Celebrated Hindustani classical vocalist Pandit Bhimsen Joshi,who was presented with the Bharat Ratna on Tuesday,led the renaissance of Indian classical music with the passion and power of a one-man chorus in an epic saga of struggle and single pointed thirst for music.
Acknowledged as the leading light of the Keriann gharana,Bhimsen Joshi (87) through his amazing absorption of the soul of various gayaki styles has created a unique blend adding his own introspective aesthetic sense.
A recipient of several awards including the Padma Vibhushan,the Padma Bhushan and Padma Shree,Joshi has added his own distinctive style excelling in gamakar,meend and tanakriya and adapting characteristics from other gharanas to create a unique vocal idiom.
Joshi’s rendition of ‘Miley Sur Mera Tumhara’ along with other doyens of music–Balmurli Krishna and Lata Mangeshkar — that virtually became an unofficial national anthem in a humble way in 1988 captured the hearts of millions of Indians.
Louis Banks and the late P Vaidyanathan,a classically trained musician,got the right fusion of music for the song that was beamed on Doordarshan to countless homes.
Bhimsen Gururaj Joshi was born in a Kannadiga family on February 4,1922 in Gadag,an idyllic village in Dharwad district of Karnataka. His father was a conservative school master.
A descendant of the Kirana Gharana (stream),he is particularly renowned for the khayal form of singing and for his bhajans.
In 1933,the 11-year-old Bhimsen left his home on his own to learn singing through the Guru-Shishya tradition. He spent three years in Gwalior,Lucknow and Rampur in North India trying to find a good guru. His father succeeded in tracking him down and brought young Bhimsen back home.
At a young age,he was deeply moved by a recording of Abdul Karim Khan,a great master of the Kirana gharana,from where he started his rigorous training under Pandit Rambhan Kundgolkar,also known as Sawai Gandharva at Kundgol,who himself was a pupil of Abdul Karim Khan for 10 to 12 years.
Bhimsen stayed with Kundgolkar from 1936 to 1940. He then left his guru and set out on his own. Bhimsen’s seemingly effortless performances are the result of relentless riyaz. He earned his first platinum disc in 1986. He has been a daredevil and a risk-taker for most of his life.
Bhimsen first performed live at the age of 19. His debut album containing a few devotional songs in Kannada and Hindi was released when he was 20.
He has started an annual classical musical festival called the Sawai Gandharva Music Festival in memory of his guru. This festival is held in Pune every December. Bhimsen’s son is also a vocalist and a composer.