Dr. KJ Yesudas: Singer With A Golden Voice
Endowed with a captivating melodious voice, classical excellence, and a penchant for hard work, it has been a triumphant journey for Dr. Kattassery Joseph Yesudas, becoming one of the most admired and most recorded artists ever.
After recording over 40,000 songs and winning scores of accolades, including the coveted Padma Bhushan & Padmashree from the government of India, in addition to seven national awards for the best playback singer, India’s very own Gana Gandharvan (the divine singer) is still breathing music and enchanting music lovers all over the world. The great legendary singer, whose voice continues to mesmerize children and adults alike, turned sixty seven on January 10, 2008 and will once again be on a music tour across the United States in April this year.
Yesudas, son of noted stage actor and singer Augustine Joseph, got his first recognition at the age of nine when he won a gold medal for music at a local competition in Kochi, India. His dreams of becoming a singer were realized when he got his first break in a Malayalam film Kalpaddukal in 1961. He believes it was a divine plan as he started his career by singing a poem written by the most revered spiritual personality of modern India, Sree Narayana Guru.
Living in a country that has deep divisions of caste, creed, ethnic, and linguistic lines, Yesudas, inspired by the message of Shri Narayana Guru, who preached, “One Caste, One Religion and One God for all Humans,” uses the medium of music to unite peoples of all faiths, regions, and nationalities.
He believes in “One God, “who is known by different names and forms, and is revered by people of different faiths.” Not surprisingly, the popular Indian playback legend was given the first Sree Narayana Dharma Sanghom Trust Award for fostering communal harmony, recognizing his outstanding contributions in promoting communal amity and spreading Sree Narayana Guru’s message of universal brotherhood and peace. Yesudas has assumed the role of cultural ambassador of India during his numerable performances abroad, promoting both classical and film music. Honors and awards followed him wherever he went.
Yesudas is largely responsible for popularizing Indian music and spreading the message of international fellowship for which Mother Theresa of Calcutta rightly honored him with the National Citizens Award on World Peace Day in 1994. On November 14, 1999, Yesudas was presented an honorary award by UNESCO for “Outstanding Achievements in Music and Peace” at a concert event named “Music for Peace,” to mark the dawn of the new millennium. Interestingly, he was invited by the Soviet Government to perform music concerts in various cities of the U.S.S.R in 1965 and had also sung a Russian song over Radio Kazakhstan. The popular artist from Kerala, who has won the hearts and minds of millions of people across the globe with his golden voice, was awarded with the Lifetime Achievement Award by Zee Gold Bollywood Music Awards in New York. In 2002, he was given the Saraswathi Millennium Award during a colorful ceremony in New York
Recently, Yesudas performed the title track from his album, “Ahimsa”, accompanied by the extraordinary Pakistani group, Junoon. The synergy created by Yesudas and Junoon, aimed at peace, was an inspiration to all those present, which included renowned artists like Lionel Ritchie, Ray Charles, Montzerra Caballe and Zubin Mehta. Legendary actors like Gregory Peck, Sydney Poiter and Peter Ustinov were the masters of ceremony. Dignitaries from around the world, including the heads of the European Union and the ambassadors from 170 countries attended this global event and gave Yesudas a standing ovation. Yesudas is the recipient of 34 State Awards of which 16 are from Kerala, eight from Tamil Nadu, five from Karnataka, four from Andhra Pradesh and one from Bengal. Other titles and prestigious awards include, `Sangeetha Raja’ in 1974, `Sangeetha Chakravarthy’ in 1988 and `Sangeetha Sagaram’ in 1989. Chennai’s Annamalai University honored him with a Doctorate in 1989. The Government of Kerala and `The Sangeeta Nataka Akademi’ conferred the title of `Aashtana Gayakan’ – to Yesudas in 1992. The Government of Madhya Pradesh gave the `Annual Latha Mangeshkar Award’ to Yesudas in 1992. For his unique contribution in the field of Music, he was selected for the prestigious National Citizens Award in 1994.
Yesudas credits his success to “the grace of God,” and to the support, love, and affection he has been receiving from the audience across the world. In spite of all his remarkable achievements, Yesudas is a very humble and down-to-earth person. His humility, perseverance and devotion to music are an inspiration to all the young aspiring musicians, who wish to follow in his footsteps. Although, he is known across the globe as a legendary classical music singer, he said, “My knowledge of classical music is like an iceberg. I consider myself a student of music who constantly seeks to learn and to perfect this vast ocean.”
The golden voice of Yesudas has captured the hearts of fans all over the world. As a singer, Yesudas has become a legend in his own lifetime and continues to mesmerize music lovers with his ageless and magical voice. He said, “I will continue to sing in movies as long as my voice and my health permit me.” To keep himself and his voice fit, he said, he controls his diet and life. Married for more than 30 years, Dr. Yesudas and his wife have three sons, Vinod, Vijay and Vishal. The family resides in Chennai, India but has a second home in Texas, USA, from where they operate during their frequent visits to the United States.
- By Ajay Ghosh