I was raised in a traditional Maharashtrian household, so I grew up listening to Bhav Geet, Bhakti Geet and Abhang before I immersed myself thoroughly in the trending pop-culture. In the last month, I revisited that memory and browsed through those songs on YouTube.
Mainly, Kumar Gandharva and Pt. Bhimsen Joshi amongst many others, because of an article I read that mentioned their musical eminence. The song that got stuck in my head for the longest time was ‘Majhe Maher Pandhari‘, an Abhang, written by Sant Eknath- an Indian saint from Paithan (1533-1599), a popular rendition of which has been performed by Pt. Bhimsen Joshi.
Although, very recently, a friend of mine introduced Kishori Amonkar’s music to me. I may not have religiously heard her music, but her songs evoked the nostalgic memories. However, one of her songs in the collection was yet another rendition of Sant Eknath‘s ‘Majhe Maher Pandhari‘. As the Bhimsen Joshi version had already been stuck in my head, I initially chose not to listen to Kishori Amonkar’s version.
However, her version of that Abhang disclosed another sentimental dimension. I would not have realised it until another friend of mine brought it to my notice. Both the singers were class-apart in their talent and so were their songs. The elucidation below is not a comparison, but personal opinion on those renditions-
1. Pandit Bhimsen Joshi:
The rendition performed by Pt. Bhimsen Joshi starts with fast-paced rhythm and looped chorus in the background and an Alaap overlapping it followed by the Abhang. As someone who enjoys listening well-rhythmed songs, I enjoyed the song thoroughly. It gives an adrenaline rush and makes the listener want to jiggle after being fully immersed in the vibe of that song.
Pt. Bhimsen Joshi has given this song a different flavour to it. The rendition explores an exciting side of the author. It depicts his excitement to go back to his home. As my friend described it- the Thunderbolt Version.
2. Kishori Amonkar:
The rendition performed by Kishori Amonkar is more of a contrast to the previous one- it explores a deeper emotion. Moreover, it seems as if this version itself is a manifestation of the writer’s emotion. My mentor has always emphasised the importance of ‘Bhav’ (emotion) while performing a song. He says that ‘Bhav’ reflects in the performance and also evokes the emotions of the listeners, and this is what I keenly explored in Kishori Amonkar’s version.
The sense of her empathy and longing for ‘Maher‘ (Maternal home) can be deeply sensed in this song. Each and every word in this version has been stressed on, creates a profound sentimental impact and causes the listener think from not only an emotional but also an intellectual perspective. The sense of empathy gets transferred from the performer to the listener. See it for yourself!
All in all, this isn’t a battle about who’s superior, but the originality in both the versions. Each of it explores a new side of the same Abhang.