Veteran vocalist Pt Bhimsen Joshi dead

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Pune, Jan 24 (PTI) Legendary vocalist Pandit BhimsenJoshi, who enthralled generations of connoisseurs with hisrenditions of Hindustani classical music, passed away at acity hospital today after a prolonged illness.

He was 87.

A recipient of Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award,Joshi had been put on life support system following old age-related ailments leading to kidney and respiratory failureafter his admission to hospital on December 31, his familysaid.

Joshi, the most-celebrated exponent of ''Kirana gharana''of Khansahib Abdul Karim Khan, leaves behind three sons and adaughter.

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''.

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.

In the forays he made outside the classical fold,Joshi lent is 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.

Joshi''s body was taken to his residence where itwould be kept for people to offer their last respects tillthis afternoon.

The final rites would be performed in the evening,family sources said.

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." PTI HBJSKL SC

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