THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: ‘Bhajans’ lift one’s soul. But that they could be so heart-rending, moving the listeners to the verge of tears, was a new experience for many who heard Bombay Hari sing for three long hours on Wednesday. The venue was the Department of Music, Kerala University, and D H Viswanathan aka Bombay Hari was giving a taste of ‘abang bhajans’ to the small audience of music students who surrounded him.
‘Abang bhajans’, which are popular in Maharashtra and less heard in Kerala, were a set of new strains for the students. Prof Pushpa, Head of the Department of Music, said that ‘abangs’ could be sung in the second part of a structured concert. ‘’However, they are less known in this part of India,’’ she added.
It is only when one gets to know more about Bombay Hari that his songs become sweetest. The man, who retired as Deputy Zonal Manager from LIC Mumbai in 1998, has had no formal training in music. He grew up listening to his sister sing and joining her on a few occasions.
Once, in his teens, he sang at a temple near his house in Mumbai (where he was born and brought up, though his parents belong to Perumbavoor), the talent in him was spotted by many. He then began singing ‘bhajans’ continuously and has ever since stuck to it. ‘’It is God’s grace and gift. You don’t need to be trained when He is gifting you with music,’’ is how the musician responds. Later, he was trained by Guru Subharama Bhagavathar in ‘bhajan’ singing.
Though he has been singing for the last 50 years and more, this 73-year-old is still in love with the music form he renders. ‘’There is no comparison of ‘bhajans’ with other classical forms. It is basically the way you sing. Imbibing all the ‘bhakta rasa’, understanding the lyrics and singing with all love and devotion,’’ he said.
Apart from the regular ‘sampradaya bhajans’, Bombay Hari is known for performing several ‘kalyanams’ in ‘bhajans.’ His musical rendering of the ‘Meenakshi sudha bhajans’ (those written by an unknown singer) is a treat to hear, says R Veeramoney, who is also a musician and who has been accompanying Bombay Hari.
Hari has been travelling across the globe - to the US, the UK and UAE, among other places - post-retirement with his ‘bhajan’ renderings. The title of ‘Ganamrutha varshini’ was conferred on him by the Kanchi Paramacharya Aradhana Mahotsava Committee, Palakkad, during the ‘Bhajanotsavam’ in August 2005.
Bombay Hari would be performing at a couple of venues more in the city before flying back to Mumbai. ‘’I teach students every morning and evening, which is my training these days,’’ he said.