Very few persons become a legend in their lifetime. The Kirana Gharana doyen Pandit Bhimsen Joshi is certainly one among them. But in becoming so he had to undergo utmost sufferings, starvation and humiliation.
Born at Gadag in the Dharwar district of Karnataka on 14th February 1922 he developed an early interest in music by listening to his mother's chanting of devotional hymns. He first received lessons in music from local teachers Chinappa Kurakoti and Shyamacharya. But it was a chance listening of a gramophone record of the Kirana doyen Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, released by the now defunct Odeon Gramophone Company, in which the Ustad had rendered a khayal in Raga Basant that attracted him a lot. Thereafter he decided to become a singer of that very tradition. His grandfather was a well-known 'kirtankaar' and his father Pandit Gururaj, an eminent Sanskrit scholar and an educationist however did not approve of his son becoming a singer.
In orderto find a Guru who would fulfill his long cherished desire he left his house while still in his teens. Bhimsen had to face extreme hardship for several years. He went all over India in search of a Guru. He visited Calcutta. Lucknow. Indore and Gwalior where he was well received by Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan, Krishnarao Shankar Pandit and Rajabhaiyya Poochhwale. In Gwalior he attended the music classes at the Madhav Sangeet Vidyalaya mainly to have a free evening meal the Vidyalaya provided to its students, by the Scindia ruler.
Learning music was no easy vocation in India during those days for persons who lacked patronage and money. One recalls most of the music students in Gwalior performing domestic chores at their Gurus' houses without being given a single paisa and a morsel of food. Bhimsen also endured all such hardships in the earlier days of his life.
It was during his meeting with Pandit Vinayakrao Patwardhan at Jalandhar during the Harvallabh music festival that he learnt that the teacher he had been looking for all across the country in fact lived quite close to his home at Kundgol in Dharwar district. He was none other than Pandit Rambhau Kundgol popularly known as Sawai Gandharva and a senior disciple of Ustad Abdul Karim Khan. Sawai Gandharva at first declined to accept Bhimsen as his disciple but later agreed to teach him on the recommendation of one of his senior pupils, Gangu Bai Hangal. The legendary Sawai Gandharva taught him for almost seven years. Bhirnsen worked very hard and finally he received Guru's blessings and approval to give public recitals and gain further experience.
Pandit Bhimsen Joshi's singing is noted for his great lung power and a stentorian voice. He is equally at ease in rendering Khayals, with a clear delineation of the Ragas, as well as the lighter forms like Thumri, Bhajan, Marathi devotional songs and Marathi natya-sangeet. In his earlier days he had also acted in several Kannada plays.
For almost half a century he has dominated the classical music scenario all over the country and has received wide appreciation almost all over the globe. He received his first platinum disc in 1986. Padmashri in1972. Padma Bhushan in 1985 and Padma Vibhushan in 1999 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1976. He has recorded a large number of gramophone records. LPs and CDs which are in great demand.
The legendary sarod maestro Ustad Ali Akbar Khan has paid rich tributes to Pandit Bhimsen Joshi by stating "I have a great respect for Pandit Bhimsen Joshi. We are very old friends and were born in the same year. I believe that he is the last man of this century. as a musician. to sing his art and I don't see any replacement for may be hundreds of years". According to Dr. Prabha Atre "His voice. Even at his advanced age. Engulfs the listener like a flood of bright light pervading the whole environment. It is a voice with a tremendous mass appeal. While the Kirana artists have voices that are thin and high-pitched. his is quite the opposite-broad. dense. Wide ranging and capable of prolonged spans".
It would be incorrect to regard him mainly as a Kirana doyen. He has assimilated the redeeming features of several other styles including that of Gwalior. Patiala and of Agra-Atrauli. thereby creating an entirely individualistic style of his own which could well be regarded as the "Bhirnseni Gayaki".
Raga Puriya is a melody of choice for old timers. It is a testing ground for most musicians. The Raga is derived from the Thaat Marwa. Though it has the same swaras as Raga Marwa. it differs from Marwa due to its Vaadi and Samvaad swaras. for which it gets a completely different character. It has six notes in ascen and descent. omitting the note Pancham: hence it is a Shadav jati Raga. Sung ir the twilight hours of the evening. its Vaadi Swar is Gandhar andSarnvaadi Swar i Nishad.
Aroha- Ni Re Ga Ma' Dha Ni Re Sa
Avaroha- Sa Ni Dha Ma' Ga Re Sa
Listening to Pandit Bhimsen Joshi's rendering in this Raga with Sadarang's famous composition 'Pyare De Gar Lago' set to Vilambit Ektal was an immensely delightful experience. This highly enchanting piece of music in the Akashvani Archives has been recorded in January1961 and both the accompanists Mohammed Ahmed Banne on the Sarangi and Lalji Gokhale on the Tabla expired a longtime back.
A very notable aspect of the Hindustani classical music lies in the manner with which many of the Ragas having a common set of notes like Sohini. Marwa and Puriya (or Bhopali. Deshkaar and jait.) are handled by retaining their individual identity and form.
While most musicians render this Raga in the lower or the middle octaves Pandit Bhimsen Joshi has very brilliantly extended its range to all over the three octaves without distorting the Raga's basics and mood. While the alaap-badhat was done in a highly reposeful manner, the subsequent deployment of sargams and taan flourishes, many highly complex permutations and powerful gamakas, have made this piece of music as one of the rarest gems in the Akashvani Archives. The note by note gradual development through the alaap and fast taans is marked by the utmost clarity. Besides, the thoughtful deployment of the bandish and sargams in addition to the occasional variations in mood and a highly competent awareness of rhythm has given his style of singing a highly individualistic identity of its own.The Madhyalay Teental piece 'Baaje Jhanan' was a befitting finale to this most enchanting recital by Pandit BhimsenJoshi in Raga Puriya.
The short and succinct rendering of a Teental khayal in Raga Shankara (kal naa padey) is a charmingly sung piece of music. Rag Shankara is derived from the Thaat Bilawal. Omitting Rishabh and Madhyam it is a pentatonic Raga having all Shuddha Swaras. It is a night time raga having Vaadi Swara as Gandhar and Samvaadi Nishad. The composition is a favorite of Kirana Gharana artistes.