Sunday, 24 July 2011

Bhimsen Joshi – A Profile

The auspicious occasion of Ashadi Ekadashi reminds music lovers of the legendary vocalist Pandit Bhimsen Joshi. The name is synonymous with Music. It is usually a human mind and soul that likes or adores an art, but with Bhimsen Joshi it was vice-versa; with the kind of singing and the quality of music he produced, it almost felt as if Music revered him as much as he worshipped it. With a powerful voice and an amazing breath control he made a mark in Hindustani Khayal Music of the Kirana Gharana. Bhimsen’s “Majhe Maher Pandhari”, a song praising Lord Vitthal transmits the listeners into a different world of worship and entwines them with the Lord himself. A concert ‘Bolava Vitthal’ will be held on the occasion of Ekadashi and will be marked by the songs which were originally sung by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi.
As a child, Bhimsen found his love for music in the bhajans and aartis, in processions and in any kind of music that his young ears could hear. His parents first spotted this interest when he laid his hands on the tanpura that his father had tried hiding from him. His father, Gururaj Joshi, was a school teacher and wanted Bhimsen to get a sound education and grow up to become a doctor. However, Bhimsen ran away from home and began his search for a guru.
Bhimsen was born on the 4th of February, 1922 into a Brahmin family of Gadag in Karnataka district. His childhood was spent in Gadag until he ran away to Gwalior. He spent few years learning from various gurus in Gwalior, Rampur and Lucknow. His father, now knowing the capability and dedication of his son, brought Bhimsen back and arranged for him to learn under the guidance of Sawai Gandharwa of Kundol, Dharwad.
From there, he began his journey towards being an undisputed icon in the music industry guided by Sawai Gandharwa, his music guru, in a typical guru-shishya setting. Sawai Gandharwa was a disciple of Abdul Karim Khan, who along with his cousin Abdul Wahid Khan was the founder of the Kirana Gharana of Hindustani music. Gharana is a school of music in which Bhimsen achieved excellence. Just like his tutor, Bhimsen’s thirst for knowledge was tremendous and what we hear is the output of his dedication and consistency in learning.
A song like “Kannadathi thaye Baa” won him immense admiration in the state of Karnataka. Since his first live performance at the age of 19 in 1941 there was no looking back for him. He released his own album of Hindi and Kannada devotional songs. The turning point of his career came when he shifted to Mumbai; it wasn’t a cake walk though. He began to earn as a radio artist in Mumbai. It was his performance at the ceremony of Sawai Gandharva’s 60th birthday that won him many accolades and recognition among the music faculty. A festival dedicated to his guru, called the “Sawai Gandharwa festival” was initiated by Bhimsen and is held in Pune in the month of December every year. This festival is looked forward to by the masses and receives overwhelming response.
He was a singer of an era where many brilliant singers co-existed; few of them were Shreedhar Kulkarni, and Deelip Kulkarni. His colleagues often described light moments shared with him. It is also known that if time be, Bhimsen would not even mind sweeping the stage before a performance. Such was the innocence and courtesy of his character. Celebrated by masses and critics alike, Joshi made a mark – a unique and astonishing one. His music was spontaneous, dazzling, sometimes fast paced and sacred. The kind of music that came from him was beyond the reach of commoners and yet touched a chord with the masses. The magic of his music touched every soul who experienced it. It was this magic that led him to the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award conferred by the Government of India. He was the most celebrated exponent of the Kirana Gharana and his renditions of Hindustani Classical Music have left music lovers all over the world wanting for more every time they heard him sing.
There are many raagas composed by this stalwart and are now widely used in a number of compositions. Along with raagas and abhangas, another genre that reminds people of him is that of a couple of patriotic songs. Mile sur mera tumhara and vande mataram are the two songs that have received his playback along with many other accomplished singers. As he sings the famous Hindi song, “Piya ke milan ki aas”, for the ‘n’th time, his audiences are still captivated and amused with his unblemished singing.
What most well-known figures in the field of music have observed and tried to learn from him is his amazing breath control, the accurate grasp of fundamentals and the right sense of music. A few of his students are Anand Bhate, Pandit Upendra Bhat and a number of others.
Along with his undoubted passion for music, he also had a liking towards cars, along with an expertise in swimming, yoga and football in his younger years. Mr. Joshi had publicly admitted his weakness in alcohol which he later quit due to grave health problems. However, he succumbed to a heart disorder in January 2011, after leaving an everlasting mark on the entire portrait of Indian Music.
- Vinaya Patil

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