K. J. Yesudas, an Indian playback singer and musician who sings Indian classical, devotional and film songs, celebrates his birthday on January 10. The singer who is often referred to as Gaanagandharvan (the Celestial Singer) turns 83 this year.
He is widely regarded as one of the greatest singers in the history of Indian music and also as a cultural icon of Kerala.
On his 83rd birthday lets take a look at his journey and achievements.
Kattassery Joseph Yesudas was born in Kochi, in Kerala, in a Latin Catholic Christian family to Augustine Joseph and Elizabeth Joseph. His father was a well-known Malayalam classical musician and stage actor. Yesudas was the second of seven children, preceded by an elder sister named Pushpa, and followed by four younger brothers – Antony (Antappan), Babu, Mani, Justin and a younger sister, Jayamma.
Augustine Joseph’s dearest friend, Musician Kunjan Velu Bhagavathar was the first guru of him. Yesudas started his academic music training at R. L. V. Music Academy, Thrippunithura and completed the Ganabooshanam course.
Later he studied at Swathi Thirunal College of Music, Thiruvananthapuram under the tutelage of the carnatic music maestro K. R. Kumaraswamy Iyer and Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer but could not complete his studies due to financial constraints. For a brief period, he also studied music under Vechoor Harihara Subramania Iyer, after which he took advanced training from Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar.
Yesudas recorded his first popular song Jaathi Bhedam Matha Dwesham on 14 November 1961. The singer considers those four lines he got to sing to start his career in films as a huge blessing as it was written by none other than Sree Narayana Guru, the most respected saint-poet-social reformer of Kerala.
Yesudas is estimated to have recorded more than 80,000 songs in various Indian languages, including Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Hindi, Odia, Bengali, Marathi as well as Arabic, English, Latin, and Russian, in a career spanning six decades.
In 2006, he sang 16 film songs in four South Indian languages on the same day at AVM Studio, Chennai.
Yesudas holds the record for singing 11 songs in different languages in a single day. He has also composed a number of Malayalam film songs during the 1970s and 1980s.
Yesudas won the National Award for the Best Male Playback Singer record eight times, the Filmfare Awards South five times, and the State Award for the Best Playback Singer forty-three times.
He has won awards given by the state governments of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and West Bengal. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1975, the Padma Bhushan in 2002, and the Padma Vibhushan in 2017 by the Government of India for his contributions towards the arts.
In 2005, he was honoured with the J. C. Daniel Award, Kerala government’s highest honour for contributions to Malayalam cinema.