It isn’t everyday that one gets the chance to sit down and talk with someone as talented and fortunate as Shri Srinivas Joshi. This fortuitous opportunity arose for me one sweltering Monday evening, thanks to the ICMA foundation. The ICMA foundation is an organization that is devoted to sharing the soul of Indian Classical music and enlightening the public about the true identity of Indian music. They debuted their organization with the event My Father, Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, as a tribute to the legend. I sat down with Shri Srinivas Joshi, the late Pt. Bhimsen Joshi’s son, hoping to understand the intensity of training as a classical musician.
One would imagine that coupled with his illustrious background and remarkable life experiences, such a man would be rather intimidating; this was most definitely my initial thought. His persona was not overbearing, but his presence was clearly central to everyone in the room. He seemed rather taken aback when I approached him and asked if I could speak with him, but he asked for a few minutes to finish his conversation and then joined me on the floor of the living room, where several others turned their ears to listen in. Then, over the voices of the music students singing aalaps in the room below, he began to tell me about his life.
Joshi was born in Pune in 1971 to Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, a legendary Hindustani vocalist, and Vastalabai Joshi, another exceptional vocalist. Joshi says he had a very free and liberal upbringing, despite the traditional Maharastran upbringing. Music was ever-present during his childhood; however, Joshi did not initially wish to pursue it as a career. As a child, cricket and soccer were some of his favorite sports, although he never pursued either any more than just playing with friends. He recollected that he didn’t particularly dislike school, and enjoyed history and found that he was pretty good at math. This led to his decision to pursue Engineering in college, but after a few months, he realized that this was not the field for him. “Engineering was not a particularly good period for me,” he said, “Somehow I knew that I don’t want to do it in my life. So I completed my degrees and switched over to music.” He jokingly added: “I guess I was not so wise as to know my own preferences.”
Joshi was 22 years old when he finally decided to pursue music as a career. This led to many-a-concert, and eventually taking over the Sawai Gandharva concert that was his father’s legacy. [One of the challenges he faces is keeping the performances within the time constraints.] He started performing in 2001. Besides performing, Joshi has tried his hand at composing, mainly classical bhajans and light Hindi music. He says that he would love to compose some more in the future, especially now that he has some more time on his hands.
I was curious, being student of music myself, as to the process one goes through as a musician. Joshi then explained this to me: “there are many factors, there is an unknown factor and there is a known process. The basic process is simple, you keep on learning …when opportunities arrive you try to sing in public. The process goes on and as you improve and as your understanding grows, your maturity as a musician grows. Beyond that there is an unknown factor. Some musicians have the ability to capture their audience. You have to sing for your audience and since we are singing classical music, we must abide by the parameters laid down. But your music should also bear your own stamp.” Joshi says that finding one’s own style is a continuous process, which is set off as soon as one starts to experience music.
Naturally, finding a style also requires inspiration. Joshi says that “you take inspiration from everyday things. Sometimes students are very much affected by their teachers; their mannerisms etc. They can’t get out-that is their manner. They try to act like, sound like them.” But Joshi claims that “that was not his nature”. He preferred to listen to other artists, and the music around him, while still keeping his training in mind.
Despite what must be rigorous riyaaz and a time-consuming schedule, Joshi seems to be a family man. He lit up when he spoke of his son, and how he plans to take Karate lessons with him. “Somebody comes to our house to teach twice a week, so my son wants me to learn with him.”
In all, Joshi seems to really enjoy the simplicity of life. For now, Joshi is back in India, at home with his family. I look forward to his future concerts, and hope to come across some of his compositions.