Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, a highly accomplished Kannadiga , the illustrious exponent of Hindustani classical music of the Kirana gharana was born on February 4, 1922, in Gadag, Karnataka, India. He was born into a family where music was not a family tradition. As a young boy, he was so drawn to Ustad Abdul Karim Khan’s music that he ran away from home at the age of eleven as his family did not support his aim to take up singing as a profession. Bhimsenji has narrated fascinating incidents from this time of his life—of travelling on trains without tickets, singing popular recordings for the ticket collectors who were often music lovers, who would let him ride free. His quest for learning music took him to Kundgol in Karnataka where he became a disciple of Rambhau Kundgolkar alias Sawai Gandharva, who was one of the chief disciples of the legendary Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, founder of the Kirana gharana of music. His family happily accepted him back at that point and his father began to support his deep passion for music. .
Sawai Gandharva taught Bhimsenji for five years in the guru-shishya style, teaching him vocal music in the style of the Kirana school. He practiced ten to twelve hours a day at a stretch and mastered the nuances of the Kirana style of gaayaki (vocal singing).Although he was receptive to so many influences outside his gharana, Bhimsen Joshi took pride in celebrating the legacy of his Kirana guru. In honor of Sawai Gandharva, he began organizing the Sawai Gandharva Music Festival annually in Pune in the early 1950s. To this day, the four-day, open-air festival held every December brings the biggest names in Hindustani classical music to perform for thousands of enthusiastic music lovers. Bhimsenji himself was a kind and patient teacher, nurturing the talent of several disciples. Pandit Madhav Gudi, Pandit Vinayak Torvi, Pandit Shrikant Deshpande, Anand Bhate, his son Shrinivas Joshi and many other disciples show the unmistakable stamp of their guru’s energy and majestic style of singing.
Bhimsen Joshi is a household name in Karnataka, especially in northern Karnataka, where Hindustani classical music is prominent. Pandit’s clearly made its way into the hearts of listeners. Pandit Bhimsen Joshi was the last of the great 20th century classicists in Hindustani vocalism. His most valuable legacy is the massive archive of music, recorded over a period of more than 60 years, covering a variety of genres. In this, he bequeaths to the nation a library of some of the finest specimens of 20th century vocalism.
Written by Laxmi Baliga