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Martin Neil

O Jerusalem

By | Asia | No Comments

View from the Mount of Olives 5

“I am so sorry, but there is no room at this hotel” …. It is 4.00 am, we are weary travellers, arriving for our first ever visit to Israel, a little shocked at these immortal words, from a bygone age. Our forlorn faces suddenly revived and turned to smiles when our host then mentioned, “we do have some servant quarters available, around the back of the hotel.” Hey, if it’s good enough for Joseph and Mary ……… Read More

Viola 2

Sweden – June

By | Europe, Music from the Nations | No Comments

Another inspiring and musically creative time in Stockholm, recording with Viola Grafström. Her second Swedish language CD and each new project seem to take her on a deeper journey into discovering her roots and traditions. We are talking about future adventures of travelling to the north of the country and hanging out with the indigenous people group, the Same.

Jag Höjer Mitt Lov

 

Ropar Till Dig Herre

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Viola recording

Sweden – Viola & Torbjorn Grafström

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We love our connection with Sweden (my first tour of Sweden was in my 20′s with a gospel/reggae band). What a beautiful country! I have now helped on 3 recordings in the Swedish language and it is always a joy hanging out with Viola and Torbjorn in their very unique home.

viola-grafstrom

Ropar Till Dig Herre

Snow and Jazz

By | Music from the Nations | No Comments

Third Ear control roomAfter more snow causing chaos at Chicago airport, I flew to Los Angeles to do some more pre-production with Mark Riley from Hawaii. We are starting work on some new songs and hope to spend time in the next couple of years piecing them together. Unfortunately I spent the first couple of days with a fever in bed.

Then on to Amarillo, Texas to record a jazz album with Joann McFatter at Kevin’s brand new studio. Check out the studio www.thirdearmusic.com and check out Joann’s cool web site www.joannmcfatter.com

Snow and the Amish

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Harrisburg, PA. (Feb)

After a very mild winter here in England it was a bit of a shock to fly into the state of Pennsylvania which had been hit with up to 9ft snow drifts!! It was great to be back with friends in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and hear their stories.

19 Amish in PA

Last year I had met a family from the Amish community and this year again we spent some more time together. Theirs is quite a story …. a couple of years ago one of their family members was dramatically healed by God, which took them on a new journey, and other family members were also miraculously healed. The general understanding amongst the Amish is that God does not heal today and these family’s have come in conflict with the community’s teachings and have been ex-communicated. They have decided though, to stay as part of the Amish community even though being ostracised, praying that God would make a way for reconciliation.

Iona gigs

By | Music from the Nations | No Comments

The concert dates in March with Iona in Germany went well, with a surprise at one venue in Karlsruhe, friends who I had lost contact with many years ago turning up.

The concert in Cornwall was also very special, situated in Carnglaze Caverns, St. Neot, once used as a rum store, and my first gig “underground”!! Amazingly, this site has been run for the last 6 years by a Christian family who now own the slate caves and underground lakes and have renovated one large cave complete with staging, sound system and lights. Attracting orchestras, rock bands and folk musicians, this has become a prime concert venue in the middle of Cornwall. I loved spotting the regulars to this venue, laden with coats and blankets, knowing that the temperature drop inside was considerable ….. this was one gig that I was very pleased to be the drummer (I kept very warm).

Land of a billion people

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128 Street Scene 72BFrom our 1960’s white Ambassador taxi we entered into a cacophony of noise as cars, large decorated trucks, vespa motorcycles and yellow auto-rickshaws jostled for position, incessantly honking their horns in ritual communication. Hurtling at sometimes breakneck speeds, we weaved in and out of traffic and stranded pedestrians who were trying, somewhat nonchalantly, to cross the ever bustling streets of this city.
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Closer to the burning cover

Nidus festival, Canada recording

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A place for the heart

The last stop was North Carolina where another album was recorded this time with Stephen Roach, a percussionist and hammer dulcimer player and a bunch of other young and talented musicians. Stephen and friends belong to a growing community of people www.aplacefortheheart.org who own a wonderful retreat centre in the heart of NC.

A highlight of the recording was impromptu drum pieces with a Cuban style conga player Peter Singles from Florida, Stephen playing Arabic percussion and Martin using African drums, a very special moment. This album should be available through their community and if you want a taster, listen to a couple of tracks at www.myspace.com/closertotheburning

Beloved

In the last few years, as we have spent time in North Carolina, we have really enjoyed the wonderful folk music that emanates from this area. If you have never heard the hammer dulcimer or the Appalachian dulcimer then you have missed out.

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The Gambia, Africa

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At the end of May we flew out to the Gambia as part of a team with David Pott to be involved with a slave-trade reconciliation movement called “The Lifeline Expedition”. You can read the background to this work and the reports from the last 6 years here ♥ Some of you may have seen various reports on the television and in the newspapers re our time in The Gambia as it caused a lot of response both positive and negative.

…… and the rest of the story Read More

Cambodia

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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.

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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.

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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. ♥

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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. ♥