Dr. Kattassery Joseph Yesudas or Yesudas (Malayalam: കാട്ടശ്ശേരി ജോസഫ് യേശുദാസ്), (born January 10, 1940) is an Indian classical musician and a playback singer. He has won the National Award for the best male playback singer seven times, the most by any singer. Yesudas sings Indian classical music, devotional and popular songs. He has recorded more than 40,000 songs in many languages including Malayalam, Tamil, Hindi, Kannada, Telugu, Bengali, Gujarati, Oriya, Marathi, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tulu, Malay, Russian, Arabic, Latin and English through his long career. He has been singing for most Indian languages except Assamese and Kashmiri. He is fondly called 'Gana Gandharvan'.
Early life and background
K. J. Yesudas was born in Fort Kochi, Kingdom of Cochin, British Raj into a Latin Rite Catholic family, to Augustine Joseph and Alicekutty. His father, who was a well-known Malayalam classical musician and stage actor, was his first guru. Later he joined the Music Academy in Thrippunithura and underwent training. For a brief period, he was with Sri Vechur Hari Hara Subramania Iyer after which he took advanced training from Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar, a maestro of Classical Music. Although he is a Carnatic Music expert, he mastered Hindustani Music. He has taken the words of Sree Narayana Guru, "One Religion, One Caste for all humans to heart.
Yesudas began his career in playback singing in the Malayalam movie Kaalpadukal and Kollywood movies in the early '60s and by mid '70s he entered Bollywood. He has bagged seven National Film Awards for the best singer in the Indian film industry which is a record no singer has equalled, let alone surpassed. In 2006, he sang 16 film songs in four South Indian languages on the same day at AVM Studio, Chennai.
Yesudas has performed in many major cities around the world. 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. In 2001 he sang for album Ahimsa in Sanskrit, Latin and English and in a mix of styles including New-Age and Carnatic. In his music concerts in the Middle East he sings Arabic songs in the Carnatic style (see ). He frequently did the role of a cultural ambassador of India through his numerable performances abroad by promoting Indian Music.
Endowed with a "divine" voice and a penchant for hard work, it was a triumphant journey for him, becoming one of the most recorded artists ever. After recording over 40,000 songs and winning scores of accolades including the coveted Padmashree honor and seven national awards for the best playback singer, he is still enchanting music lovers the world over.
He is the only singer who has been accorded the title Asthana Gayakan (Official singer) of Kerala State. He has been awarded the Padma Shri in 1975 and Padma Bhushan in 2002. In 1970, he was nominated to head the Sangeetha Nataka Academy of Kerala and was being the youngest person ever to occupy that post. In 1971, Yesudas with his musical troupe travelled all over Kerala to raise funds for the Indian Prime Minister's National Defense Fund during the Indo-Pakistani War. He also became Senate member in the International Parliament for Safety and Peace (see ). On November 14, 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.
Yesudas is married to Prabha for more than 30 years. They have three sons, Vinod, Vijay and Vishal. The second son Vijay Yesudas is a budding musician who won the Kerala State Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer in 2007. The family is currently settled in Chennai and Trivandrum. He also owns estates in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA and Flower Mound, TX, USA for personal and business reasons.
Titles, Honours and Major Awards