MAY 2011
Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida
Music

PANDIT BHIMSEN JOSHI – THE MUSIC COLOSSUS – PART II

By LAVANYA DINESH

With the passing of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi earlier this year, the music world lost a trailblazer who carved his own unusual yet brilliant path on a time-tested hoary tradition of Indian classical music.

The guru-shishya parampara is a unique Indian tradition where the disciple is totally dedicated, devoted to and at the mercy of his/her teacher – always considered sacrosanct. The student in his rigorous learning of the art strives hard not to displease or dishonor his guru in anyway. The guru in turn gives the greatest gift of knowledge and hard earned experience selflessly to the disciple whom he regards as his own offspring. Such is the haloed position occupied by the guru in the Indian classical music tradition. For Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, finding a good guru was not at all easy. Absolutely crazy about music since early childhood, a young Bhimsen ran away from home in search of the perfect guru after being mesmerized by a recording of Hindustani vocalist Ustad Abdul Karim Khan Saheb.

Inspired by wanderlust for most of his early life, Bhimsen finally found in Sawai Gandharv (Rambhau Kundgolker) the ideal guru. It was indeed fateful that this guru himself had learnt under Ustad Abdul Karim Khan. Pandit Joshi carried his love and devotion for his guru till the end as evinced by the grand Sawai Gandharv festival of music that he organized in memory of his guru every winter in Pune – Pandit Joshi’s adopted hometown. The Sawai Gandharv festival has provided a visible platform for many up and coming talents in the field of Indian classical music to display their prowess as well as receive the accolades and blessings of senior music maestros and the cognoscente.

Though this passionate vocalist was considered a pure classicist, he has also lent his voice to many Indian feature films. None can forget the immortal composition ‘Ketaki Gulab Juhi Champak Ban Phoole’ from the Hindi film “Basant Bahar” rendered as a Jugalbandi with playback singer Manna Dey. Even in little snippets, flashes of the late vocalist’s unmatched musical brilliance shine through. Panditji’s poignant playback singing for the old Kannada language movie “Sandhya Raaga” starring matinee idol Dr. Rajkumar is yet another example of how this astute musician made Indian classical music more accessible to the masses.

Pandit Joshi’s popularity is owed in large part to his unparalleled appeal in the field of devotional music or Bhakti Sangeet. He was a master at rendering devotional compositions such as Kannada Devaranamas, Hindi bhajans and Marathi abhangs. The evergreen Kannada bhajan ‘Bhaagyadaa Lakshmi Baaramma’ rendered in raaga Bhibas is a favorite of the masses and one of the highest-selling records to this day. The other renowned Kannada compositions rendered by Pandit Joshi in his own forceful and mellifluous style are ‘Yenna Paaliso,’ ‘Sadaa Yenna Hridayadalli’ and ‘Yaadava Nee Baa’ to name a few. Some of Panditji’s hugely popular Marathi abhangs include ‘Teertha Vithala,’ ‘Sagunachi Sej Nirgunachi Saaj,’ etc.

Hindi bhajan recordings of Pandit Joshi are extremely beloved as well, including the Bhaktimala series by Music Today and especially a duet album from the 1980s with Lata Mangeshkar. The album was called ‘Raam Shyaam Gun Gaan.’ Never known to back away from a challenge, Pandit Joshi participated in some rare live Jugalbandi (duet) performances with the Karnatic (South Indian) classical music maestro Dr. Balamurali Krishna as well as younger Hindustani vocalist Rashid Khan.

The Indian government bestowed its highest civilian honor – ‘Bharat Ratna’ –upon the maestro in 2008. Pandit Bhimsen Joshi has influenced and inspired many generations of Indian musicians all over the world with his musicianship, powerful vocalism and a sincere passion for his art. The doyen’s numerous musical recordings are a gift to posterity. The true legacy of music and devotion lives on.

Lavanya Dinesh is an accomplished performer and teacher of Hindustani classical vocal music and resides in Tampa. Dinesh, who has three album releases to her credit, also has worked as a music critic and feature writer for Times of India and Deccan Herald. She can be reached at lavanya@lavanyadinesh.com

Lavanya Dinesh is an accomplished performer and teacher of Hindustani classical vocal music and resides in Tampa. Dinesh, who has three album releases to her credit, also has worked as a music critic and feature writer for Times of India and Deccan Herald. She can be reached at lavanya@lavanyadinesh.com

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