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Still magical

Bhimsen Joshi, the legendary Kannadiga musician who made it big in the national music scene, mesmerised the City.

PANDIT BHIMSEN Joshi looked exhausted when he arrived in Bangalore on October 26. He was driven down via Hubli (he lives in Pune), and it seemed to bhaktas who saw him that morning that he wouldn't be able to sing for more than an hour. Happily, that apprehension vanished when he started singing at the Chowdaiah.

Joshi sang to a full house for a full three hours. He began with Puriya Kalyan, one of his, and his Kirana gharana's, favourite ragas. Since his last concert in Bangalore, the maestro has undergone a brain surgery, and lost the strength in his legs. He needs crutches and some help when he walks. On stage, he sat on a chair with a backrest, arranged in such a way that he was on the same level as his accompanists. For all the physical discomfort he now lives with, his voice has not lost its magic. Puriya Kalyan was the only raga in which he sang khayal compositions. After a slow-tempo piece in ek taal, he sang the dhrut composition "Bahut din beete beete". He delineated the raga, along contours familiar to his admirers, for nearly an hour. He then took up the thumri, "Piya bina nahi chain". This romantic number afforded him the opportunity to sing snatches of ragas Khamach, Kafi, Kalavati, and Jinjhoti. Then came a Purandaradasa composition, "Daya maado ranga".

After a 20-minute interval, Joshi came back to sing "Bhagyada lakshmi baramma", another Purandaradasa composition he has popularised in a tune of his own. He had difficulty remembering the words, and sang line after belated line, a little distracted by his lapse of memory. His son Shrinivas backed him up and sang the pallavi, providing a young counterpoint to his father's deep voice.

The concert had more bhakti compositions coming. Joshi sang the Marathi abhang "Teertha vitthala", and for the conclusion, chose the Hindi bhajan in raga Bhairavi, "Jo bhaje hari ko sada". While there was nothing in his voice that betrayed his 84 years, Joshi was not at his improvisational best. The spiralling taans that could render listeners breathless were missing. Yet no one was complaining, for this was an opportunity to watch a genius at work, an opportunity to hear one of the world's most influential musicians. If anything, the concert was a reminder that age does not spare even the magnificent.

S.R.R.

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