Ken Hyder

Primary Instrument: Drums

Born: June 29, 1946    

Ken Hyder

KEN HYDER, drums, percussion, voice, has been playing and composing music for over 40 years. In that time he’s produced over thirty albums of original material.

He began playing jazz in his native Scotland before moving south to London where he studied under John Stevens “ himself a renowned workshop leader and innovator. Hyder formed Talisker and went on to make six albums with this pioneering and proto-type Celtic jazz group.

In the 1970s he began moving away from jazz and into collaborations with musicians from different musical backgrounds including Irish, South African and South American players....
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”Hyder's debut record - Dreaming of Glenisla recorded 1975 - sounds for all the world like an Albert Ayler album released post-New Grass. The twin sax/twin bass lineup of Hyder's quintet creates a droning, cantatorial spiritsound one can imagine as the sound of Ayler's dreams.”

Doug Schulkind, WFMU

“In a recent interview, Hyder remarked that shamanistic drumming has nothing to do with timekeeping; it is a means of accessing spiritual energy. Beyond all expectations, this recording actually touches that energy source - it is charged with visceral yet transcendent vibrations. Simply awesome.”

Bill Tilland, BBC

“Hyder has one of the strongest strokes in jazz, deployed with an astonishing technique. Not for a moment does his polyrhythmic machine falter, his four limbs continuing to beat with an implacable precision.”

Oest France

“He propels his players with a frenzied energy and passion that's breathtaking.”

Fanfare, New York

“K-Space's new disc really offers something extraordinary… This is not a disc for background or for simple trance induction, although every moment is spellbinding. It's a disc that merges the technical prowess of free jazz's aftermath with the dreamiest ambience, all expertly shot through with field recordings and a startlingly and fluidly complex take on 'the beat.' The resulting sonic landscape would be a muddle without brilliant compositional aesthetics at work.

“When beats emerge, they are temporary, disjunctive and almost immediately absorbed again into the miasmic swirls, poignantly beautiful and somehow unsettling, that permeate the album. It's too cool for IDM (Intelligent Dance Music), too hot for trance, too formlessly simple for jazz and too formal and structured for improv. Maybe that's why I enjoy it so much.”

Marc Medwin reviewing Going Up

Dusted Magazine (USA)

Thirty-one years after Ken's first release -

Ken Hyder's Talisker Dreaming of Glenisla (Reel Recordings) Sonic deluges of grandeur burst forth from this sublime record, first birthed in 1975 by the Scottish free-improv drum shaman Ken Hyder and blessedly resurrected this year by a new label out of Dundas, Ontario. Dedicated to reissuing long lost gems on disc, Reel Recordings is using pioneering techniques to infuse digital audio with the all the warmth and lifelike playback heard on original analog tapes. It's a noble effort, especially in the service of captivating works of beauty like Dreaming of Glenisla. Hyder's debut, it sounds for all the world like an Albert Ayler album released post-New Grass when the tenor alchemist was experimenting with a woodwind contraption called the chanter—the blown portion of Scottish highland bagpipes. The twin sax / twin bass lineup of Hyder's quintet creates a droning, cantatorial spiritsound one can imagine as the sound of Ayler's dreams. Listen to: Drum Salute & Lament for Mal Dean

Doug Schulkind's Favorites of '07 WFMU Give the Drummer Some


“K-Space's new disc really offers something extraordinary… This is not a disc for background or for simple trance induction, although every moment is spellbinding. It's a disc that merges the technical prowess of free jazz's aftermath with the dreamiest ambience, all expertly shot through with field recordings and a startlingly and fluidly complex take on 'the beat.' The resulting sonic landscape would be a muddle without brilliant compositional aesthetics at work.

“When beats emerge, they are temporary, disjunctive and almost immediately absorbed again into the miasmic swirls, poignantly beautiful and somehow unsettling, that permeate the album. It's too cool for IDM (Intelligent Dance Music), too hot for trance, too formlessly simple for jazz and too formal and structured for improv. Maybe that's why I enjoy it so much.”

Marc Medwin reviewing Going Up, Dusted Magazine (USA)

“K-Space’s albums are too few and far between. Here’s a fresh one, just out on the Italian label Setola di Maiale, though recorded live in April 2009.

“The trio is still Gendos Chamzyryn on vocals & percussion, Tim Hodkinson on reeds, and Ken Hyder on percussion. A single 46-minute piece, gorgeous shamanic improvisation. Highly intense – not in terms of notes/sounds per minute, but because of the seriousness, depth, and trance emanating from it.

“This trio was already in a category of its own back in the mid-‘90s, and they haven’t lost an iota of their relevance.”

Francois Couture, Monsieur Delire, on Black Sky

“The group plays 'together' or 'separately' as if their individual universes flowed alongside each other without intersecting or touching - but then suddenly interpenetrate.

“Both these possibilities are inspired by shamanic beliefs. A group that is perfectly welded together, making music that's both committed and spiritual, simultaneously worldly and cosmic, without the least affectation or pretence. With their radical impulsion, and the crying urgency of their song, they walk in step with collective improvisation in its most honest and committed form.”

Orynx, France on Black Sky

“This extraordinary album certainly suggests suspension of rational norms, resulting in uncanny music that is beguilingly strange yet unnervingly familiar. At times it locks into regular incantatory rhythms; elsewhere sounds are combined according to some ritual that is inexplicable to the uninitiated. It's out there in Kozyrev space where the time flow assists telepathy. Get mystified. Get excited. There's laughter in there too.”

Julian Cowley, reviewing K-Space's Bear Bones CD in The Wire

“This is the wild side of shamanism, which makes no concession to fashion or marketing - improvisation and ecstasy are the key concepts.”

Arjan van Sorge reviewing K-Space's Bear Bones CD in Soft Secrets, Holland

“K-Space is a unique trio, an experience truly one-of-a-kind. Not another attempt at world fusion, Bear Bones presents experimental music stemming from a genuine Siberian background. We are taken elsewhere, in a world where rock rhythms equal shamanic trance, where the need to break free of established musical forms is as urgent and essential as everywhere else.

“Here and there a song structure arises, in With the Help of the Usual Instruments for instance. K-Space pushes the boundaries of free improvisation emphasizing a ritualistic relation to sound-making. Nothing can prepare you for the intensity and otherworldliness of this album.”

Francois Couture reviewing K-Space's Bear Bones CD for All Music Guide

“K-Space's Bear Bones is one of those rare beasts, a productive and respectful collaboration between western musicians and those from another culture. It sees UK improvisers Tim Hodgkinson (ex-Henry Cow) and Ken Hyder teaming up with Tuvan shaman Gendos Chamzyryn, whom they met on an extended expedition to explore the sonic aspects of shamanism in the mid-90s. Recorded in Siberia and elsewhere between 1996 and 2001, it shows that Hodgkinson and Hyder's groundwork paid off.

“On Bear Bones they neither co-opt Chamzyryn as exotic garnish to their existing music, nor do they go native and attempt to play totally in Tuvan style. Instead, the music takes account of the traditions each musician brings to the collaboration and fuses them to produce something new in which the musicians improvise with real understanding of each other's musical culture.

“It also carries with it some sense of the experiences Hyder and Hodgkinson had of the extremely strange fringe technology of Kozyrev's Mirrors at a research institute in Siberia. An abstruse device which I will not pretend to understand, Kozyrev's Mirrors can reputedly warp space and time and induce telepathic experiences akin to shamanic journeys. What is amazing is how well Bear Bones works.

“By turns scary, humorous, rhythmic and abstract, it is a truly stunning piece of work, unique, powerful and infused with a deep sense of shamanic otherness.”

Ian Simmons reviewing Bear Bones for nthposition

“As a listener I found myself drawn more and more into the sound world created by these three remarkable musicians, but as a reviewer I have struggled to find the words to accurately convey the feelings that the music has brought forth. Perhaps this is a good thing, a powerful reminder that music is a universal language, that says much ore than can be conveyed by mere words on a page.”

Bear Bones reviewed by Nick Lea for Jazz Views

“Who knows, but that here we may be catching glimpses of a whole new direction - not just cultural, but philosophical - for improvisation?” Bear Bones review in Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD

“Shams' CD - Burghan Interference - sensitively weaves Siberian influences into the tapestry of improv. Hyder's faraway vocal cries and sparing use of khoomei overtone style have an evocative, unpolished field recording quality, and he conjures further space with his light-touch cymbal play and skittering drum patterns.

“Hodgkinson's alto sax is persuasively querulous on 'Make Better Shake', and the steely twang and abrasive strums of his flat-guitar suggest a stripped down, primordial rock.

“Wonderfully paced, atmospheric improv by a first rate duo.”

Chris Blackford, The Wire

“'Siberia … jazz … shamanism', it says on the cover, and that's exactly what you get. What's fascinating about this is that most reasonably open-eared listeners to improvised music can simply take such ideas in their stride these days.

“The two musicians here knit their own improvisational ideas into the music of the difficult end of Russia.

“Hyder's interest in combining jazz and folk forms is of course legendary, but this duo offers a mixture of the one-time Cowster's instruments and Hyder's disconcertingly authentic-sounding shamanic vocalising in a style which seems to take the histories of the various musics involved and turn them inside-out, with Hyder also somehow managing to remain a jazz drummer throughout.

“The music is sometimes dense, sometimes spacious, but never dull, and comes highly recommended to anyone interested in taking a different set of improvisational parameters on board.”

Roger Thomas, Jazz Review (on the CD Burghan Interference)

“They have the conversational aspect of lively improv, and often the trio transcends even that to achieve a sense of inevitability, a ritualistic completion of each other's gestures.”

Boston Rock

“Shams is about rediscovering the source, the great learning, the essence of music making.

“Every nuance of artifice stripped bare the music is nothing more than the creative act itself, the communication of two people in sound ... there is a mutual tempering of the individual urge - it's obvious by the sheer control and harmony of their playing that both men are listeners as well as players, editing with their ears, controlling the flow from second to second.”

David Ilic, Time Out, London

“More than a concert - a total ritual gesture of extraordinary intensity.”

La Vanguaria, Spain

“The hurricane seemed to catch you in the mountains and roar in all voices, threatening the petty man. The most susceptible men were even shocked.”

Barnaul Gazette, Siberia

“The musicians communicated directly to the audience with an intense performance that erased frontiers between radically different styles.”

El Pais, Spain

“THE GOOSE share a common and studious interest in Siberian shamanic music, and although the four improvisations are non-idiomatic in character, something of the mysterious, incantatory presence of the shaman is discernible throughout.

“In its higher register, Ponomareva's voice leaps across vast imaginary landscapes; Hyder builds the rhythmic tension and Hodgkinson produces exotic bird-like cries. This is fertile terrain for the intrepid explorer.”

Jazz Magazine, UK


“Cool and quiet? One anticipates something from the Arvo Part stream of contemplation, but this evocation of the Solovki Archipelago in the White Sea is cantankerously hot and bothersome.

“Two Russians, Vladimir Miller (piano) and Vladimir Rezitsky (alto), meet a touchy old drummer from the Grampians: Ken Hyder. Beautifully played - free music of dignity, ferocity and eloquence, and pretty timeless at that. “

Richard Cook, the Wire

“Each of the three musicians is significant, but together the music adds up to much more than the sum of the parts. From sparse piano notes, brush strokes on cymbals and low saxophone notes and voice comes the feeling of Solovki. Or not.

“Those who have ears will hear it.”

Alphabet - Moscow 99

“Their music can call on the powerful directness of Albert Ayler or the open conversational abstractions of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble with equal ease. Rezitsky is constantly driving the three with his slightly acidic tone and sharp, probing phrasing.

“Hyder's stuttering, free percussion splashes along, carrying the improvisations forward with a propulsive, open momentum. Miller plays with stabbing clusters that break across the other two voices; fitting in perfectly between the alto player's forceful edge and the percussionist's sense of open space.

“This is music that demands careful listening and delivers with playing informed by passion and dynamic energy.”


“Certainly it's a fine match of temperaments, unsentimental yet emotionally charged. Miller, too avoids flamboyance, building solos through sure and steady accumulation, gravity in the harmonies, tenderness in the touch. Hyder's constructions draw equally on dance and industry, as self-sustaining as ritual, as functional as the chug of locomotive pistons.”

Julian Cowley, The Wire (reviewing Counting on Angels CD)

“Hyder's unusual pairing of shamanic beats with delicate percussion filigrees meshes so completely with Miller's tightly-drawn harmonic repetitions that you forget there's no bass player fleshing out the sound. Using the repetitively hypnotic left-hand vamps of a Mal Waldron and the forceful atonal right hand jabs of Cecil Taylor, Miller is both rooted and free, at once inviting us into his music whilst throwing down the shutters should we get too cosy.”

Fred Grand, Jazz Review (reviewing Counting on Angels CD)

Below a new review of Ghost Time AND K-Space CDs by Ken Waxman of Canada's Jazzword:- Ghost Time Ghost Time Hinterzimmer Records HINT 16 K-Space Black Sky Setola Di Maiale SM2410

“While dogged experimenters in so-called ecstatic or trance-inducing music may think they’re inventing the genre, sounds such as these precede modern musical notation and the use of electronics by thousands of years. That’s why the projects of Scottish drummer Ken Hyder are often so fascinating. His knowledge of both ancient folk forms and contemporary improvisation exposes both the primitivist history and futuristic impulses of such sounds. ”A Dundee native, and now a frequent visitor to Tuva, Hyder studied Celtic Irish and Scottish music, founded the Celtic Jazz group Talisker in the 1970s and has recorded with the likes of Scottish vocal improviser Maggie Nichols and Russian pianist Vladimir Miller. Equally arresting, each of these trio CDs featuring him outline a variant of the ecstatic tradition. ”Overwhelmingly acoustic, Black Sky is a new take on Tuvan shamanism. Besides the drummer, who also chants realistically, the participants are British lap steel guitarist and clarinetist Tim Hodgkinson, who was in the avant-rock band Henry Cow, but who is now often found in the company of improvisers. Even stronger links to Sino sonic history come from K-Space’s third member, Tuvan shaman and overtone singer Gendos Chamzyryn who also plays percussion and the doshpuluur or long-necked Tuvan lute here. Electronics, which are sparingly used on the first CD, dominate the sound field on Ghost Time, creating ultramodern shamanistic sounds. Hyder’s partners here are British trumpeter Andy Knight who mutates his tone through electronic processing; and American-born, Amsterdam-based sound artist Z’ev, who studied music in Ghana, Bali and India music and has worked with a variety of fellow experimenters like British rocker Genesis P. Orridge and French sound duo, K.K. Null. On Ghost Time, Z’ev uses alto and baritone rolmos or Tibetan ritual cymbals, while Hyder plays tenor rolmos as well as drums. His vocals mix Scottish and Tuvan overtone singing. ”Black Sky’s 40-minute-plus single track cunningly melds a collection of broken-octave outreaches into an ever-shifting phantasmagoria. Besides the vocal incantations which range from echoes of melismatic davening, exerted panting, fulsome near-retching and what could be Native Indian rhythmic chanting, mouth-and-throat gymnastics share space with instrumental intimations. Hodgkinson’s reed strategies morph from fierce overblowing to simple clarinet puffs while the combination of his lap steel and Chamzyryn’s doshpulur encompass fierce Jew’s harp-like twanging as well as lick-trading that could come from a Bluegrass banjo and mandolin showcase. On his own the Tuvan’s strums are a bit artless. On the other hand he and Hyder work up percussion passages that add a steel-drum-like lilt to the proceedings. With the narrative’s final variations driven by a backbeat that is half Pow Wow and half Hard Rock, distant reed smoothness unites with bell-tree-like shakes, wooden lute picking and basso chants, creating a finale that never loses the plains-like spaciousness of the exposition. ”Spaciousness is one adjective that could be applied to Knight’s trumpet strategy which reveals its slivers of muted brass vibrations among the splashes and quivers of the signal- processed electronic whooshes. Throughout Ghost Time’s four mid-length tracks his grace notes make their presence felt, appearing from among ring modulator-like gonging and quivering, buzzing, repetitive cymbals loops and similar vocalized textures from Hyder. ”Overall the CD reaches distinct crescendos with 'Faint' and 'Glimpse' as the osmosis of grace-note brass leveling and layered scrapes on Tibetan cymbals combine pleasantly alongside concentrated oscillations that resemble waves lapping against the shore. These contrapuntal pulsations finally climax on 'Glimpse' as multi-fold colors from each instrument becomes apparent. With the final miasmatic variant including a melancholy dirge as well as highly synthesized flanges, this trio’s interaction posits a novel approach to shamanistic sounds. As up-to-date as it is time-honored, this new concept allows electronics to explicitly extend the more traditional-oriented program of K-Space.”

Ken Waxman

K-SPACE: Black Sky Here we leave the realm of music altogether. The three performers, Tim Hodgkinson, Ken Hyder and Gendos Chamzyryn are on the same record but they seem orientated inward; where most improvisation works toward the care of a sum; Black Sky seems to work more toward what Cage claimed to be after in his attempts to ‘let the sounds be themselves’. He pursued that mechanically, with instructions and stopwatches and the vain hope that performers wouldn’t follow their natural inclination to entrainment (to get in synch with, be pulled along by..). K-Space do it emotionally - through some species of discipline, I assume. The result is fascinating, suspended, incomprehensible. Inspired cover art, L. ReR


“This is one of the all-time great albums of folk-jazz to come out of Britain - or anywhere - in the last 30 years.”

Fanfare, New York

“Their radical deconstructions of Scottish songs and tunes give an unorthodox and challenging twist to familiar material.”

Kenny Mathieson, The List, Scotland

“A remarkable album - the deepest kind of fusion.”

Penguin Guide to Jazz On CD re The Known Is In The Stone

“The music they unfold grabs the soul. It goes to the deepest levels, to the essentials. It's magisterial simplicity. You are gripped throughout - and the only regret is when it ends.”

L'Alsace, on Hoots and Roots at the Mulhouse festival

“Their performance at the Mulhouse festival subtly slipped between traditional Scottish folk songs and improvisation. “By the way they lifted the emotion, the alternation of sufferings, joys and struggles, the inventiveness of Maggie Nicols, and the significantly just-right, economic and precise playing of Ken Hyder, Hoots and Roots gave one of the best concerts of the festival. A hugely thrilling performance.”

Improjazz, France

“Ken Hyder and Maggie Nicols - both Scots - have been playing together since the mid-1970s. Scottish traditional music was the starting point for their performance - for it was a theatrical performance as much as a concert - but it actually contained large and small bites from different music genres.

“To be able to keep the improvisation going on for almost one hour as they did - without it becoming toothless - demands a great deal of concentration and discipline from the artists. Their concert was an example of a successful improvisation - because both discipline and concentration were onstage. Hyder and Nichols were attentively listening to each other, but, at the same time, producing independent initiatives, which lifted the music to an even higher level.

“They went to the extremes to create their own expressions, following up each other's efforts continuously throughout the concert. Hyder's sound - like snowflakes falling - on his cymbals was meeting Nicols' soft and whispering voice as steady and as co-ordinated as when they let their music go with full force ahead.

“Nicols' song technique impressed as much as Hyder's ground-solid rhythmical accompaniment. Good timing and good handcraft - that's was it was.”

Brigitte Gretland, Fredrikstad Blad, Norway


“The record's got so many cavernous passages and quickly approaching freeways into energy that it simply should make its way into any collection under consideration.”

Cadence - USA

“This approach is truly original. I must say that I have not previously heard such moods and expression - this music dwells at the level of richness that is quite unheard of.”

Improjazz - France

“Their combination of Tibetan chant and free improvisation produces music that makes your hair stand on end. This is not an idolising of eastern appearances - but a collective journey through sound.”

Jazz Nu (Holland)

“A rather grand name for such a small group, but what a range! This is what Jim Dvorak would call spirit music, dense, joyous sounds that seem to belong to no tradition exclusively.

“There is a visceral physicality to the group's interaction, a toughness and humour which give long improvisations like 'On the mend', 'Inside Out' and the opening 'No Harm Done' an almost matey, conversational quality.

“How much of the music is predetermined remains difficult to judge. And hardly matters.”

Penguin book of Jazz

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