] devoted for the growth of jazz in Indonesia.” He was the curator of Serambi Jazz at Goethe Haus in Jakarta, a bi-monthly gig “featuring loads of talented musicians that have always dedicated their lives to music.”
Away from simakDialog, Riza recorded a number of albums which demonstrated his willingness to spread his musical wings.
Riza played accordion on Ubiet’s Kroncong Tenggara (’07), around the same time that he was playing ‘subtle fusion’ with Trioscapes, with Arie Ayunir, the first drummer in simakDialog, later replaced by Aksan Sjuman, and Yance Manusama on bass.
Riza was a link with the early jazz generation – he felt honoured to play with Bubi Chen – and was a mentor to the next.
There was W/H/A/T with Sandy Winarta, Sri Hanuraga, Riza Arshad and Indrawan Tjhin. “I think it’s natural and normal that we like to work with the young stars. They have high energy, high idealism and are amazing with their instruments.“
Later, with Tuslah (yet to release an album), with Sri Hanuraga, Elfa Zulham and Adra Karim, he was playing music of outstanding quality. Riza told me after one of their gigs that he was very happy playing with younger musicians because he felt energised by them.
IndoJazzia offers condolences to Riza’s immediate family and his many friends who are immensely saddened by his premature passing.
In his memory, we offer simakDialog’s ‘Sample Tape’ from 1995.
1 Time Has Changed
2. On The Way Home
#1, 2 by Riza Arshad
#3, 4 by Tohpati
Download from here.
*Note: Read Jazzuality’s interview from 2010 here
Terry Collins on behalf of IndoJazzia.