“Tim Keiper is redefining the research within and around his instrument and blurring the lines between percussion, modern art, and theater.” –Chain DLK
Drummer and percussionist Tim Keiper transcends categorization. Based in NYC, he has spent the last 15 years touring the world, playing and recording with such diverse artists as Cyro Baptista, Vieux Farka Touré, John Zorn, Matisyahu, Dirty Projectors, Hazmat Modine, and Skeleton Key. Equally at home rocking explosive rhythms in the West African desert, laying down grooves in a jazz club, or constructing an avant-garde sound experience bordering on performance art, Keiper has a deep knowledge of an eclectic set of music traditions and genres. His ability to speak each musical language so authentically, yet imprint the music with his rich experience and canny sensibility, defines his inimitable playing.
Born in Red Bank, NJ, Keiper moved to New York City in 1999 to play music. It was here that he was able to open his musical universe by immersing himself in the thriving Downtown music scene while at the same time studying the music of Brazil, West Africa, and India. This was the beginning of his ongoing pursuit to embrace a multitude of cultural and musical traditions and assimilate them into his own pioneering approach to drumming.
By the time he finished college, Keiper was playing with Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista’s 10-piece percussion ensemble Beat the Donkey. Baptista taught him about the world of Brazilian music and rhythms as well as the infinite possibilities of building instruments and creating the sounds of one’s environment.
In 2002, he took a gig as junk percussionist with art rock band Skeleton Key. It was his role to create the sounds of New York City with an original set up of things foraged from the garbage: propane tanks, fire extinguishers, chains, saw blades, crank sirens, and a pogo stick, some of which still grace his kit today. This spurred his fascination with creating captivating sounds in unorthodox ways.
In 2005, Keiper played on the debut record of Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré. After spending a year on the road together, Touré invited him to his home village of Niafunké and the ancient city of Timbuktu to play the Festival in the Desert. He was introduced to the doson ngoni, or sorcerer's harp, as well as the calabash, one of the primary traditional drums of Mali. Both instruments, with their distinctive sounds, have since become essential parts of his music. Keiper has played on all of Touré’s studio records in addition to performing at the opening ceremony to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in Johannesburg.
Earlier this year, he reconnected with long-time friend Matisyahu and recorded Live at Stubb’s, Vol. III. With Aaron Dugan on guitar and Rob Marscher on keys, this more stripped down setting creates the perfect space to capture the group’s spontaneous experimentation and improvisation. They will tour the new record this fall.
Keiper is also spending 2015 on the road with Vieux Farka Touré’s new project Touristes, Cyro Baptista’s Banquet of the Spirits, John Zorn, and Hazmat Modine. His own band, Eclipticalia, influenced by the sounds of NYC, Timbuktu, and Outer Space, has a record due out later this year.
Keiper teaches at New York University.