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Pandit Bhimsen Joshi: Titan of classical music

By: By: Shekhar H Hooli
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Impressed by the Abdul Karim Khan's music, a 11-year-old boy set out from his home to learn classical music. His burning passion towards music made him travel from Gadag to Pune, Mumbai, Baroda, Gwalior and Varanasi. Finally, he was caught by his father at Gwalior brought back home after he spent two years in search of his music guru. This boy is none other than the titan of classical music, Bhimsen Joshi, who passed away on 24th January at the age of 88.

Indian vocalist Bhimasen Gururaj Joshi was born in Kannada Bramhin family at Ron in Gadag District, Karnataka on 4th February, 1922. His father Gururaj Joshi was a school teacher. He was the eldest son among his 16 siblings. He lost his mother when he was young and his step mother raised him.

During his childhood, Bhimsen Joshi used to listen Bhajans, which started craving for music in him. After listening a recording of Abdul Karim Khan's Thumri 'Piya Bin Nahi Aavat Chain' in 1933, he got inspired to become a musician and the 11-year-old boy visited Pune, Gwalior, Delhi, Kolkata, Gwalior, Lucknow and Rampur in search of a music guru.

But his father brought him back home. Later, he accepted Pandit Rambhau Kundgolkar, who is popularly known as Sawai Gandharva in Dharwar. He stayed at his house and learned Hindustani music from him. Late Kirana Gharana vocalist Gangubai Hangal, who passed away on 21 July 2009, was his co-student.

Bimasen Joshi continued his training with Sawai Gandharva till 1940. He first performed in 1941 at the age 19. His debut album contains a few devotional songs in Kannada and Hindi. It was released by HMV the next year in 1942. Later, Joshi moved to Mumbai in 1943 and worked as a radio artist.

In 1946, the Hindustani vocalist held his first concert to celebrate his guru Sawai Gandharva's 60th birthday. He won lots of accolades both from the audience and his guru. He came to limelight after this concert, which boosted his career in music. He is popular known for ragas like Shuddha Kalyan, Miyan Ki Todi, Puriya Dhanashri, Multani, Bhimpalas, Darbari, and Ramkali.

Besides classical music, Joshi also sang all kinds of songs like devotional, patriotic, filmy songs in Kannada, Hindi and Marathi. He is known for his CDs - 'Daaswani' and 'Enna Paliso' and song Mile Sur Mera Tumhara. He sang songs for the films like Basant Bahar, Birbal My Brother, Nodi Swami Naavu Irodhu Heege, Tansen and Ankahee.

Bhimsen Joshi was known for his powerful voice, amazing breath control, fine musical sensibility and unwavering grasp of the fundamentals. These qualities of him earned thousands of admirers across the country. He has been honoured with highest civilian awards like Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan, Bharat Ratna, Maharashtra Bhushan and Karnataka Ratna.

However, Bhimsen Joshi was admitted to the Sahyadri Super Speciality Hospital in Pune. The Bharath Ratna award winner was suffering from multiple organ failure. Due to breathing problems, he was put on ventilator. He died at 8:00 in the hospital on 24th January. Though the titan of classical music is physically not with us, his powerful voice continues to enthrall us.

Click here to listen to Mile Sur Mera Tumhara

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