If there is a voice that is entrenched in every Malayali's heart, it is that of KJ Yesudas. The veteran singer won the National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer for a record 8th time this year.
This is a record in the history of the awards – singer SP Balasubrahmanyam has it 6 times.
The singer received the award for the song ‘Poyi Maranjakaalam' from Viswasapoo
Previously, he has won in the years 1991, 1987, 1982, 1976, 1973 and 1972.
Born in 1940 at Fort Kochi in Ernakulam, Yesudas was fortunate enough to learn under musical greats like Kunjan Velu Aasan, Ramankutty Bhagavathar, Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar and Chemmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, among others.
It was in 1961 that Yesudas first recorded for a Malayalam movie. It was a verse written by Sri Narayana Guru. Offers soon started pouring in after a couple of more releases.
Having sung in several Indian languages, Yesudas soon etched his voice in the Indian psyche as a popular playback singer. Having performed in almost every major city in the world, Yesudas was even invited by the Soviet Government in 1968 as a cultural delegate to tour the erstwhile USSR.
He also has the honour of being one of the few Indian artistes to perform at London’s famed Royal Albert Hall in 2001 and also the Sydney Opera House in 2006.
After bagging Kerala’s state award for Best Male Playback Singer a record 23 times, Yesudas himself requested the state government in 1987 not to consider him for future awards, so as to ensure other meritorious singers would not face neglect.
The Indian government recognized his contributions towards national integration by conferring the Padma Shri on him in 1977, followed by the Padma Bhushan in 2002, and now the Padma Vibhushan in 2017.