Obituary: Riza Arshad (1963 – 2017)

Photo source: harian88
Photo source: harian88

by Teuku Mahfud

I was truly saddened to learn Riza Arshad died yesterday, when I read Indonesia’s Rolling Stone’s online article about this big loss. Riza who was an impeccable jazz pianist in his own right, died peacefully in his sleep of unknown cause, in Bandung (Friday, January 13, 2017).

I remember in 1997 when my mentor and bandmate Moritza Thaher showed me simakDialog‘s first album Lukisan (released in 1996) for the first time. I knew Tohpati and Indro Hardjodikoro from the famed fusion band Halmahera, then having a new project called simakDialog, but I have not heard about Riza Arshad before. He was unknown to me that time.

Then I was surprised listening to a different kind of Indonesian jazz fusion music played by simakDialog in Moritza’s living room. I sensed Pat Metheny, Yellow Jackets and Weather Report style mixed with the quartet’s own brilliant ideas. It gave me a whole different thought about Indonesian jazz fusion music at that time. Tohpati and Indro’s playing in the album really impressed me. They were in a higher level compared to what they had shown in their previous projects. Arie Ayunir’s drumming really broke my heart. He then became one of my favorite Indonesian drummer until now. Riza Arshad’s flawless piano and synths playing flew me high in the sky. I believed his God-like music approaching would make him a jazz legend later.

I didn’t follow Riza and simakDialog since 2000, the year I started my own company that made me really busy. Even it made me stop playing and listening music. Well, not a full stop, but at least it had alienated me from my music life and I still played occasionally.

It was until I heard Patahan in 2006, simakDialog’s fourth full-length album, I’ve got myself “connected” with Riza Arshad again. My most favorite tune in the album is Kain Sigli. It was killing me!  Not because it mentioned Sigli, a city in Aceh that me and Nyak “Ubiet” Ina Raseuki share as our hometown. Nirwan Dewanto’s poetic lyric; Riza and Ubiet’s unison playing that reminds me of Chick Corea during his Return to Forever era; have made the song became a masterpiece!  Riza’s divine touch really made my mind traveling to another world. Riza was a God!

Born as Sjahriza Arsjad on 2 November 1963, Riza had his first piano learning at 6 old years. He was trained classical and pop music by Rumende, Aries Dauna and Bambang Nugroho.  Jack and Indra Lesmana taught him Jazz, a music that he loved so much. He co-founded progressive rock act Rara Ragadi with Iwan Arshad, Raidy Noor and Cendy Luntungan in 1978, and released an eponymous album a year after.  He then played and recorded with many Indonesian giants e.g Erwin Gutawa, Ekki Sukarno, Eet Sjahranie and Jack Lesmana.

He formed simakDialog in 1993 and had released 7 albums i.e  Lukisan (1996), Baur (1999), Trance/Mission (2002), Patahan (2006), Demi Masa (2008), The 6th Story (2012), and Live at Orion (2014). The 6th Story won two 2014 Anugerah Musik Indonesia Awards for Best Jazz Album and Best Jazz Instrumental Duo/Group.

Riza also released Trioscapes ini 2003. Another album Piano Duet Guitar was released ini 2014 with Robert MR.

He is survived by his wife Reny Agustia.

Good bye Riza Arshad, may Allah grant you husnul khatimah.


Riza Arshad’s biography was quoted from WartaJazz.

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2 thoughts on “Obituary: Riza Arshad (1963 – 2017)

  • January 18, 2017 at 9:40 pm

    Innalilahi wainna ilaihi rojiun. Selamat jalan Ija 🙁

  • January 19, 2017 at 7:43 am

    Turut berduka cita, semoga almarhum diterima segala amalannya dan dihapuskan semua dosanya. Amin


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