Clan Dyken: Trying to improve the world one song at a time

Bear and Mark Dyken and their Calaveras County family create music with a generous and compassionate ethos.

Clan DykenClan Dyken

Clan Dyken                                                              Bear Dyken

Written by Union Democrat staff August 05, 2010 01:52 pm

The family band Clan Dyken has been filling Calaveras County with its tribal-funk-eco-folk-rock-bluesy-hippie-soul music for years. Last Friday, two members of the band, songwriter Bear and drummer Mark, wove their haunting sound during the Angels Camp farmer’s market at Utica Park.

Between sets the brothers, both in their 50s, relaxed at a picnic table under the oaks and reminisced.
“We lived in Saukville, Wisconsin, when we were little. There was a chemical factory across the street, a cemetery behind our house, a landfill just down the road and the railroad running right by our place.”
Bear Dyken’s words tumble out of an earnest face, his black, straight-line eyebrows underscoring the truth of his description.
“Freeman Chemical mixed plastics and we were mad because they dumped their cleaning water into the river where we fished,” Bear continues. “We were about 11 or 12, and one of our first acts was collecting some of their water. We sent it to the state agency in charge of clean water. And the agency sent people out there and made them clean up their act.”
Mark picks up the story. “That was the year of the first Earth Day. People were talking about the environment. Wisconsin Senator (William) Proxmire was starting the Earth Day celebration, and we were on it.”
The brothers laugh, dark eyes dancing under a bandanna and hat. Clearly, the memory of their early success pleases them.
The oppressive heat of late afternoon is dissipating and a pleasant breeze blows by.
Mark recalls that he and Bear also had newspaper routes about that time. They’d ride their bikes, tossing papers to customers all over town, and while they pedaled and tossed, they listened to their pocket-sized transistor radios through little earplugs.
“Music really meant something back then,” Bear says. “It spoke to the issues of the day.”
Clan Dyken’s music has grown out of the sensibilities of those two young boys — battling big-corporate pollution and making music with a message.
The band, whose unique sound has been heard in movies, and at political rallies and nuclear plant protests, has 11 albums, a Web site ( and a dedicated following.
Arlene Weissman, of San Andreas, said she first heard the band’s passionate music of peace and justice and planetary salvation on KPFA, a Berkeley radio station, more than 20 years ago.
“I loved the sound,” she said. “And I still love it. I like the beat and the words.”
Columbia College freshman Kymri Harrison said she and her father have traveled with the band to big festivals. “I love their music because it’s spiritual and touching,” she said. “And it’s original, not something you’ve heard before.”
As the brothers talked about their music, a heavy-set middle-aged man walked up, slapped Bear’s shoulder and asked, “What is this, a hippie convention?”
Bear laughed. “See, we have redneck friends, too,” he said.
Bear says his lyrics come from his experiences. “I try to stay true to my feelings,” he said, adding that because feelings can change he doesn’t write a lot of love songs. “They’re like tattoos, you know,” he said with a grin.
Since its first recording was released in 1987, Clan Dyken’s songs have included themes of political resistance, justice and peace.

As I walked to my car in the gathering dusk, I thought about Bear’s parting words to me: “We do a lot of things with our music beyond making money. We use it to create the world we want.”

We are honored to have Clan Dyken as one of our musical artists now playing on No Lies Radio

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