The mesmerising chain of <i>Sur</i> has snapped. The voice that turned every note into a golden one has now faded.
Veteran vocalist and Bharat Ratna awardee Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, who holds legendary status in the Indian classical music, passed away Monday morning (January 24) in Pune after prolonged illness.
I still remember when for the first time, during my childhood, when I heard his <i>Mile Sur Mera Tumhara</i> - that was my first introduction to classical music and believe me, nothing could beat the experience. This evergreen number that is hummed by one and all even today remains among his most memorable recitals. Indeed, it was one of most-loved national integration anthems with Pandit Bhimsen’s golden voice appealing to all Indians to come together and stand as a nation.
The numero uno among Hindustani classical vocalists, Pt Bhimsen Joshi’s unique style and mastery over ragas made him unparallel to any other vocalist in the country. He added his own distinctive style and adapted characteristics from other gharanas, improvised and combined ragas to create new ragas like the Kalashri (Kalavati and Rageshri) and LalitBhatiyar (Lalit and Bhatiyar ragas). The voice of this music lord truly filled our hearts with divine musical ex-perinea.
Born on February 4, 1922 into a Kannada Brahmin family in the town of Gadag in northern part of Karnataka, Pt Bhimsen Joshi was a school master’s little lad who had immense passion for music from his early childhood. He left his home at an early age of 11 years in search of an elusive guru. He traveled to Bijapur, Pune and Gwalior, where he tutored under Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan, the well-known sarodiya and father of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, and then to Calcutta and Punjab. Then, in 1936, Pt Bhimsen Joshi started his rigorous training under Sawai Gandharva (Pandit Rambhan Kundgolkar), the eminent ‘Khayal’ singer student of Abdul Karim Khan at Kundgol, near Gadag. He taught him the basics of ‘Khayal’ singing. At first the guru rejected Joshi saying his voice was not good, but finally agreed to take him after seeing his determination and thirst for music.
It was then that this young child started on his musical journey. He first performed live at the age of 19. In one of his early concerts, a well-known singer of another gharana said, “I came to see how much you have stolen from us.” He promptly became one of the most sought after concert artists. Pt Bhimsen’s voice dazzled and cast a spell on the entire country. His inimitable voice used to drive his audience to a divine musical experience through his mystic and magnificent songs. Very few singer have been able to reach such heights after him in the Indian musical space in all of history.
The classical music maestro, Pt Bhimsen Joshi was acknowledged as the leading light of the Kirana gharana. He was an exponent of ‘Khayal’ style and has also rendered majestic thumris and bhajans. He has also sung bhajans in Hindi and Marathi. This versatile singer has also recorded Kannada Dasa Krithis in Dasavani, which are usually sung by Carnatic musicians.
His sheer grit and fortitude made him a recipient of several prestigious awards. These include: Padma Shri (1972), Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1976), Padma Bhushan (1985), Padma Vibhushan (1999) and Bharat Ratna (2008).
For me, and I am sure for all music lovers, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi is a legend whose voice will continue to weave magic in our hearts today, tomorrow and forever, and the world will surely miss the divine musical experience of hearing this master sing.