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Martin Neil


By | Asia | No Comments

21stFeb-5th March Cambodia.

From the States we travelled due west to Thailand …(would you believe a 17.30hr flight) and on to Cambodia. We were helping with a gathering of musicians in Phnom Penh, with representatives from Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.


We had an amazing few days learning about the disturbing history of the Khymer Rouge led by Pol Pot, who imprisoned and executed many artists and musicians leading to a loss of much cultural expression. In his short 4 year reign, his brutal regime claimed millions of lives. Those who were thought to be intellectual, even people who wore glasses were killed. During this terrible season it was interesting to find out that music still inspired people. Some would hide away from the authorities in the forests, making instruments out of their natural surroundings and singing songs to keep their spirits up.


We spent a day searching around markets and stores, collecting various traditional Khmer instruments. With the aid of these newly bought acquisitions, the musicians who had gathered spent 4 days composing many new cultural songs of praise and worship. Check out the workshop pictures here. ♥

Below is a clip of a roneat in action. This classical instrument is very prominent in Khmer music.
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On the last day of this gathering a team from Vietnam joined us, a country where independent churches are outlawed, and only a controlled state church is allowed. There were many stories of underground churches, writing songs undercover, studios that have to move after each recording and a song writer that has to change his name each time his songs get known, in case of imprisonment. A far cry from the freedom we enjoy in England.

See more photos here. ♥


We also visited a shadow theatre. This form of expression dates back thousands of years, and is a form of storytelling using ornate leather shadow puppets. It is still one of the most revered and loved art forms in Cambodia and is finding a popular comeback after being nearly destroyed during the Khmer Rouge period of control.

See pictures of Khmer musical instruments here ♥ and the puppet theatre costumes here. ♥

Tahitian drumming

By | Drums, Oceania | No Comments

15thFeb-20th Vancouver, Washington. www.forwardedge.org

 Then on to another missions conference (where Martin and Mark led the music) with Forward Edge International. We heard many stories from Tibet, Sri Lanka (Tsunami relief) and Louisiana where they are doing restoring and repair work after the hurricane damage. Since the catastrophe they have sent around 55 teams southwards to help.

23rd Jan.-15th Feb Hawaii www.markrileymusic.com

 A wonderful time with Mark and his family, on the island of Kauai, looking at new songs and ideas for his next project. Martin got to sit in with a Tahitian drum group to learn more of their music, and coached one of the local football teams. If you have not heard the wonderful toerre drum being played …. then check this clip, amazing team work. The core group will be 3 log drummers each playing a different interlocking rhythm.

You can also check out some photos from a festival of Tahitian music ♥

19th-22nd Jan San Diego

 A return visit to the City of Refuge San Diego, to catch up on all their news. It is run by an incredible couple called David and Christine Dewitt who have an incredible capacity of compassion for those who are in need. You may remember that we have been there many times before and, as usual, we were involved with their daily life and work, as they continue to bring hope to those in despair. It was amazing to see how all their building work had been completed enabling them to feed and care for so many more people.

Lifeline expedition, West Indies

By | Americas | No Comments

22 October – 6 November


A team of about 30 people representing about 16 nationalities with an emphasis on reconciliation issues concerning the legacy of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, met in Barbados for the first week and then split into 3 teams for the 2nd week going to Cartagena , Columbia, Curacao, Dutch West Indies and Martinique and Guadeloupe. We went to Martinique and Guadeloupe.

…… and the rest of the story Read More

Ruth Fazal tour

By | My Stories | No Comments

IMG_3247September, England.

Martin has just finished a tour in England with Ruth Fazal from Toronto, Canada….. had a great time, her music is a little different as she is from a more classical background but she loves allowing space for improvisation. She has also written a classical Oratorio piece for the Jewish people, called Oratorio Terezin.

More info www.oratorioterezin.com

She found a book of children’s poems 8 years ago and God told her to weave a story of God’s heart for His people through this story book and the Hebrew scriptures …… it’s an incredibly powerful story and she has some amazing stories of what has happened through this project. It has now been performed with orchestra’s in Canada, the Czech Republic, Austria and in Israel on holocaust day.


By | My Stories | No Comments

DSCF919029th Dec.-13th Jan 2005 San Diego & L.A., U.S.A.

We flew out to San Diego to be at the “City of Refuge” again (we were with them in Feb. ’04 and also 28th Sept.-4th Oct.). During our time there we led the team on retreat for 5 days and generally got involved with their weekly routine. This included packing up food to be distributed to the poor and homeless and visiting a large night shelter where we played music and chatted with the homeless. There were also two weddings of people who have been part of the project so Martin was seconded to play along with other musicians. The rest of our time was kept busy with helping people move house, drum circles and lots of one to one times with people from the team. As ever we left feeling that we had been amongst people of similar hearts and that we would be back…… Read More

The States and Kelowna, Canada

By | Americas | No Comments

Martin travelled, on his own this time, to record a C.D. with Jo Vogels. Martin has played on and produced an album for Jo before, and they’ve been friends for a number of years. (In August Jo flew over from Australia and spent a week with us at our home, doing pre-production work. We had a lot of fun with Jo playing his songs and Martin making suggestions about style, timing, dynamics etc..) Whilst out in the States we even had time for some paddling …… Read More

Kaua’i, Hawai’i

By | Oceania | No Comments

22nd April/30th May


Reflections from the Garden Isle.

He wai ua, ua ka ua

(Indeed, it rains. It rains upon the land.)

For six weeks the island of Kaua’i, one of the oldest Hawaiian islands became our home. Known as the garden isle for its amazing plants and stunning fauna, and also renowned for being the wettest place in the world. An extinct volcano stands high in the middle of the island and is nearly always topped with rain clouds. Because of its beautiful beaches, rugged terrain and tropical climate, the island has become a tourist haven, famous for the number of films that have been set within its shores. Read More

Canada and Cre8ed schools work

By | Music from the Nations | No Comments

11/20th April Canada.


Our time in Canada was again a time of catching up with friends and helping with music for a conference in Abbotsford. We had a wonderful opportunity to go and observe a Native American pow-wow with our friends Jerry and Leslie Chapman from the Sto’:lo people. www.jerrychapman.org Here’s a (badly recorded) clip of their powerful drumming and singing.


By | Drums | No Comments

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAJerry Chapman hand-crafts First Nation style drums and whilst visiting he allowed us to use his instruments and joined me playing percussion on a couple of the conference evenings. They both spend some of their time taking musical teams onto Native American reservations.