Sunday, August 15, 2004


I have always been wondering about the musical dichotomy between Pt. Bhimsen Joshi and Pt. Kumar Gandharva when it comes to the lyrics of the 'cheezas' (songs) they are singing, since I have listened to them both for a considerable period of time now. I will promise a reasonably lucrative treat to anyone who can decipher the lyrics of five of Bhimsen's cheezas which I will choose for him. Its a true miracle how he makes himself heard and transcends the boundaries of normal musical appreciation, when most of the lyrics in many of his performances are all but unintelligible. However, his vocal range and sheer voice quality is so extraordinary, that it really does not matter whether one can listen to, let alone appreciate the lyrics or not. Kumar, on the other hand, hangs on to the lyrics as if his life depended on it. The best proof of this is gleaned from his famous 'Nirguni Bhajans' where every word is uttered as clearly as the ancient sages used to utter the words of the Vedas. Now, since I make many feeble, private attempts to sing, I can appreciate the fact that if you know and understand the words of a song, you can enhance its quality considerably when you sing, because then you can sing it with more emotion and understanding. One then wonders, if the quality of Bhimsen's performances would be magnified even more than what it is now, if the words are clear. However, thinking about it, I realise that the words are probably not intelligible to US, definitely not to HIM! I am sure that he is very much aware of the meaning and effect of the words. It is a real tribute to this great doyen of Indian classical music, that his words actually percolate to the minds and hearts of his fans, without him even uttering them as such! The conclusion, I guess is that, Kumar with the words, and Bhimsen with or without them, make no difference as far as appreciating them is concerned. Both are examples of truly timeless voices.


Blogger Sumedha said...

Hi Ashutosh,

I googled "Nirguni Bhajan" and your post came up! I agree what you say about these legends. I was wondering if I can find the lyrics of the nirguni bhajans rendered by Kumar Gandhrva (with meanings, better still).

If you are taking up the project to post those on your blog, even better :-)

Nice blog you have here!


11:44 AM  

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