One of the most gifted Hindustani classical vocalists, Pandit Jitendra Abhisheki was also an accomplished composer. Born on 21st September 1929, Jitendra Abhisheki hailed from a priestly family traditionally attached to the shrine of Lord Shiva at Mangeshi in Goa. His father, Balwantrao a k a Bikambhat, was the temple priest as also a kirtankar. He initiated his son into the world of classical as well as devotional music from a tender age, even as he systematically taught young Jitendra both Sanskrit and Marathi. Proficiency in the two languages helped Jitendra immensely in his career as a musician and composer.
Growth as an Artist: Pandit Abhisheki passed the matriculation examination in 1949 and went on to study for a degree in Sanskrit literature. He then joined All India Radio at Mumbai for a brief but successful period. His stint with radio not only brought him in contact with several musicians, but also gave him the opportunity to harness his own musical talents by composing several pieces for various radio programmes. It was around this time that he started his training under the renowned teacher Ustad Azmat Hussain Khan.
He later got a scholarship from the Government of India for advanced training in Hindustani classical music. Before long, Pandit Abhisheki was composing music for Marathi plays. This meant setting to music songs in Marathi sangeet natak(musical drama) as well as background scores for what may be called ‘prose plays.’ All in all, he composed the music for as many as twenty-five Marathi plays, many of which are still being staged, using those same compositions by Abhisheki, by artists of the new generation.In the late sixties, he received the coveted Homi Bhabha fellowship, under which he taught music at the music school in the U.S run by the renowned sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar.
Artistic Accomplishments: Pandit Jitendra Abhisheki had a remarkably wide-ranging repertoire. He was a classicist by nature, but he also had a deep understanding of the semi-classical, devotional and folk traditions in the glorious musical heritage of India. In addition to Ustad Azmat Hussain Khan, Abhisheki learnt from other great teachers like Girijabai Kelkar, Jagannathbuwa Purohit and Gulubhai Jasdanwala. He also learnt some rare ragas from Ustad Bade Gulam Ali Khan. In the process, he absorbed the gayaki of several gharanas and evolved his own distinctive style. His outstanding contributions to music brought him many honours and awards, including the Padmashri and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.
Pandit Abhisheki had very clear ideas about the nature of his art. He believed that the essence of Hindustani classical music was the capacity of a raga to develop and expand by way of alaap rather than sargam. He also believed that no one could be forced to pursue an art, as the urge to learn and seek answers has to arise from within. Because of this conviction, Pandit Abhisheki did not force his children to learn music, though his son Shaunak did, of his own will, become his disciple and is today recognized as a leading vocalist in his own right, carrying forward his father’s parampara.
Pandit Abhisheki spent his last years in Pune where he taught a number of disciples.This distinguished artist passed away, at the age of sixty-five, on 7 November 1998. Needless to add, his multifaceted achievements in the fields of classical music as well as Marathi natya sangeet will always be remembered by the lovers of Indian music.