Pune, Jan 24 (PTI) Legendary Hindustani vocalistPandit Bhimsen Joshi, whose powerful and penetrating voicetranscended the mundane and transported his audience into thesublime, died in a city hospital here today after a prolongedillness.
He was 87.
Joshi had been put on life support system following oldage-related ailments leading to kidney and respiratory failureafter his admission to a hospital on December 31, his familysaid. He leaves behind three sons and a daughter.
A recipient of Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award,Joshi was the most-celebrated exponent of ''Kirana gharana'' ofKhansahib Abdul Karim Khan.
A pall of gloom descended on the city as the news of hisdemise spread with people making a beeline to his residence topay their last respects to the singer who was the mostpowerful figure on the Hindustani music concert platform of''khayal gayki''.
Condoling the passing away of the maestro, PresidentPratibha Patil said, "In his death, the country has lost agreat personality who was an exponent of vocal music."
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said his death was anational loss. "I am sad to learn about the passing away ofBharat Ratna Pandit Bhimsen Joshi. It is a national loss,"Singh said in a condolence message.
Observing that Panditji was among the greatest musicians,the Prime Minister said, "Millions and millions of musiclovers all over the world enjoyed and will continue to enjoyhis music genius."
Noted Hindustani classical singer Pandit Jasraj saidhe was shocked and saddened at the news of Panditji''s death inthe early hours. "This is sunset at sunrise," he said.
"He did not belong to any particular gharana, but tothe entire Hindustani music world. Joshi had held music loversspell bound over the last several decades," Jasraj said.
Carnatic music exponent M Balamuralikrishan, who hadsung jugalbandis with Joshi, said, "It is a great loss forIndian music not just for Hindustani music. I had theopportunity to sing along with him. He was like my elderbrother. It is a personal loss".
Santoor maestro Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma told PTI thatmore than four generations of music lovers had heard PanditBhimsenji. "He was like a collossus. My association with himgoes back to half a century. I have so many sweet memories ofour travel and performance together."
Born on February 4, 1922 at Gadag in Dharwad districtof Karnataka, Joshi got a boost to his career during a concertin Pune in January 1946 on the occasion of the 60th birthdayof his guru Sawai Gandharva.
What distinguished him from the ordinary was hispowerful voice, amazing breath control, fine musicalsensibility and unwavering grasp of the fundamentals that madehim the supreme Hindustani vocalist, representing a subtlefusion of intelligence and passion that imparted life andexcitement to his music. .
The last rites of Joshi would be performed in the evening, family sources said.
In the forays Joshi made outside the classical fold,he lent his voice as a "dhrupad" singer for a Bengali filmbased on the life of Tansen and later sang as a playbacksinger for Marathi film "Gulacha Ganapati", produced anddirected by celebrated Marathi humorist "Pu La" Deshpande inaddition to Hindi movies "Basant Bahar" and "Bhairavi".
But it was his ''Sant Vani'' recitals, which bore theflair of Marathi ''Bhakti Sangeet'' that added immensely to hispopularity in both Maharashtra and Karnataka which have had along succession of saint-poets.
He was honoured with the Padma Shri (1972), SangeetNatak Akademi award for Hindustani vocal music (1975), PadmaBhushan (1985) and Madhya Pradesh government''s "Tansen Samman"in 1992. Bharat Ratna was bestowed on him in 2008.
Joshi had undergone a surgery for removal of abrain tumor in 1999 followed by a cervical spine operation in2005.
The maestro''s last surprise public performance thatregaled the audience was during 2007 ''Sawai Gandharva'' annualmusic festival which he himself had started to commemorate thememory of his guru.