Bhimsen Joshi chosen for 'Bharat Ratna'

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New Delhi, Nov 4: Renowned Hindustani classical vocalist Pandit Bhimsen Joshi has been chosen for the country's highest civilian award Bharat Ratna, it was announced on Tuesday, Nov 4. President Pratibha Patil decided to confer the Bharat Ratna upon the 86-year-old veteran singer, a Rashtrapati Bhawan statement said on Tuesday, Nov 4 night. The Bharat Ratna is being awarded after a gap of seven years. Popular playback singer Lata Mangeshkar and classical shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan were the last recipients of the honour in 2001. This year's recipient Pandit Bhimsen Joshi has earlier been awarded with the Padma Vibhushan in 1999, Padma Bhushan in 1985 and Padma Shree in 1972. He was also conferred with the Karnataka Ratna in 2005 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1976.

Early years of Bhimsen Joshi

Born in Gadag, Karnataka, in 1922, Bhimsen Joshi is a descendant of the Kirana Gharana. He enriched the Kirana Gharana by adding his own distinctive style and adapting characteristics from other gharanas and improvised and combined ragas to create new ragas. He is particularly renowned for the 'khayal' form of singing and for his bhajans. Some of the famous numbers sung by Joshi are 'Piya milan ki aas', 'Jo bhaje hari ko sada', and 'Mile sur mera tumhara'.

Until the first half of the 20th century, 'khayal' was principally taught in the 'Guru-Shishya(master-disciple)' tradition. Joshi'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.

Bhimsen Joshi left home in 1932 in search of a guru. He wandered for two years and travelled to Bijapur, Pune, and Gwalior. He tutored under Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan in Gwalior. In 1936, Joshi started his rigorous training under Sawai Gandharva (Pandit Rambhan Kundgolkar), the eminent 'Khayal' singer and student of Abdul Karim Khan at Kundgol, near Gadag. He learnt the basics of 'Khayal' singing and was under Sawai Gandharva's tutelage for several years.

Bhimsen Joshi first performed live at the age of 19 years.

His debut album, containing a few devotional songs in Kannada and Hindi, was released when he was 20 years old.

He is credited with starting an annual classical musical festival called the Sawai Gandharva Music Festival in the memory of his guru. This festival is held in Pune every December.

His son Sriniwas is also a vocalist and a composer.


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