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Effusive Devotional Spirit

Tuesday, May 14, 2019
By Amarendra Dhaneshwar

'Abhang' is typically Marathi version of a devotional song. Maharashtra has had a long tradition of poet saints who spread the Bhakti movement through their singing. They wrote devotional poems which were set to tune by themselves as also by others who were their followers or devotees of Lord Vithala.

These lyrics, called the 'abhang' were written in local dialect and were easy to musicalize. The credit for bringing the 'abhang' to the concert platform goes to singers of the bygone era like Master Krishnarao Phulambrikar and Balgandharva. They would invariably include one 'abhang' in the concert format. The tradition was continued by singers like Ram Marathe and Manik Verma.

It was the great Bhimsen Joshi who dared to sing a full fledged 'abhang' concert which was timed around ashadhi ekadashi which is a long awaited occasion. This was in early 1970s. Bhimsen drew a full house in the huge Shanmukhananda Auditorium. His 'Teerth Vithal' which is written by the saint poet Namdev broke all the existing records and became popular even among the non Marathi speaking audience because of its intense devotional fervour. Many singers of the later generations have picked up this abhang as a sure fire item in their concert.

Sanjay Garud who is a follower of Bhimsen Joshi has been trained by Bhimsen's ace disciple the late Shrikant Deshpande. On the occasion of Maharashtra Day, he was featured in a special morning concert at Taj Mahal Tea House. His version of 'Teerth Vithal' based as it was on the raga 'Bibhas' mesmerized the Sunday morning audience.

He began with the raga 'Bhairav'. 'Balamva More Saiyan', the slow khyal was developed with due care and sense of aesthetics. The swings on the note Komal R and Komal D were appealing.

'Jo Bhaje Hariko Sada', a devotional song written by Bramhanand has firm philosophical foundation. This is the song which made Bhimsen Joshi famous across the entire sub continent. Sanjay Garud has practised it to a degree of perfection which was evident from his flawless rendering of the devotional number. Shantibhushan on the harmonium and Sudhir Shingade on the tabla lent superb support.

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