Kattassery Joseph Yesudas (born 10 January 1940) is an Indian musician and film playback singer. Yesudas sings Indian classical, devotional and cinematic songs. He has recorded more than 100000 songs in a number of Indian languages, including Bengali, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, and Telugu as well as Arabic, English, Latin, and Russian, during a career spanning more than five decades.[1][2]

Yesudas has performed in most Indian languages except punjabi,Assamese, Konkani and Kashmiri.[3][4] He also composed a number of Malayalam film songs in the 1970s and 1980s. Yesudas is fondly called Gana Gandharvan ("the Celestial Singer"), and he is considered to be a cultural icon of the Malayalam language - as well as of its ethnic group spread across the world - largely due to the fact that his songs have been ingrained into the minds of Malayalis for five decades.[5][6]

Yesudas won the National Award for the Best Male Playback Singer seven times, the Filmfare Awards five times, and the State Award for the Best Playback Singer forty-three times, including awards given by the state governments of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and West Bengal.[1] He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1977, the Padma Bhushan in 2002, and the Padma Vibhushan (second-highest civilian award) in 2017 by the Government of India for his contributions towards the arts.[7] In 2011 Yesudas was honoured with the CNN-IBN outstanding achievement award having recorded over 20,000 songs in a five-decade career.[8] In 2006, he sang 16 film songs in four South Indian languages on the same day at AVM Studio, Chennai.[9]

Early life

K. J. Yesudas was born in Fort Kochi, in the erstwhile Kingdom of Cochin (now Kerala), in a Latin Catholic Christian family to late Augustine Joseph and late Elizabeth Joseph. His father, a well-known Malayalam classical musician and stage actor, was his first guru (teacher). Yesudas was the eldest of five children, and was followed by three younger brothers and a younger sister.

He started his academic music training at R.L.V. Music Academy, Thrippunithura. Later he studied at Swathi Thirunal College of Music, Thiruvananthapuram under the tutelage of the carnatic music maestro late Sh. K.R. Kumaraswamy Iyer and the late Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer but could not complete his studies due to financial constraints. For a brief period, he also studied music under Sri Vechur Harihara Subramania Iyer, after which he took advanced training from Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar. He completed the Ganabooshanam course at R.L.V. Music Academy, Thripunithura, Cochin and continued studies at Sree Swathithirunal Music Academy, Trivandrum under the tutelage of the carnatic music maestro late Sh. K.R.Kumaraswamy Iyer.

In 2011 Yesudas completed his 50 years as a playback singer.


Debut and early career: 1960s

Yesudas with poet and lyricist O. N. V. Kurup

Yesudas recorded his first popular song Jaathi Bhedam Matha Dwesham (music: M B Sreenivasan) on 14th November 1961. However, his first popular song was 'Attention Penne Attention', which he sang for a Malayalam film with Santha P. Nair, a veteran singer of that time. Thus began his career in playback singing which included the Malayalam movie Kaalpadukal (1962) and Tamil, Telugu and Kannada movies thereafter.[2]

He got the first major break with the hit Malayalam film named Bharya ( music by G. Devarajan and lyrics by Vayalar Ramavarma). In 1967, he sang hit songs in the composition of M.S.Baburaj for the film Udhyogastha directed by P.Venu. He also sang in Tamil for Bommai first (music: S. Balachander), but the first released movie was Konjum Kumari (music: Veda). In 1965, he was invited by the Soviet Union government to perform at music concerts in various cities in the USSR and also sang a Russian song over Radio Kazakhstan.[10] The trio of Salil, Yesudas and Prem Nazir entered the Malayalam Cinema Industry of the 1970s.

In 1970 he was nominated to head the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy and was the youngest person ever to occupy the post.[10]

Bollywood: 1970s

After a decade of singing in South Indian movies, Yesudas got a break in Bollywood in the early 1970s. The first Hindi song he sang was for the movie Jai Jawan Jai Kissan (1971), but the first released movie was Chhoti Si Baat, which resulted in his becoming popular for singings songs like "Jaaneman Jaaneman". He has sung Hindi songs for many leading actors in Hindi cinema including Amitabh Bachchan, Amol Palekar and Jeetendra. He has sung many evergreen Hindi film songs for music directors including Ravindra Jain, Bappi Lahiri, Khayyam, Rajkamal and Salil Chowdhury.

Yesudas' most popular Hindi songs are in the 1976 movie Chitchor, with music given by Ravindra Jain.

On 14 November 1999, Yesudas was presented with an honorary award by UNESCO for "Outstanding Achievements in Music and Peace" at the "Music for Peace" event in Paris.a concert held to mark the dawn of the new millennium and whose attendees included artistes such as Lionel Richie, Ray Charles, Montserrat Caballé, and Zubin Mehta.[11]

In 2001 he sang for album Ahimsa in Sanskrit, Latin and English and in a mix of styles including new-age and Carnatic.[12] In his music concerts in the Middle East he sings Arabic songs in the Carnatic style.[13] He frequently serves as a cultural ambassador for India through his performances abroad, promoting Indian music.

In 2009 Yesudas began a cross-country musical campaign against terrorism in Thiruvananthapuram, with the motto 'Music For Peace'.[14] Kavita Karkare, wife of Hemant Karkare, handed over the torch to Yesudas to mark the launch of the 'Shanthi Sangeetha Yatra'.[15] Yesudas has performed for 36 times in the 36-year-old Soorya Music festival organised by Soorya Krishnamoorthy.[16]

Personal life

Yesudas is married to Prabha at Santa Cruze Basillica Kochi. They have three sons, Vinod, Vijay and Vishal. Their second son Vijay Yesudas is a musician who won the Kerala State Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer in 2007 and 2013.[17]

A statue of Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar sponsored by Yesudas at Chembai gramam (Kottayi village) in Palakkad; next to Bhagavatar's house.

Sree Narayana Guru’s great message, "One religion and One God for all humanity", influenced young Yesudas in his dealings with his fellow men. He had his own heroes among the musicians too. Mohammed Rafi, Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar and Balamurali Krishna are the ones he admires the most.[18] Yesudas has been visiting Kollur Mookambika temple, Kollur, Karnataka on his birthday to sing keerthans of Saraswati devi, the Goddess of knowledge, music and the arts. The music festival started on his 60th birthday in 2000. The nine-day music festival begins every January at Kollur Mookambika Temple. On Sunday, 10 January 2010, he celebrated his 70th birthday (Sapthathi) at Kollur Sri Mookambika Temple with 'Sangeetharchana' (classical devotional songs), along with 70 singers before goddess Mookambika. The Sangeetharchana included "Pancharatna Gayana" of Thyagaraja's poems. He also took part in the Vidyarambha function. All India Radio broadcast the special Sangeetharchana all over Kerala. Yesudas also has many songs devoted to Lord Ayyappa including the hit song "Harivarasanam".[19][20][21][22] In 2002, during Marad massacare, he visited the place along with the veteran poet Sugathakumari, and conducted classes against violence. Harivarasanam, a devotional song musical version composed by G. Devarajan, recited before closing the temple at Sabarimala was sung by Yesudas. Though there have been many different renditions of this song by many different renowned singers, Sabarimala officially uses Yesudas' voice for Harivarasanam every day.[1]

Music company

In 1980 Yesudas established the Tharangani Studio at Trivandrum. In 1992 the office and studio were moved to Chennai, Tamil Nadu and the company was incorporated in the US in 1998. Tharangni Studio and Tharangni Records became a recording center in Kerala which, for the first time, brought out audio cassettes of Malayalam film songs in stereo. The record company also had a voice mixing studio in Studio27, Chennai. The studio continues to produce and present events of Yesudas both for film and Indian classical music concerts throughout the world.[23]

Awards and honours

Yesudas has recorded over 70,000 songs and has won scores of accolades including the coveted Padma Shri (1975),[24] Padma Bhushan (2002),[25] Padma Vibhushan (2017)[26] and seven National Awards for Best Playback Singer. He is the only singer who has been accorded the title Asthana Gayakan (official singer) of Kerala State.


In his acceptance speech of winning the Swaralaya Kairali Yesudas Award (2006), AR Rahman said "I'm greatly honoured by Swaralaya's gesture, and getting this award from my most favourite singer Mr Yesudas. He is one of my most favourite voices' ever in the world."

Ravindra Jain, in an interview wherein the blind music director confessed that if ever he happened to regain vision, the first person he would like to see would be Yesudas.

Bappi Lahiri said in an interview with Filmfare in 2012: 'Yesudas’ voice is touched by God. After Kishoreda, he was another singer who brought out the best in me. He is a yogi, a mystic who lives for music. He takes your tunes to another level. And his note is perfect, you can rely on him to deliver it right the first time. Working with him made me touch base with my melodious side. He is vastly under-utilised in Hindi films. I wish Hindi film composers of today realise his genius and offer him assignments.”[30]


On 2 October 2014, Yesudas sparked a row while speaking at a public function on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanthi, where he stated that "Women should not wear jeans and trouble others. You should dress modestly and do not behave like men". This resulted in a number of protests from Womens' Rights and Political organizations, who asked him to withdraw the comment.[31]


As Actor

Year Film Stars Director Role Language
1965 Kavyamela Prem Nazir M. Krishnan Nair as himself Malayalam
1966 Kayamkulam Kochunni Sathyan P. Bhaskaran as Khader Malayalam
1966 Anarkali[32] Prem Nazir, Sathyan Kunchacko as Tansen Malayalam
1973 Achaani Prem Nazir P. Bhaskaran as singer Malayalam
1977 Nirakudam Kamalhassan A. Bhimsingh as singer Malayalam
1977 Harshabashpam M. G. Soman P. Gopikumar as singer Malayalam
1980 Saranam Ayyappa Jayabharathi as singer Tamil
1981 Pathira Sooryan Prem Nazir P K Pillai as saint Malayalam
2002 Nandanam Prithviraj Ranjith as himself Malayalam
2005 Boyy Friend Manikuttan Vinayan as himself Malayalam
2012 Theruvu Nakshatrangal Tini Tom Jose Maveily as himself Malayalam


See also


  1. ^ a b c "Music legend Yesudas turns 70". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 10 January 2010. Retrieved 8 January 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "'I don't sing trendy music'". Rediff. Retrieved 2009-09-06. 
  3. ^ "Those magical moments..." Chennai, India: The Hindu. 3 September 2002. Retrieved 2009-08-19. 
  4. ^ "Life devoted to music". The Hindu. 1 February 2001. Retrieved 2009-08-19. 
  5. ^ "Yesudas celebrated Birthday at Kollur". oneindia. 
  6. ^ "Vijay Yesudas weds Darsana". sify. 
  7. ^ "Padma Bhushan Awardees – Padma Awards – My India, My Pride". India.gov.in. Retrieved 2011-09-09. 
  8. ^ "Yesudas receives CNN-IBN 'Indian of the Year' award". 17 December 2011. Retrieved 2016-09-01. 
  9. ^ "One for the records". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 1 December 2006. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  10. ^ a b "CDR K J YESUDAS THE INDIAN PLAYBACK SINGING LEGEND'S RAGS TO RICHES". stateofkerala.in. Archived from the original on 5 December 2011. 
  11. ^ "KJ Yesudas completes 50 glorious years as singer". Asianet india. Archived from the original on 24 January 2012. 
  12. ^ "Ahimsa Album". Hinduonnet.com. 19 February 2001. Retrieved 2011-09-09. 
  13. ^ Vineet Pillai (15 November 2003). "Exclusive – Interview with Yesudas on 15th November 2003". Indien-netzwerk.de. Archived from the original on 31 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  14. ^ "Yesudas' Musical Campaign for peace". oneindia.com. 13 January 2009. 
  15. ^ "Tributes paid to Hemant Karkare". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 12 January 2009. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  16. ^ "Gaanagandharvan graces the Soorya festival for the 36th time". thiraseela.com. 
  17. ^ Ajay Gosh. "Dr. KJ Yesudas: Singer With A Golden Voice". Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. 
  18. ^ "'I do not sing trendy music': Yesudas". Rediff.com. 7 May 2001. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  19. ^ "Gandharva of songs : K.J Yesudas celebrates 70th birthday". Non Resident Kerala Associations. Retrieved 2010-05-01. [dead link]
  20. ^ "Yesudas celebrated Birthday at Kollur". Oneindia Entertainment. 19 January 2009. Archived from the original on 11 July 2012. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  21. ^ PTI (10 January 2012). "Music legend Yesudas turns 72". Chennai, India: The Hindu. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  22. ^ "Yesudas celebrates 70th birthday in Kollur". The New Indian Express. 11 January 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  23. ^ "Dr. K. J. Yesudas". keralatourism.org. Retrieved 18 March 2010. 
  24. ^ "Padma Shri Awardees". Ministry of Home Affairs. Retrieved 2014-11-27. 
  25. ^ "Padma Bhushan Awardees". Ministry of Home Affairs. Retrieved 2014-11-27. 
  26. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 January 2017. Retrieved 25 January 2017. 
  27. ^ "Swaralaya awards presented". The Hindu. 20 January 2003. Retrieved 18 March 2010. 
  28. ^ "Swaralaya award for Shankar Mahadevan". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 16 December 2007. Retrieved 18 March 2010. 
  29. ^ "Tributes paid to Hemant Karkare". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 12 January 2009. Retrieved 18 March 2010. 
  30. ^ "King of Ooh la la land". Retrieved 2016-09-01. 
  31. ^ "KJ Yesudas: India singer criticised for 'sexist' jeans remark". BBC News. 2014-10-03. Retrieved 2017-01-26. 
  32. ^ B. Vijayakumar (31 May 2010). "Anarkali (1966)". The Hindu. Retrieved 2011-11-08. 

External links