MARTYN Bennett, one of the Scottish music scene's greatest innovators, lost his long battle with cancer on Sunday evening, aged only 33, finally snuffing out a future that always appeared to have infinite possibilities.

That it should come on the closing night of Celtic Connections makes the timing of his death all the more cruel. In the festival's early years, a dreadlocked Bennett had starred on its final-night extravaganza, his bagpipes, whistle and fiddle dancing to the beat of a bold, new Scottish rhythm of his own devising. It seemed only reasonable to expect that he'd be a familiar figure on the same platform for years to come.

Bennett's combining of traditional music and the club culture of the early 1990s was no opportunistic gimmick. Some of us called it "hoose music" to tease him, and Martyn groaned good naturedly. But there was no doubt in anyone's mind that he was doing it, as he did everything, with his heart and soul.

Born in Newfoundland, Martyn grew up hearing Gaelic songs and stories among the farming folk of Codroy Valley.

His mother, Margaret, is a Gaelic speaker from Skye and, when Martyn was six, she brought him to live in Kingussie and encouraged him to take up the pipes. A natural talent soon became evident and by the time he was 12, Martyn was winning junior piping competitions.

Competitive piping requires discipline - pipers are judged on how well they play pieces of music as written - and while he clearly had that, Martyn was already looking into avenues for playing with more selfexpression through the music he heard at folk festivals that Margaret took him to. The whippersnapper with tunes apparently bursting out of his big set of pipes soon became a familiar figure at festivals such as Newcastleton in the Borders and Auchtermuchty in Fife.

This musical duality would stand him in good stead when, first, he became the first traditional musician to enrol at the previously staunchly classical City of Edinburgh Music School and then later when he went on to study at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow.

At the RSAMD he worked up a formidable classical violin technique under Miles Baster, of the Edinburgh Quartet, and he could easily have gone on to become a full-time classical violinist but for the pull of the extracurricular traditional tune sessions in pubs like the Vicky Bar, in Glasgow, and the Tron, in Edinburgh, where a natural hybrid of traditional and jazz musicians was coalescing that would influence both Scottish folk and jazz music in the coming years.

Something else was pulling him away from classical music: the club scene, and with a keyboard sequencer which he quickly mastered, he began to create a way of playing traditional music that hip young clubbers would dance to happily.

His first three albums, Martyn Bennett, Bothy Culture and Hardland, established him as an innovatorwho was bringing a whole new audience to traditional music. His efforts weren't always appreciated in folk music circles, although no less a figure than the great song collector and folklorist Hamish Henderson endorsed Martyn's own view that he was a tradition bearer. But then, not everyone was as open-minded or as hungry for different sounds and new musical experiences as Martyn.

He spent time in Kazakhstan, learning traditional music there with indigenous musicians, and when the Tuvan throat-singing group HuunHuur-Tu fetched up in Edinburgh in 1997 to play for a month at the Fringe, Martyn became their number one fan and subsequently joined them in the studio to record with them on their Where Young Grass Grows album.

By the end of the 1990s, Martyn was becoming disenchanted with the instrumental music he'd been creating. He wanted to find a way of presenting traditional songs in new ways without compromising the integrity of the songs or the traditional singers who sang them. He succeeded brilliantly, despite having to work between the draining chemotherapy sessions which he was undergoing to try to combat the Hodgkin's lymphoma with which he was diagnosed in November 2000.

Adding an AMS Stereo Soundfield microphone - a prized find - to the technology he had complete mastery over, he recorded his mother singing songs handed down through her family and gave them contemporary, sometimes industrial-sounding, settings. The resulting album, Glen Lyon, was a triumph, but an even bigger achievement was also already in train, the aptly named Grit, which was released on Peter Gabriel's Real World label to ecstatic reviews.

By this time, through his frustration at no longer being able to play with the same facility he had before his illness, Martyn had destroyed his pipes, fiddles and whistles. His instruments therefore became the studio and the mixing desk, and on Grit he refashioned old recordings by traditional singers including Sheila Stewart, Lizzie Higgins and Annie Watkins into modern masterpieces that retained the singers' characteristics.

Last spring, some of the tracks from Grit were used in the soundtrack for the Dance Base production, Off Kilter, and to hear Martyn's splicing together of Annie Watkins's singing of Eh'll No Bide Wi' Ma Granny Nae Mair and Edith Piaf's No Regrets exploding out of the Edinburgh Festival Theatre PA just brought home the power of Martyn's genius.

He remained an insatiable music enthusiast all through his illness. He continued to teach music on Mull, where he and his wife Kirsten settled, for as long as he was able, and when Huun-Huur-Tu returned to Scotland to play at Celtic Connections last month, he was devastated that he couldn't get to their concert. Even in his last days he was trying to convey ideas for a final recording, which now looks as if it will be completed by fellow musicians by way of a tribute.

He died in the Marie Curie Hospice in Edinburgh with Kirsten, his mother and father, Iain, at his bedside. Their loss, though not unexpected, will be felt by everyone who came into contact with this musical visionary and, above all, lovely man.

Martyn Bennett, musician and composer; born February 17, 1971, died January 30, 2005.