The last of the titans of Hindustani classical music, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi was a rare genius who could transcend the mundane and transport his audience to the sublime with his gifted voice that captured both anguish and ecstasy.
What made him arguably the most popular Hindustani music vocalist of the current times was his impassioned renditions with a powerful and penetrating voice that showcased the aesthetic majesty of the 'Kirana' gharana of which he was the celebrated exponent, as also the eloquent expression of light classical, devotional and the popular variety.
It was an awe-inspiring fusion of intelligence and passion that perhaps separated Joshi from other classical vocalists who dogmatically stuck to their 'Gharana' culture with a rigidity that possibly inhibited creativity.
Born on February 4, 1922 at Gadag in Dharwad district of Karnataka, his journey to the stardom in the world of Hindustani music was just as dramatic as it was arduous for one who decided to run away from home at a tender age of 11, in quest of finding a 'Guru' to learn music.
Even as a child, Joshi's craving for music was evident to his family as he managed to lay his hands on a 'tanpura' used by his 'Kirtankar' grandfather, which had been kept away from his gaze at home. Music had such a magnetic pull over him that a 'bhajan singing' procession or just 'azaan' from a nearby mosque was said to draw him out of house.
On his way back home after school hours, Joshi used to stand near a shop selling gramophone records and listen to the music played by the owner for prospective customers.
There he chanced to hear a record of Abdul Karim Khan and resolved to sing like the Ustad. The quest for the Guru started at that point, as Joshi himself told a biographer in an interview.
A slight provocation at home spurred Joshi to give effect to what had been brewing in his mind as he made his way to Gadag railway station, clad in a rumpled shirt and half pant, and embarked on a ticket-less train journey that took him to Bijapur where he sang 'bhajans' earning a pittance to feed himself.
Unable to find the master who could teach him, the intrepid youngster then wanted to go to Gwalior on advice by a music loving person but a mix-up of train landed him in Pune, the seat of Maharashtra culture.
Joshi was in for a disappointment in pursuit of a Guru once again when eminent vocalist Krishnarao Phulambrikar, whom he approached for tutelage, insisted on a monthly fee that was beyond the means of the boy, whose parents by then had lodged a complaint with Gadag police after his disappearance from home.