Writing about KJ Yesudas is no easy task given his illustrious career as a playback singer spanning more than six decades in which he is estimated to have recorded over 50,000 songs. If that’s not enough to understand the immensity of his career, something else might help. Yesudas has won the National Award for Best Male Vocalist eight times and has won 43 state awards during his career. He was also honored with Padma Shri (1975), Padma Bhushan (2002) and Padma Vibhushan (2017).
A vocal wonder capable of easily rendering even the complex of compositions, Yesudas had already recorded songs in eleven different languages on the same day. It is even said that a Malayali cannot end a day without listening to a Dasettan song somewhere. The songs he sang for legendary composers Baburaj and Devarajan Master in the 60s and 70s are still the soul of Mayalali’s melody. People have an indestructible emotional connection with songs like “Thamasamenthe Varuvan”, “Pranasakhi Njan Verumoru”, “Oru pushpam Mathramen”, “Ayiram Padasarangal” among others. The way Yesudas has handled every word in the lyrical context of these timeless songs is as good as the feeling of touching emotions with your fingers. It is unimaginable to think of another voice for Malayali’s favorite song “Devangangal Kayyozhinja Tharkam” from Padmarajan director Njan Gandharvan, a song that resonates with the honorary Gana Gandharvan of Yesudas, meaning Heavenly Singer from Heaven.
“Manushyan Madangale Srishtichu”, a personal favorite of the maestro, is a song that Yesudas sang at public gatherings or social events. The lyrics of the song written by Vayalar Ramavarma for the movie Achanum Bappayum are still relevant today. The opening lines of the song translate to: “Humans created religions. Religions have created gods. Humans, religions and gods divide the earth and the spirits.
Even the first popular song of Yesudas starting with the words Jathi Bedham Matha Dwesham was about the Kerala caste society. The words were written by one of the greatest social reformers and renaissance leaders Kerala has ever seen – Sree Narayana Guru. In a way, the heavenly voice of Yesudas became the tool to propagate ideas of equality and hope to build a world free from the evils of caste and religion through songs like “Manushyan Mathangale Srishtichu” and “Jathi Bedham”. Whenever Yesudas speaks at gatherings and public events, he emphasizes the need for communal and religious harmony.
Not only in Malayalam, the legendary singer has also made his mark in Bollywood and other industries in South India. His songs from the 1976 film Chithcor composed by Raveendra Jain are still popular today. “Surmayee Ankhiyon Mein” written by Gulzaar for the movie Sadma is also loved by many.
Yesudas has also proven his versatility by singing many songs of varying moods and rhythms. He has an enviable discography with each having their own special song Dasettan.
So, on the occasion of Yesudas’ 82nd birthday, let us find solace in the countless beautiful songs he has performed over the years.