Obituary: BBC News

Obituary: BBC News

Tributes have been paid to pioneering Celtic musician Martyn Bennett, who has died at the age of 33 following a long battle with cancer. He mixed techno, dance and traditional music as a solo artist and with his own band, Cuillin. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2000, but kept writing and recording despite his illness.

Highland musician Mary Ann Kennedy, who presents the BBC's Celtic Connections show, said he would be sorely missed.

"The musical world that Celtic Connections inhabits is much diminished with the loss of the musical genius and beautiful soul that was Martyn." she said. "Martyn was the boy who did it first, who did it best - and whose most recent work in 'Grit' showed that he still towered above the rest in terms of imagination, understanding, humour, respect and daring in his music."


Mr Bennett was born in Newfoundland, Canada, and moved to Scotland with his mother at the age of six. They settled in Kingussie in Speyside and he developed a reputation as a piping protégé, winning numerous competitions across the country.

He studied violin and piano at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Dance, where he also met his wife Kirsten. After leaving the RSAMD he began experimenting with free jazz and fusion, before switching his attention to dance music during the 1990s.

Mr Bennett recorded his first, self-titled solo album in 1995, and it was released the following year to positive reviews. A second solo LP followed in 1998 to widespread acclaim and he performed sell-out shows in the UK, Canada and the US. The Bothy Culture album fused Celtic, Scandinavian and Islamic sounds with drum and bass and break beats. That year also saw him bring together his band Cuillin. Mr Bennett's next release was the Hardland album, which was recorded with Dundonian musician Martin Low in 1999 after he moved to the island of Mull.

However, in October 2000 he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. A major operation and several bouts of chemotherapy left him feeling weak and disconnected from his music. In one fit of frustration which he later regretted, he smashed up all his instruments.


However, he refused to be defeated and completed two albums - Glen Lyon and Grit - after being struck by the disease.

In an interview, he said:

"I know how I feel, I know how I look. Some days I look and see a skeleton. Some days I am winning the battle, other days I am losing the battle, but it doesn't really matter. All that matters is what you do with the time you have."

A mass will be held in the musician's memory on Friday at St Michael and All Saints Church in Edinburgh.