Early life and background
K. J. Yesudas was born in Fort Kochi, Kerala, 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 Malayalam and Kollywood movies in the early 60's and by mid 70's 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. He frequently did the role of a cultural ambassador of India through his numerable performances abroad by promoting Indian Music.
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.
- Completed the Ganabooshanam course at R.L.V. Music Academy, Thripunithura, Cochin
- Graduated from the Sree Swathithirunal Music Academy, Trivandrum
- Trained under K. R. Kumaraswamy (former principal of the Music College, Kochi), Kunjuvelan Aasan (a disciple of Nadaswara Vidwan Rajaratnam Pillai), Augustine Joseph, Dekshinamoorthi Swamikal V. Dakshinamoorthy, Ramakutti Bhagavathar, Sivaraman Nair, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer and Chembai Vaidhyanatha Bhagavathar
After winning the Kerala State Award for Best Playback singer on numerous occasions, he asked that he be ruled out of contention so that to give his peers and newcomers a chance of winning. Despite his request, he was still awarded this award multiple times in the following years.
Harivarasanam, a devotional song composed by Sri Kambakkudi Kulathur Srinivasa Iyer, 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 K. J. Yesudas' voice for Harivarasanam every day.
Awards and honours
Main article: List of titles, honours and major awards received by Yesudas
- Yesudas has recorded over 40,000 songs and has won scores of accolades including the coveted Padma Shri (1975), Padma Bhushan (2002) 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.
- National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer a record seven times by the Government of India
- Kerala State Film Awards a record 24 times for the best playback singer by the Government of Kerala
- Tamil Nadu State Film Awards five times for the best playback singer by the Government of Tamil Nadu
- Andhra Pradesh State Film Awards four times for the best playback singer by the Government of Andra Pradesh
- Karnataka State Film Awards five times for the best playback singer by the Government of Karnataka
- West Bengal State Film Awards one time for the best playback singer by the Government of West Bengal
- Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1992)
- D. Phil by Annamalai University, Tamil Nadu (1989)
- D. Litt by Kerala University, Kerala (2003)
- D. Litt by Mahatma Gandhi University, Kerala (2009)
- Swaralaya - Eenam Awards 2010 - Decade's Best Talent in Malayalam Music
- Swathi Sangeetha Puraskaram in 2011, highest music award given by Government of Kerala
- In 1970, he was nominated to head the Sangeetha Nataka Academy of Kerala and was being the youngest person ever to occupy that post.
- 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.
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