Pune: Legendary classical singer Pandit Bhimsen Gururaj Joshi of Kirana Gharana breathed his last today at 8 am in Pune’s Sahyandri Hospital. He was 88.
Pt Joshi was suffering from old age related ailments, including kidney problems, and had been admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit. The 88-year old Hindustani classical exponent was on ventilator and underwent periodic dialysis during the past 25 days.
The veteran vocalist was a musical marvel who lifted listeners to a divine experience with his singing. Born in a Kannadiga family in Gadag village in Dharwad district of north Karnataka on Februray 4, 1922 Pandit Joshi bagged several prestigious honours, including Padma Vibhushan in 1991, Padma Bhushan in 1985 and Padma Shri in 1972. In 2008 he was awarded country’s highest civilian award Bharat Ratna.
Pandit Joshi was trained by Pandit Sawai Gandharva of Kirana Gharana. He moved to Mumbai in 1943 and worked as a Radio Artist. His first live performance coming at the age of 19 and his debut album on devotional songs in Kannada and Hindi made waves when he was just 22.
Pt. Joshi was known for his mellifluous ‘khayals’ as well as for his popular renditions of devotional ‘abhangs‘ and ‘bhajans‘. His music has been hailed by both the critics and the masses but his specialisation came in for ragas most popularly Shuddha Kalyan, Miyan Ki Todi and Darbari raga. The newer generation remembers Pandit Joshi more popularly for his much hyped rendition on Mile Sur Mera Tumhara music video.
Apart from the classical music Joshi has even sung for several films – like Basant Bahar with Manna Dey and Birbal My Brother with Pandit Jasraj, Tansen and Ankahee.
With Pandit Bhimsen Joshi’s demise a distinguished musician’s career spanning more than seven decades came to an end.
Few know that Pt. Bhimsen Joshi had a craze for fast cars and football. He was an avid admirer of automobiles – a bike or a BMW, he could fix an erratic engine with elan.
“Had I not been a classical singer, I would have loved to spend my entire life in a garage fine-tuning a Fiat or a Maruti,” he often said to friends.
On a Mumbai-Pune journey in a taxi some years ago, Panditji regaled the taxi-driver with his cascading ‘taans’.
The highly amused taxi-driver, unaware of his passenger’s eminence, wondered if Panditji knew to fix the engine if the car broke down. Eventually the engine went bust while the ramshackle Ambassador negotiated a hairpin bend. Joshi helped him repair the engine and the journey resumed.
Pt. Joshi loved to drive himself across the country on concert tours. “Engine troubles were welcome,” said vocalist Firoz Dastur. “They gave him a chance to get under the car and tinker with it.”
Pt. Bhimsen Joshi was a national asset, a legacy not only Indians but humanity can be proud of.