M A I N   N E W S

Pt Bhimsen Joshi Is No More 
Nonika Singh/TNS

New Delhi, January 24
Renowned Hindustani classical vocalist Pandit Bhimsen Joshi died in Pune this morning after a protracted illness. He would have turned 88 on February 4. Joshi is survived by three sons and a daughter.

In Sahyadri Hospital since December 31 with several ailments, including kidney failure, the legend had been ailing for quite some time but his condition deteriorated on Saturday.

A practitioner of the Kirana Gharana school of Hindustani classical music, Joshi was known for his rendition of khayals and devotionals including abhangs and kirtans. He possessed the singular ability to make ragas come alive and could reach out to both the connoisseurs and the not-so-discerning.

The legend may have stopped singing in public for the last few years but his voice continued to resonate across the length and breadth of the country. Few can forget his live performances. His song ‘Ketaki gulab juhi’ from Manna De’s film ‘Basant Bahar’ will remain etched in the memories of aficionados forever.

Born in the small town of Gadag in Karnataka in 1922, it is believed that it was the thumri of Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, the pioneer of Kirana Gharana that completely mesmerised the young Bhimsen. So much so that at the tender age of 11, he decided to become a singer! The search for a guru brought him to Sawai Gandharva, one of the most significant disciples of Ustad Abdul Karim Khan.

Pune, the city today hailed as the hub of classical music (thanks to Pandit Bhimsen’s magnetic presence), is the one where he set the tradition of organising the Sawai Gandharva Music Festival in the honour and memory of his guru from whom he learnt music from 1936 to 1940.

A traditionalist to the core, he never compromised with the purity of his sound, yet was a path-breaking vocalist in his own right. While his command over his dozen-odd favourite ragas like Todi, Yaman and Kalyan, was exceptional. He created new ragas like Kalashree, Lalit Bhatiyar and Marwa Shree as well.

The devotional temper of his music has few parallels in the world. While his classical renditions, marked by spontaneity, verve and amazing taans, were unmistakably ethereal, he was equally known for his devotional singing. His bhajans and ‘abhangs’ (devotional poetry in Marathi) have been exceptionally popular and at every concert, there would invariably be a demand for ‘Jo bhaje hari ko sada’ in Bhairavi. Besides his ‘thumris’ like ‘Jadu bhareli’ and ‘Piya ke milan ki aas’ were incredibly lilting.

Blessed with a full-throated voice that could effortlessly traverse three octaves, he held his listeners captive wherever he performed. Few, not even fellow musicians, could grudge him the accolades including the Tansen Samman, Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and the ultimate civilian honour, Bharat Ratna, that came his way.

When conferred the Bharat Ratna in 2008, he said with characteristic humility, “I am very happy to receive this award on behalf of all the great musicians and masters who have represented the ‘khayal’ tradition of Hindustani classical music in this country.” He himself embellished ‘khayal gayaki’ like few before and took it to a pinnacle from where it couldn’t possibly be elevated further. He enriched the Kirana Gharana by evolving a distinctive style incorporating the best of other gharanas. A journey spanning decades of unswerving devotion to ‘saat swar’, Bhimsen Joshi’s was a life that musical history is made of. As in life, so in death, he will continue to inspire generations of classical musicians.





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