One of the best-loved and respected vocal exponents of Hindustani Shastriya Sangeet (Indian Classical Music), Bhimsen Joshi is now living the last quarter of his life. A giant, recognized in his own times, he has been recently honoured with India’s highest civilian award, the ‘Bharat Ratna’ (Jewel of India).
This blog posting is a small attempt to capture some of his magic.
It was at the ripe old age of 11 or 12 years that Bhimsen ran away from home in South-West India in order to ‘learn music’. And one of the most heavenly voices he heard in his early days and which inspired him to run away in search of a Guru, was that of Ustad Abdul Karim Khan Saheb and his ‘Piya Bin’, here below
He ‘had to’ sing like the Ustad, the urge became an obsession and so he ran away from home to North India, travelling on trains and begging and singing to feed his hunger: and above all trying to find the right Guru for himself. And yes, he learnt the local language while on the run. For 2 years he changed cities (and gurus) in search of ‘the Guru’. Finally, one noted vocalist heard him out and told him the the Guru he was looking-for was near his home-town itself: the noted vocalist Sawai Gandharva. Sawai Gandharva – who was a disciple of Ustad Abdul Karim Khan. The journey had turned a full circle. From the age of 12 to 14, Bhimsen stayed away from his family (with no contact whatsoever), travelled and stayed at various places including Gwalior, Calcutta, Delhi and Jalandhar. But now it was time to return home. The son given up for lost, was returning, but music was still uppermost in his mind. The journey from being Bhimu, Bhimsen Joshi to Pandit Bhimsen Joshi was only beginning.
Wikipedia says ‘His performances have been marked by spontaneity, accurate notes, dizzyingly-paced taans which make use of his exceptional voice training, and a mastery over rhythm.’ Here below is a glimpse of that
And another one
And a few more
a rare and unusual pairing of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and Pandit Jasraj for a film
A Marathi Natyageet
Another Marathi Natyasangeet piece ‘Prem Seva Sharan’ at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyT_e4oLXbA
A Marathi devotional piece
An excerpt from a more recent soiree at the annual festival ‘Sawai Gandharva Music Festival’ that he started in memory of his Guru. The Festival is one of the premier music festivals of India featuring Indian classical music
Dhan Dhan Bhag Suhag Tero (Raag Kalashri)
His mother-tongue may have been Kannada and his motherland Karnataka but for a large part of his singing-life he operated out of Pune, Maharashtra and he sang many classical and semi-classical pieces in Marathi, the language of that state; and Marathis’ took to him instantly and loved him passionately as one of their own which indeed he is.
One of his famous semi-classical devotional piece in Marathi: ‘Mana Rama Rangi Rangale’
the Marathi Lyrics being
man ho ram rangi rangale
man vishwrangi rangale
charani netra guntale
One of the crowd favourites, a Kannada bhajan of Bhimsen: ‘Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma’: two videos: one from the Kannada film and the other a live audio recording. Original composition by Sage Purandaradasa (1484 - 1564)
The Kannada lyrics are at http://meerasubbarao.wordpress.com/2007/11/01/lyrics-for-bhagyada-lakshmi-baramma/ and the English translation at http://meerasubbarao.wordpress.com/2009/02/26/bhagyada-lakshmi-baramma-english-translation/. Also pasted below, first the Kannada lyrics, then the English translation
bhAgyada lakShmI bArammA nammamma nI sau
bhAgyada lakShmI bArammA
hejjaya mele hhejjeyanikkuta gejje kAlgaLa dhvaniya madutha
sajjana sAdhu pUjeya vELege majjigeyoLagina beNNeyante
kanaka vrStiya kareyuta bAre mana kAmanaya siddhiya tOrE
dinakara kOTi tEjadi hoLeva janakarAyana kumAri bega
attittalagalade bhaktara maneyali nitya mahOtsava nitya sumangaLa
satyava tOruva sAdhu sajjanara cittadi hoLevA puttaLi bombe
sankhye illAda bhAgyava koTTu kankaNa kaiya tiruvuta bAre
kunkumAnkite pankaja lOcane venkaTaramaNana binkada rANI
sakkare tuppada kAluve harisi shukravAradha pUjaya vELage
akkareyuLLa aLagiri rangana cokka purandara viThalana rANI
Oh, Goddess of Fortune ! Laksmidevi !
Do come slowly with your anklets making the jingling sound!
Come to us like butter emerging out of buttermilk when it is churned !
Come and shower on us a rain of gold and fufilll our aspirations !
Come with the brightness of countless number of rays of the sun !
Come and bless us; Oh, Devi, who has taken incarnation as Sitha !
Oh, lotus eyed Devi who is the pride of Mahavishnu!
Come and appear before us wearing the shining golden bracelets on your wrists and the auspicious vermilion mark on your forehead! Oh, Consort of Purandaravithala !
Welcome to You who shine auspiciously in the hearts of great sages !
Oh, Queen of Alagiri Ranga!
Come to our worship on Friday when streams of ghee and sugar will overflow !
And he has sung for a few Hindi movies. One of the earlier ones being ‘Ketaki Gulab Juhi’ for Basant Bahar-1956 (you may want to ignore the actor singing with Bhimsen’s playback on screen, for better effect)
And one of the more recent ones being, ‘Raghuvar Tum To Meri Laaj’ from Ankahi
A small interview with him
And if I remember http://fr.truveo.com/Vande-Mataram-Bhimsen-Joshi/id/951084895
was how India used to wake up to when the Doordarshan channels were the only ones around
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