Martin Watt was born in Standerton in the Mpumalanga Province of South Africa in 1970. He graduated from the North-West University in Potchefstroom with the degrees Bachelor of Music in 1991 and Bachelor of Music Honours in 1992. Thereafter he continued with his studies in composition with Peter Klatzow at the University of Cape Town where he obtained the Master of Music degree cum laude in 1993. Numerous national and international scholarships, such as the Priaulx Rainier Prize, SAMRO’s Overseas Scholarship for Composers, an International Scholarship from the Foundation for the Creative Arts and a grant from the Ernest Oppenheimer Foundation assisted him to continue his studies with the renowned British composer Paul Patterson at the Royal Academy of Music in London from 1994 to 1995. Here he received the Diploma of Advanced Studies in Composition and won the prestigious Charles Lucas Prize.
Upon his return to South Africa, he became a part-time lecturer in the Department of Music at the University of Pretoria lecturing in music theory. Here he also obtained a Doctorate in Music in 1996. From 1998-2000 he was a post-doctoral research fellow at the same university, researching in historical musicology. From 2000-2003 he was lecturer in the Music Division of the School of Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg where he taught music theory and analysis, history of music and general music knowledge. In 2004 he accepted a senior lectureship in the School of Music and Conservatoire at the North-West University in Potchefstroom where he taught music theory, composition and music technology. In 2004 he was the only South African member of a pan-African panel of experts who selected a new anthem for the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In 2007 he was a guest lecturer at the Utrecht Conservatoire in the Netherlands. From 2008 he is a senior lecturer in music theory and composition at the South African College of Music at the University of Cape Town.
Watt has composed over 40 works, many of them commissioned by prominent organizations and performers. His music has been performed, broadcast and recorded in South Africa, Germany, The Netherlands, Austria, the Czech Republic, The United Kingdom, Scandinavia, China, Thailand, Japan and the United States. He is also an active musicologist and has read papers at various national and international conferences and he has published on a variety of topics related to South African music in peer-reviewed journals. He also regularly serves as book and CD reviewer for scholarly journals.