At 16, Viraj Joshi brings alive memories of his grandfather Bhimsen Joshi through his music

Tiyashi Datta, Harsh Shukla
Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Viraj joshi, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi grandson viraj joshi, art and culture, music, indian express, classical music

The 16-year-old had begun with raga Puriya Dhanashree’s Sumiro tero naam.

Viraj Joshi sat barefoot with his parents after his performance at Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav, one of the largest gatherings of Indian classical music, held in Pune. The 16-year-old had begun with raga Puriya Dhanashree’s Sumiro tero naam.

With the bhajan Tirtha vitthal kshetra vitthal, he brought back memories of his grandfather, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, who composed the bhajan. “It is a blessing to perform on such a big platform where many legends have left their mark. I feel humbled,” says Viraj.

Born into a family with legendary musicians like his grandfather and his father, Shrinivas Joshi, Viraj beagn his musical journey with the tabla. “There was a Marathi TV channel where my father used to sing. I was in the audience and I started tapping my chair in rhythm. My mother saw that and felt that I should learn an instrument,” he says. According to his mother Shilpa Joshi, Viraj was only four or five years old then. He learnt the tabla for a month, only to realise that vocals is what interested him more.

His first-ever stage performance was in Belgaon. “It was my birthday. That time I didn’t know anything about classical music, I just sang three of my grandfather’s devotional pieces. The second time, it was the 60th year of Sawai Gandharva. During the interval, I sang some bhajans for just 10 minutes. That was where it all started,” he says.

Through his childhood, he has seen many great singers visit his grandfather at home. “Not only my grandfather and father, but my grandmother, Vatsala Mudholkar, was also a great singer,” he says. His guru is his father Shrinivas Joshi, “but when we are doing riyaaz, he is more of a teacher”, says Viraj. While he claims he has no fixed timings for his riyaaz, his mother, who was constantly staring at him during the conversation, said, “He practised a lot and there is hard work behind all this.”

His memories about his grandfather are dim, his parents often remind him of the days with the legend. “I was told he sang a composition named Mam atma gamala by Pandit Bal Gandharva ji and I repeated it. Whenever I used to make him listen any of the bhajans, he used to listen carefully,”
he says. His love for music includes all kinds.

“Play anything, I will listen to that,” he says. The class XI student is also a black belt in karate and loves playing football. But ask him about his favourite footballer, and he says, “I only like playing, I don’t have favourites.”