Paiste (pronounced pie-stee) is the world’s third largest manufacturer of cymbals, gongs, and metal percussion and has been a family owned and operated business for four generations. Paiste is an Estonian word meaning “shine.” The company has made several innovations to cymbal design and manufacture, including the flat ride, the sound edge hi-hat, and the use of CuSn8 bronze as a cymbal alloy. Famous endorsers include Nicko McBrain (Iron Maiden), Vinnie Colaiuta (Frank Zappa), Alex Van Halen, Tico Torres (Bon Jovi), and Larry Mullen, Jr. (U2), to name but a few.
The Paiste story begins at the turn of the century in Russia when Michail Toomas Paiste, a composer and musician, whose father had come from Estonia to serve in the Tsarist Guard, founded a publishing business and music store in St. Petersburg.
“The operation, which also included modest instrument manufacturing and repair facilities, flourished for many years, and in 1906, he built the first Paiste cymbals,” says Erik Paiste, great grandson of Michail and current CEO and president of the supervisory board. “Unfortunately, the upheavals of the Russian Revolution forced the business to close.”
In 1917, Michail Toomas returned to his native country, Estonia, and reopened his business in the city of Tallinn. “It was here that he began to design and manufacture cymbals for concert and marching bands together with my grandfather, Michail M. Paiste,” says Erik. Seeking to meet the rapidly evolving demands of modern music, and the emerging drum set, Michail M. quickly became the company’s driving force and began developing his own special concept for Turkish-style cymbals, which he preferred over the Chinese-style that the company originally based its designs upon. During this time he also developed the company’s first gongs. The resulting instruments received international recognition as they began to be exported to Europe, the US, and overseas.
The events of World War II forced Michail M. to leave Estonia for Poland, where he re-established the family business. “The company struggled with wartime shortages of raw materials and had difficulty maintaining international relations, but they managed to survive,” says Erik. Toward the end of the war, Michail M. and his family escaped Poland as refugees. They landed in northern Germany where, for the third time, he began producing cymbals and gongs. Thanks to the company’s sterling reputation, it quickly revived its business relationships, and its robust export business continued through the 1950s.
Michael M. established manufacturing in Switzerland in 1957, and brought a third generation, sons Robert and Toomas, into the company. A new era began as Robert and Toomas made Paiste Switzerland the hub for its international business activities. By 1981, the company had gained a firm foothold in the world’s largest musical instrument market with the establishment of Paiste America in the US. Erik, Toomas’s son, has been running Paiste since 2003.