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At ghumar aayi badariya is a Joshi favourite, and its fast beat provides a clip-clop backdrop for his fine blend of stacatto improvisations, short bol-alaps and electrifying pauses


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A fine collection from Joshi's prime years

The Malhars
Saregama HMV
Rs 70

Two recordings come from the '60s, and one comes from the '80s, and make The Malhars a great Bhimsen Joshi compilation


Joshi:  maestro at his best

The Malhars has just hit the market, but quite a bit of the music on it comes from the '60s. Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, born in February 1922, was in his forties when three of these four tracks were recorded. HMV has repackaged three Malhars and a bhajan on this album.

The most prominent of the Malhar ragas, Mia Malhar, is featured on Side B. This longish piece is perhaps one of the master's best recordings. Kareem naam, a perennial Joshi favourite and also a favourite of his disciples, highlights a tautness you may have noticed in the songs he sang for the Kannada film Sandhyaraga sometime in the '60s. (HMV recorded Joshi for the first time when he was 22. He sang two Hindi and two Kannada bhajans at the 1944 recording in Bombay.) The improvisations are measured, spontaneously imagined and stunningly rendered. It is a treat, with everything you expect from the master, including a stylish tihai (a three-part flourish) ending on the sam.

What Joshi bhaktas may miss is a teen taal composition between the vilambit ek taal composition and the dhrut ek taal composition. The master usually presents the raga in three speeds, first in slow tempo ek taal of 12 beats, then in medium or fast-paced teen taal of 16 beats, and finally in a fast 12-beat ek taal. The last comes in the form of At ghumar aayi badariya , whose fast beat provides a clip-clop backdrop for Joshi's fine blend of stacatto improvisations, short bol-alap phrases and electrifying pauses.

The Malhars also includes the lovely Sur Malhar, a raga believed to have been composed by the saint Surdas. The vilambit Garajat aaye is followed by the short, amazingly syncopated Badarva barasan aaye. The latter composition may be found on some of Joshi's other albums, and this particular recording comes from 1981. Side A features raga Sur Malhar, and Sakhi shaam nahi aaye, a teen taal composition in a relatively less sung raga called Chaya Malhar. The accompanists on Chaya Malhar are Thakurdas (harmonium) and C Kamat (tabla), but the inlay card does not mention the names of the accompanists for the other tracks.

The tape ends with the 1961 recording of the bhajan Jo bhaje hari ko sada in raga Bhairavi. In his more recent years, Joshi has incorporated some sangatis that sound as though they were always intrinsic to the composition. It is interesting to hear an earlier rendition, when the composition was perhaps still taking shape in his mind.

The Malhars is an excellent compilation. You can buy it blindfolded. A personal note: I've heard it at least 20 times in less than a week!

S R Ramakrishna

Published on 19 Sept 2001

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