On Monday, January 24, 2011, when I was reaching Lokmanya Tilak Terminus , Mumbai to catch my train to Varanasi , on the way I read about Pt. Bhimsen Joshi’s sad demise on somebody’s twitter handle. I was shocked.
I am fortunate , lucky and blessed that I have attended one of his concerts and could see him and listen him in person. I remember as if it happened only yesterday. I was new in Mumbai [ then Mumbai was still Bombay ] And there was a buzz about the first Elephanta Festival. I read in news papers that Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and Sonal Mansingh would perform live for that festival. In those days of my existence , I had no money even for two proper meals. So buying ticket for the concert was almost impossible. I decided to skip my food for some coming days and bought the ticket. I took the first boat to Elephanta Island [ known in local parlance as Ghara Puri Bet ] and reached there. Since the concert was in the evening and I reached much earlier, I started roaming around. I saw all the caves. I eagerly waited for the evening to descend on the island. But for me , that day , time was moving slowly. Eventually the sun set in the west and the azure sky turned grey and finally black. Night came and slowly darkness engulfed the island completely. I reached the venue and took my seat. I was hungry and tired but I was eagerly waiting for Pandit ji to come. Suddenly a deafening sound of claps and whistles erupted and Pandit Bhimsen Joshi appeared on the stage. He sat on the dias and started his AALAP. Slowly I started getting mesmerized . His voice gradually reached crescendo and , and I forgot my hunger pangs and cramps and was transported to another world. It went on for complete two hours and I sat there completely engrossed and enchanted. Programme ended and I took the boat back and reached my place. I had to survive on Vada-Pao for some days but I never regretted my decision and today when he is gone, I consider myself fortunate and blessed that I attended the concert and was able to hear him once in my life.
I am not an expert of Indian Classical Music so I can’t give detailed analysis or critique of his expertise or his mastery over various RAGAS. I am just a lover or connoisseur of Indian Classical Music , so I can simply express my feelings for Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and his ability to get an ordinary lover of music like me , to get hooked to his music permanently.
Later on when I was well enough to buy some cassettes and cds, I bought and listened admiringly. I like and admire vocalists like Dagar Brothers, Pandit Onkar Nath Thakur, Pandit Kumar Gandharv, Pandit Jasraj, Pandit Rajan Mishra & Pandit Sajan Mishra of VARANASI and Pandit Mallikarjun Mansoor. But for me PANDIT BHIMSEN JOSHI will always be special because I could attend his concert and could listen him personally. He is the only Indian Classical musician, apart from Pandit Ravi Shankar & Ustad Alla Rakha Khan, whose concerts I have attended but they are instrumentalists. So they are in different league.
PANDIT BHIMSEN JOSHI came from a humble beginning. He was born in the Kannadiga Brahmin family of GADAG village of DHARWAD district of KARNATAKA. Left his home when he was 11 years old and in search of his GURU went from one place to another. During those formative years, sometimes he had to beg and once he had to become servant also in the house of Bengali actor Pahadi Sanyal for his survival. But when he attained success, he never looked back. Few people know that he had a brief career as a play back singer also. In 1956 he sang a duet for a Hindi film ” Basant Bahar ” along with Manna Dey. He sang for some Marathi films also. In 1985 he sang Mile Sur Mera Tumhara for Door Darshan and attained mass recognition and adulation. He was awarded Padma Shri in 1972, Padma Bhushan in 1985, Padma Vibhushan in 1999 and finally Bharat Ratna in 2008. Apart from Lata Mangeshkar, Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustad Bismillah Khan, he is the fourth recipient of the highest national honour among all the eminent members of this music fraternity.
Today PANDIT BHIMSEN JOSHI is gone but his music will enthrall the connoisseurs of Indian Classical Music for centuries to come.
VARANASI – UTTAR PRADESH – INDIA
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- “Pandit Bhimsen Joshi passes away” and related posts (asianetindia.com)
- Bhimsen Joshi: Singer widely regarded as the greatest exponent of Indian classical vocal music (independent.co.uk)
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