Bhimsen Joshi was known for his purity of sound: Birju Maharaj

November 5th, 2008 - 8:48 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 5 (IANS)Classical music exponent Pandit Bhimsen Joshi’s family Wednesday celebrated the vocalist’s nomination for the highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna. The 88-year-old maestro’s son Srinivas Joshi said his father had accepted the award on behalf of all Indian vocalists and it was an honour for Indian classical music. “It is a pleasant surprise for all of us and this award is for all those who have devoted their life to classical music,” said Srinivas, a vocalist and a composer. He was flooded with calls from well-wishers and fellow musicians congratulating the maestro throughout the day.

The maestro, who has been ailing for sometime, was not available for an interview.

Bhimsen Joshi, who belonged to the Kirana Gharana, is the second vocalist after Subalakshmi to receive the highest civilian award.

Recalling his association with Joshi, Kathak exponent Birju Maharaj said his friendship with Joshi went back a long way. “It began in 1955 and continued as we performed in soirees together. I feel as if I have been honoured,” the danseuse told IANS.

According to Birju Maharaj, Bhimsen Joshi was known for his purity of ’swar’ and knowledge of the ‘ragas’.

“In one breath, he could perform an entire ‘taan’ and his voice spanned all the scales- ‘mandhra’, ‘madhya’ and ‘tar-saptak’. Very few musicians can do it,” Birju Maharaj said.

He cherishes fond memories of his friendship with Bhimsen Joshi. “We often shared ‘paan-supari’ (betel leaf and nuts)at concerts. And once when I went to visit him at his residence in Pune after he was operated upon for stroke, he garlanded me with his own hand. I said I would return the gesture when you visit me in Delhi,” Birju Maharaj said.

Despite ill health, Bhimsen Joshi has been at his vocation though his concerts are now few and far between. “The last time when he performed a few months ago, he was confined to a chair. He could not sit down. But those who watched him said, his voice was as young and melodic as it was in his youth,” Birju Maharaj said.

Bhimsen Joshi was born to a Kannadiga family in a small town in Gadag district of Karnataka. His father was a conservative school teacher. As a result, he upbringing was strict.

The classical maestro left his home at the age of 11 to learn music in the guru-shishya tradition. He spent three years in Gwalior, Lucknow and Rampur in north India to find a guru. His father succeeded in tracking him down and brought him home. In 1936, Rambhau Kundgolkar, popularly known as Sawai Gandharva, agreed to teach him. Bhimsen Joshi stayed with him from 1936-40. He subsequently left to his guru to become a musician on his own.

Felicitating the classical musician, Maharashtra Chief inister Vilasrao Deshmukh said it was an honour for Joshi and the state. “We are proud that he has been nominated for the award. He has enriched Indian classical music,” Deshmukh said.

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