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A Tribute to Pandit Bhimsen Joshi

by Deepika Rajagopalan

Yet again death walks off with another treasured
Leaving behind the soulful trails
Of blissful melodic scales
All to enrich the spirits for time unbounded.

The melodious notes of "Mile sur mera tumhara” still vibrate in the memory when one nostalgically reminisces the era of Doordarshan. One of the most unforgettable voices that featured in the song, the doyen of Hindustani Classical Music, Bharat Ratna laureate Pandit Bhimsen Gururaj Joshi, 88, passed away on Monday in Pune's Sahyandri Hospital. His demise is indeed an irreplaceable loss for music lovers not only in India but the world over.

Renowned for his transcendent rendition of khayals and bhajans, Pandit ji's versatile repertoire mesmerized both the music aficionados and the masses.

Born in Gadag district in Northern Karnataka, his yearning to train in Classical Music began when he first listened to a recording of Abdul Karim Khan's Thumri "Piya Bin Nahi Aavat Chain" in the Raga Jhinjhoti. He travelled to numerous parts of India with a passion to learn the finer nuances of music. It was then that he had the opportunity of training under Pandit Sawai Gandharva - a preeminent exponent of the Kirana Gharana. While under his tutelage, Pandit ji accompanied his Guru Pt. Sawai Gandharva on various concert tours. Thereafter, he himself began performing mini-concerts in Dharwad, Sangli, Miraj and Kurundwad.

His magnificent performances won him critical acclaim that grew manifold and he started receiving invitations to perform in prestigious musical academies all over the country.

Pandit ji’s music can best be described as spontaneous and sublime, marked by versatility, flawless handling of notes and his expertise over rhythm. Joy springs up within when one hears his prodigious voice traverse a great range of octaves effortlessly.

Known for his adherence to traditional classism, Pandit ji carved a niche for himself with a distinctive gayaki style (bani), which was an assimilation of elements he had learnt/listened to in diverse Gharanas.

Pandit ji performed various Jugalbandhis in collaboration with Carnatic Music exponent Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna. He also lent his voice for films like Basant Bahar (with Manna Dey), 'Birbal My Brother' (with Pandit Jasraj) and Nodi Swami Naavu Irodhu Heege.

The iconic vocalist is a recipient of various illustrious awards including Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shree. The country's civilian award of the highest order, Bharat Ratna, was bestowed upon him in 2008 for his outstanding contribution to Hindustani Classical Music.

The legendary maestro will remain immortal through his ethereal music that transcended borders and the musical tradition he has left behind through his lineage of disciples.

May this divine soul rest in peace.

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