|Styles:||Neo-folk, world groove, chillout, folk, ethno techno, ambient – bright, acid folk|
|Discography:||2012 – Aye: The Best of Martyn Bennett
2010 – Birds & Beasts (by McFall’s Chamber)
2003 – GRIT
2002 – Glen Lyon
2000 – Hardland
1998 – Bothy Culture
1996 – Martyn Bennett
An Ode to Martyn Bennett
I did not know him.
A pioneer in the world fusion music, Martyn Bennett died far too young in 2005 at the age of 33 after a five year struggle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The Telegraph newspaper described Bennett in his obituary: “A gentle and generous figure with a ready sense of humour, Bennett was unfailingly interested in developments in roots music. He continued to attend gigs and to work with other musicians throughout his illness.” He is sorely missed.
In 1998 I was a DJ at a small radio station doing a traditional world music show when I discovered Bennett’s Bothy Culture in the new arrivals. It was an incredible album, a work of sheer genius that showed me what was possible in world fusion music. Bothy Culture, along with Hendingarna’s Tra, changed my musical direction and ever since I have been immersed in world fusion music. Bennett has always had a special place in my heart.
If Martyn Bennett was not the most talented musician in Scotland, it is hard to imagine who could be. Though born in Newfoundland, Bennett passionately embraced and studied Scottish music. His family moved to Scotland when he was six and he learned small pipes, violin, piano, and traditional bagpipes. Though classically trained, he also grew up in the rave scene and he experimented with fusing traditional and modern Scottish music. Bennett was on a campaign to preserve and reinterpret his ancestral musical traditions. As he puts it succinctly: his music is “free from the influences of commercial new-age, ‘Celtic’ or tie-dyed fantasy.” Or, as he states in the liner notes of his album, GRIT:
“GRIT is a serious artistic attempt to bring my own Scottish heritage forward with integrity. Many of the tracks on GRIT could be termed as quite ‘hard’. Again this is just my own means of reflecting realism in a stark and uncompromising way. I find so many modern representations of Celtic culture careless and fanciful to the point that the word ‘Celtic’ has really become quite meaningless to me. As globalization is set to expand, I feel it’s time for us to face our own reflections in the great mirror of our cultures.”
He achieved this and then some.
Bennett’s compositions ran the gamut from dreamy reels to rowdy industrial anthems. Always, Bennett showed an amazing ability to harness organic energy and craft intricate melodies. His self-titled debut was a loving elucidation of Scottish folk music with a dash of electronic flavor. The follow-up, Bothy Culture, was a marvelous electronic Celtic fusion blend that brought him to prominence world wide. It was a thoroughly Scottish CD yet it opened up such possibilities and transcended folk music and electronic music. Shortly after, though, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He produced his last two albums, Glen Lyon and GRIT, entirely electronically, the music coming from synthesizers and samples from other artists because he was too ill to play instruments himself.