The light of my musical world, Dr. M. Balamurali Krishna, has been extinguished. He passed away earlier today at the age of 86.
He played a huge role in my teenage and young adult years - not just musically, but in opening my mind to a way of thinking and living. To not do something just because it has always been done that way. To question assumptions, to push boundaries, to see and seek beauty and truth in fresh and unusual ways. To stand up for your beliefs and vision and not take refuge in what the majority thought or did. To realize that respect - for "tradition", for music, for anything, really - is not shown by blindly following a much-trodden path, but in breaking free the shackles that imprisoned the full beauty of whatever it is that is being respected. And so much more. Beethoven did it for western classical music; Picasso, for art; and Balamurali, for Carnatic music.
All this may not seem like a big deal today when ideas and ideals blow through the world through the far-reaching, interconnected webs of the Internet. I grew up in a time and place that was conservative and tradition-bound. If you thought, said and did what everybody else thought, said and did, you were fine, you fitted in. Luckily for me, the environment in my home encouraged me to think about and question everything I saw around me. And then spending time with somebody like Balamurali only served to reinforce that very strongly. The impact made on my teenage mind shaped who and what I have become and strive to be.