Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Secret Weapons of Pt. Bhimsen Joshi

The above link transports you to the studios of Door Darshan or is it Doordarshan, in the august presence of    the   Shahenshah of  Hindustani  Vocal, you  guessed  it  right   boys, our beloved Pt. BSJ. Panditji  looks especially handsome today, the jet black hair neatly combed back. Thanks to  DD, and not  to  forget  Youtube, Panditji  will not just be heard by posterity, but also   seen and  observed   carefully. For,  Panditji’s   recital   is   not   just  eminently  nice to heed, but  also specttacccular. प्रेक्शणीय! The auditory  experience  is incomplete without the visual input, so to say. Panditji having an animated conversation with  swaras of Puriya Dhanashri. Every frame is riveting. If you really want to enjoy this blog today, you must  click the musical links. Now and then, Panditji encourages the  tanpura playing shishyas  to  participate. The lady is surprisingly good. In fact she appears to be a professional gharana singer with plenty of riyaaz behind her. Could she be Gangubai Hangal’s daughter, we aks Missus. Looks and sounds like that. ‘Sounds’ like that, if you can guess. Booming masculine voice...

Can you tell what Picasso meant when he painted those cuboids? How is one to judge the contents of a maestro's khayal? With what fathom? Does anyone really understand what he strove to convey in his recital..?

One of our immutable beliefs runs as follows: if you can appreciate, comprehend or empathise with the gesticulations and gestures of the vocalist (instrumentalists do not have the luxury) , you are really following her..understanding his or her music...comprehending what he strives to communicate...sharing a mother-tongue...

Musicologists have annotated the ragas. Foremost amongst the Gwalior band who did this yeoman job were Pt. Bhatkhande, Pt. Ratanjankar, Pt. Poonchwale and Pt. Balaji Pathak. However the gestures exhibited by vocalists on stage have received scant attention, leave alone getting annotated or compiled. Probably it’s not considered good manners to talk about them. Unmentionables. ‘Gestures’ is too mundane a word in fact, and we are looking for a more appropriate term, just as we have exhorted cognoscenti to find a better word for ‘theka’, the most consistent, unobtrusive, decent  and self-effacing of rhythms, which found its rightful place only in the repertoire of MaryadaPurushottam Shaik Dawood. Can we christen ‘theka’ as warkari, after the disciplined soldiers of Panduranga? “अब आप सुनेंगे सौ मालिनी राजुरकर का गाया राग सो ऍण्ङ सो...ये रचना वारकरी त्रिताल मे निबध्ध है” -sounds neat?! Leave it for posterity to decide, I sayyyyy......

Returning to Panditji's gestures. Is there a pattern in these gestures or gesticulations? Is it an art or a science ? How do they correlate with the swaras, taans, the bhaav? Do they enhance the listening experience or impede it?

Back to Panditji’s visuals!

The Puriya is graphic and we, in association with Missus try to decipher those endearing gestures. No levity, we are all attention and respect. No Bharatnatyam dancer can recreate those mudras.  At one stage, Panditji reaches out for the chanchal Komal Rishabh upp there, grasps it, and angrily makes him sit before him. Komal Rishabh realises, says shhh...shhh..and sits down with his finger on lips. At the cost of repetition, we’ll say no disrespect meant, and if one is supposed to enjoy and critique his swaras, why now the hav-bhav and mudras? The mudras accompanied by the music make it the headiest amalgam ever heard, which you have to experience, not just hear or witness. The complete comprehension of Panditji's music emerges only when you watch him, not just listen! Then Panditji also lost calories in the process!

We now move over to the Sawai Gandharva Festival 1975- thirty and seven years ago... 

 .....Tirtha Vitthala...!

This is an abhang by Naamdev Maharaj. The ambience appears to be so dry and hot, we say and Missus says ki भैया it is hosted in Pune, that too in winters! The audience and Panditji are enjoying every moment. We spot Nana Patekar, nodding his white Gandhi-capped head. The ‘Khode Radio’ crescent appears to be all smiles as well, gathering TRPs gratis. Bet it ends with his favourite Vitthal chant, we say, and Panditji obliges...!

Sawai Gandharva was Panditji’s guru.  This is one of the landmark music festivals held in the country, name taken in the same breath as Tansen of Gwalior, and maybe ITC also.... It was mooted and launched in 1953, a year before we were born, by none else than Panditji, and is now called the Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Festival, after Panditji’’s departure. It’s held at PUNE samajla ka? In November December each year.

Panditji’s bol-taans leave us awe-struck. Transfixeddd. We remember some lines from Ganapati atharwa-sheersh stotra -Panditji, twam vaastunaam Taj Mahaalam asi...

There were times, maybe in the late 60s, when inventing new ragas, mince tweaking old ragas was the test of the greatness for many. More important to the critics, didn’t matter so much for the artistes we suspect. Naturally the bandwagon was led by Kumarji, with his ‘Gandhi Malhar’ put up for display on the 100th birth anniversary of the Mahatma. The beginnings of the trend of course lie in the cross-pollination of Hindustani and Caranatic ragas engendered by मरहूम Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustad Vilayat Khan, to name only two.

Innovation mattered a lot to people like Raghava R. Menon, the leading critic of the 1960s, so far as Hindustani was concerned.  Hence his special affection for Kumarji. For Kumarji, that was a way of making up for his unfortunate loss of singing prowess. म्हणजे मला असे वाटायचे, j’accuse..having watched him from close quarters- when in Delhi he would either stay at Gandhi Peace Foundation Guest House, or at our Garibkhana. Wasn’t so much of a deal for Pandit Bhimsen. Of course, he created ‘Kalashri’ recall “dhana dhana bhag subhag tero...” On one of these occasions, when Panditji sang a new raga, he did receive Menon’s approbation. In fact he almost condescended to keep him in Kumarji’s class.

Discussion with Missus meanders to the subject of inventing new ragas. All new ragas emerge from the womb of a older one, says she! For example if you use shuddha dhaivat instead of komal, Bhairav becomes Anand Bhairav.

In fact, Bhairav is an adi-raga, and comes with a large caboodle, being a thaat, a ragaanga, and of course a raga. Within the parameters of the swaras- the entire saptak with re and dha komal, there are innumerable variants including rarely heard ones like Devata Bhairav, Viraat Bhairav, Prabhat Bhairav, Saurashtra Bhairav etc.etc.etc... ( nice site for rare classical music is

Here is another gem from Sawai Gandharva1977 

The accompanists are none else than the faithful Nanasaheb Mule on tabla and Purushottamrao Walawalkar on the harmonium.  The stage atmosphere is absolutely homely, number of kids on the stage. Who could they be, must be pretty old now, older than us perhaps? Muses Missus. Nana fumbles at times but Panditji only smiles indulgently, and repeats the taan for the benefit of Nana, and he gets it right of course...

As we wind up, Missus remarks swaras for Panditji were 'people'- Srinivas remarked in an interview that father seemed ever to be  surrounded swaras, as if he were donning an ethereal musical cloak or veil or mantle...“And look, Panditji rarely looks beyond his accompanists!” say she.

Finally click the following link, it’s ‘ultimate’ in Senior’s parlance:

 - yaaj sathi kela hota attahaas!
Quarter of a century in between, the exchange of secret glances between Pandit BSJ and Pandit Walawalkar endures- just click this...

This is a special abhang from Panditji. It's recorded in Chicago (Chickago as Kamat says). The audience is so well mannered, so are the organisers. Camera sits unobtrusively, video is therefore wanting in clarity. Panditji's demeanour is loving and benign. His gestures for a change, are so fluid and philosophical and musical! No kite-flying or gliding in air! The words are divine:"yaaj saathi kela hota attahaas, shewatcha dis gode zawa"- this is what you went through all those tribulations for: that the last day should be 'sweet'- now  abandon care, rest a while...something like that, what Tuka says can't really be put in a different set of words. The use of the word 'sweet' is itself sweet- 'day' being called 'sweet' is no recognised usage in Marathi, hence it is repeated literally in the translation.

Recall the blog on Panditji by Carl von ‘Bailiff entitled ‘Bande mein tha Dum’? Here it is-


Report dated 19th February 2006 in The Telegraph:

One jugalbandi of titans that ended, not with a bang, but with a bad taste in the mouth. On February 11, sitar legend Pandit Ravi Shankar and tabla virtuoso Ustad Zakir Hussain, two of the greatest names in Indian classical music, were to have wrought collective magic at Mumbai’s Shanmukhananda Hall. What happened, though, was an unseemly incident in which Hussain, upset with the volume of his microphone ? he felt it was too low ? took it off its stand and continued playing without audio support...((in the past...) Ravi Shankar had once rebuked the audience when it clapped after a vigorous tabla flourish, “Sum pe aane se taali kyun bajate hain, yeh koi football ka goal nahin hai.”
The Frankenstein who created the monster was none else than Robida! CVB. 

Now a corroboration of our views on tabla by the greatest!

Some Shuma Raha wrote that article and she was all for Zakir- that shows The Hirsute One was musically sexier than Robida  by 2006 if not in 1996. 
Nanabhau Mule and Pt. Walawalkar with fans

The Ruling Muse of our blog, Pt. Rajan Parrikar (thank God he doejent know..), Guru-bandhu of Missus, as has been indicated on occasion, is a most maddeningly opinionated reviewer of Indian Classical, we lovvvvve it....! This blog has lent its whatever-support to his cause Quit Goa 2013. His bete noires happen to be people who go under the name and classification 'ethnomusicologists'.

This category, to our eternal remorse, envelopes writers of The Economist, who apart from IK, are the only writers the best of our have devoted attention to the gestures of Pt. Bhimsen Joshi... and recognised them as his secret weapons....

Pandit Parrikarji, what about a re-look...?

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