A Kohinoor gone

A Kohinoor gone

With the passing away of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, the classical music world has lost a colossus and an era has ended. He joins a galaxy of musical stalwarts like Bismillah Khan, Vilayat Khan, Gangubhai Hangal and Ali Akbar Khan, whose voices have fallen silent in the last couple of years. Since the age of 11, Pandit Joshi’s was an amazing musical journey transporting millions into ecstasy. The notes for his calling were set by bhajans at temples and the prayers from a mosque near his house. Pandit Joshi’s lineage too was impeccable. His mother would enthrall him with bhajans and his grandfather Bhimacharya Joshi was a well-known musician. The young Joshi’s passion for music was such that he ran away from home at a tender age. His quest, often ticketless, took him to Bijapur, Bombay, Gwalior, Jalandhar and parts of Bengal before he finally found a place in Pune where he could give free play to his genius. He was born in Gadag in north Karnataka, which has nurtured a number of musical legends; the last to pass away from there was another great, Gangubhai Hangal, in 2009.

Pandit Joshi has been rightly compared to Tansen, the legendary 16th century musician in Mughal emperor Akbar’s court. As some of his contemporaries have pointed out, the nation has indeed lost a Kohinoor. Pandit Joshi was an unmatched exponent of the Kirana Gharana. He was renowned for the classical melodies ‘Marwa’ and ‘Puriya.’ His rendering of the two would send listeners into raptures. His classicism, though, did not come in the way of taking music to the masses. He was celebrated for his eloquent expression of the light classical, devotional and the popular genre as well. Little wonder then that his was the largest commercially recorded repertoire in Hindustani vocal music.

It is this connect with the larger world that has spawned a whole new generation of practitioners of classical music who are sure to keep the legacy of Pandit Joshi going. This is especially gratifying given the decibel assault from the noise from most of our films that passes off for music. The availability of music across various media has also democratised the art making accessibility easier than ever before.

Like all creative people such as writers and artists, musicians too never die: they continue to live in the body of their work. So too will Pandit Joshi. The place he has secured in our hearts will remain forever.

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