He is considered one of the ‘foremost exponents of classical Carnatic vocal music’.

With the Vibhushan in his pocket KJ Yesudas has hit the Padma hat-trick
news Music Wednesday, January 25, 2017 - 19:47

The Padma Vibushan -the second highest civilian award in India after the Bharat Ratna- that was bestowed on Kattassery Joseph Yesudas on Wednesday only serves to reinforce the maestro’s musical legacy that he has built over the years.

Here’s a quick look at his profile:

Known as ‘Gaanagandharvan’ in the South, KJ Yesudas began his musical journey at the tender age of five under the tutelage of his father Augustine Joseph who was himself a well-known singer and stage actor of his time.

Born in 1940 at Fort Kochi in Ernakulam, Yesudas was fortunate enough to continue learning under musical greats like Kunjan Velu Aasan, Ramankutty Bhagavathar, Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar and Chemmangudi Srinivasa Iyer among others.

Though he passed out of the famed RLV Music College in Trupunithura with distinction, he could not purse higher studies in music due to financial constraints at home.

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.

Incidentally, he has also won the national award for the best male playback singer seven times.

Considered one of the ‘foremost exponents of classical Carnatic vocal music’ Yesudas has time and again pitched in his legendary talent to collect funds for the country in times of a national crisis, be it the 1965 Indo-China War or the 1971 Indo-Pak War, or even the 2004 tsunami that wreaked havoc in South India.

The Indian government recognized his contributory efforts at 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.

A recipient of several prestigious awards, Yesudas was also the youngest person to head the Kerala Sangeeta Natak Akademi when he was asked to take on the prestigious role in 1970.

The Tharangini School of Music that he established in Thiruvananthapuram has trained and promoted fresh talent in music for the past several years in the state. 

He was the one to first start a Voice Bank System in the early 1990s that allowed musically inclined youngsters to record and send tapes, out of which the best would be selected and groomed…..a sort of predecessor of today’s hugely popular musical reality shows on television.

Presently settled in Chennai, Yesudas is married to Prabha and has three sons, of whom only Vijay -the second son- chose to follow in his father’s footsteps.