Life's Journey ends for Pandit BHIMSEN JOSHI (1922 - 2011)

What a 'damn' year this 2011 is...
before this year could even roll in, Rama Prasad Banik, the wonderful actor/playwright left us suddenly. On the 03rd of January 2011, the Rabindra-sangeet exponent Suchitra Mitra died at the age of 80 plus.
On the 17th of January 2011, the veteran actress Gita Dey laft for her heavenly abode in the dead of night and the "Golden Boy"- singer of the sixties-seventies, Pintu Bhattacharya died all of a sudden in the wee hours of the morning the same day!
And today, the 24th of January, on of the leading Hindusthani classical vocalist of our country, the unparalleled vocalist belonging to the Kirana Gharana, the un-matched Bhimsen Joshi-ji left for his heavenly abode in Pune, Maharashtra. The man who could literally 'move mountains' with his powerful voice, Bhimsen Joshi-ji, 88, was the leading exponent of the "khayal" form of singing and his renditions of devotional songs (bhajans and abhangs) mesmerized several generations of Indians through live concerts and albums and even films songs.

Born on the 4th of February, 1922 in Gadag, Karnataka, he was a recipient of the Bharat Ratna, the country's highest civilian honor, in 2008 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, one of the highest national recognition given to practicing artistes, in 1976.

He was born into a Marathi family in the town of Ron which was then in Gadag District in northern Karnataka state of India. His father, Gururaj Joshi, was a school teacher. Bhimsen was the eldest in a family of 16 siblings. Some of the siblings still live in their ancestral home in Gadag. Bhimsen lost his mother when he was young, and his step mother raised him. His parents lived initially with his grandfather as tenants of a Kulkarni household, but then moved to Gadag District.

Until the first half of the 20th century, Khayal was principally taught in the Guru Shishya (master-disciple) tradition. Bhimsen's guru Sawai Gandharva was the chief disciple of Abdul Karim Khan, who along with his cousin Abdul Waheed Khan was the founder of the Kirana Gharana school of Hindustani music.

Pt. Joshi heard a recording of Utd. Abdul Karim Khan's Thumri "Piya Bin Nahi Aavat Chain" in Raag Jhinjhoti when he was a child, which inspired him to become a musician. In 1933, the 11-year-old Pt. Joshi left Dharwad for Bijapur to find a master and learn music. With the help of money lent by his co-passengers in the train Bhimsen reached Dharwar first and later went to Pune. Later he moved to Gwalior and got into Madhava Music School, a school run by Maharajas of Gwalior, with the help of famous Sarod player Utd. Hafiz Ali Khan. He traveled for three years around North India, including in Delhi, Kolkata, Gwalior, Lucknow and Rampur, trying to find a good guru. Eventually, his father succeeded in tracking him down in Jalandar and brought young Bhimsen back home. Bhimsen Joshi is also popularliy known as Anna (elder Brother) or Bhim-Anna.

In 1936, Pt. Rambhau Kundgolkar (alias Sawai Gandharva), a native of Dharwad, agreed to be his guru. Bhimsen Joshi stayed at his house in the traditional guru-shishya (teacher-student) tradition, gleaning knowledge of music from his master as and when he could, while performing odd-jobs in his house. Another renowned vocalist from the Kirana Gharana, Gangubai Hangal, was a co-student of Bhimsen during this time. Joshi continued his training with Sawai Gandharva till 1940.

Pt. Joshi moved to Mumbai in 1943 and worked as a Radio Artist. He first performed live at the age 19. His debut album, containing a few devotional songs in Kannada and Hindi, was released by HMV when he was 22.

Bhimsen Joshi ji's music has been hailed by both the critics and the masses. 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. He was ever the wanderer, engendering brilliant phrases and taans more intuitively than through deliberation. Never the one to be controlled by the rigours of theory, he sailed high, sometimes floundering, nevertheless reaching out to the stars. He makes occasional use of sargam and tihaais, and favours traditional compositions of the Kirana gharana. Over the years he has specialized in a few ragas, which he usually performs. Some of Pt. Bhimsen Joshi's more popular Raags include Shuddha Kalyan, Miyan Ki Todi, Puriya Dhanashri, Multani, Bhimpalas, Darbari, and Ramkali. Other than Utd. Abdul Karim Khan, Pt. Joshi has been influenced by many musicians, including Smt. Kesarbai Kerkar, Begum Akhtar and Utd. Amir Khan. Pt. Bhimsen Joshi's own style emerged over the years after assimilating various elements from what he liked in different musical styles and Gharanas.

In devotional music, Pt.Bhimsen Joshi is most acclaimed for his Kannada, Hindi and Marathi Bhajan singing. His commercially successful CDs Daaswani and Enna Paliso included Kannada Bhajans, and Santawani included Marathi Abhangs.

Pt. Bhimsen Joshi is revered in India for his work in the "Mile Sur Mera Tumhara" music video (1985), which begins with him. Pt. Joshi was also invited to sing for the Bharat Bala production of the Indian National Anthem music video (2000).

Joshi has sung for several films, including Basant Bahar (1956) with Manna Dey, Birbal My Brother (1973) with Pt. Jasraj and Nodi Swami Naavu Irodhu Heege. He also sung for films Tansen(1958) and Ankahee(1985).

Pt. Joshi organized the Sawai Gandharva Music Festival as an homage to his guru, Pt. Sawai Gandharva, along with the Arya Sangeet Prasarak Mandal in 1953, marking Pt. Gandharva's first death anniversary. The festival has been held ever since, typically on the second weekend of December in Pune, Maharashtra and has become not only a cultural event for the city, but an annual pilgrimage for Hindustani Classical Music lovers all over the world. Pt. Joshi conducted the festival annually since 1953, until his retirement in 2002.

Pt. Bhimsen Joshi's family arranged his marriage at his early age to a girl named Sunanda Katti; she was his cousin. They had four children together; two sons and daughters.Later, Pt. Bhimsen Joshi married Vatsala Mudholkar with whom he had two sons, Jayant and Shrinivas, and one daughter, Shubhada. Sunanda died in 1992 and Vatsala passed away in 2005. Elder son Jayant is a painter and younger son, Shrinivas is a vocalist and composer and has released a few commercial recordings. Pt. Bhimsen Joshi has been a very private and down to earth person always. He likes to lead a very quiet and simple life. Pt. Joshi is also known to have a fondness for automobiles and his favourite happened to be the classic Mercedes C series .

Bhimsen Joshi-ji was admitted to Sahyadri Hospital on December 31, 2010 due to age related illness and was on dialysis and ventilatory support since Saturday.

He suffered intermittent episodes of reduced heart rate and drop in blood pressure.
This morning he suffered one such incident and despite resuscitation he could not be revived. He passed away at 8:05 am.

Prominent citizens, people from the entire music fraternity, especially from Bombay,  including Congress party president Sonia Gandhi have condoled his death.

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