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K. J. Yesudas
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Yesudas in June 2011
Kattassery Joseph Yesudas

(1940-01-10) 10 January 1940 (age 83)
Fort Kochi, Kingdom of Cochin, British India
(present-day Kochi, Kerala, India)
Other names Dasettan, Ganagandharvan
Alma mater Swathi Thirunal College of Music, Thiruvananthapuram
Years active 1961–present
(m. 1970)
Children 3, including Vijay Yesudas
Awards Full list
Musical career
Instruments Vocals
  • Tharangni
  • HMV
K. J. Yesudas signature.svg

Kattassery Joseph Yesudas (born 10 January 1940) is an Indian playback singer and musician who sings Indian classical, devotional and film songs. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest singers in the history of Indian Music and also as a cultural icon of Kerala. Yesudas is estimated to have recorded more than 50,000 songs in various Indian languages, including Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Hindi, Odia, Bengali, Marathi as well as Arabic, English, Latin, and Russian, in a career spanning six decades. He is often referred to as Gaanagandharvan (transl. The Celestial Singer). He is one of the highly acclaimed singers in India. Yesudas holds the record for singing 11 songs in different languages in a single day. He has also composed a number of Malayalam film songs during the 1970s and 1980s.

Yesudas won the National Award for the Best Male Playback Singer record eight times, the Filmfare Awards South 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. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1975, 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. In 2005, he was honoured with the J. C. Daniel Award, Kerala government's highest honour for contributions to Malayalam cinema. In 2011 Yesudas was honoured with the CNN-IBN outstanding achievement award for his contributions in the music field. In 2006, he sang 16 film songs in four South Indian languages on the same day at AVM Studio, Chennai.

Early life

K. J. Yesudas was born in Kochi, in Kerala, in a Latin Catholic Christian family to Augustine Joseph and Elizabeth Joseph. His father, a well-known Malayalam classical musician and stage actor. Yesudas was the second of seven children, preceded by an elder sister named Pushpa, and followed by four younger brothers - Antony (Antappan), Babu, Mani, Justin and a younger sister, Jayamma. Among these siblings, Pushpa and Babu died of fever at a young age, and Justin, the youngest brother, died under mysterious circumstances in February 2020, aged 62.

Augustine Joseph's dearest friend, Musician Kunjan Velu Bhagavathar was the first guru of him.Kunjan Velu was the disciple of Nadaswara Chakravarthi T N Raja Ratnam Pillai. Yesudas started his academic music training at R. L. V. Music Academy, Thrippunithura and completed the Ganabooshanam course. Later he studied at Swathi Thirunal College of Music, Thiruvananthapuram under the tutelage of the carnatic music maestro K. R. Kumaraswamy Iyer and Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer but could not complete his studies due to financial constraints. For a brief period, he also studied music under Vechoor Harihara Subramania Iyer, after which he took advanced training from Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar.

In 2021 Yesudas completed his 60 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 14 November 1961. The singer considers those four lines he got to sing to start his career in films as a huge blessing as it was written by none other than Sree Narayana Guru, the most respected saint-poet-social reformer of Kerala. The film was Kalpadukal (1962), based on social reform during the life and times of Sree Narayana Guru. He associated with popular singers of those times like P. Leela, Santha P. Nair, K. P. Udayabhanu, S. Janaki etc. and lyricists like P. Bhaskaran and Nambiyath. He sang the lines of poet Kumaran Asan for this film. After the initial years he became the most sought after by established music directors of that time, M. B. Sreenivasan, G. Devarajan, V. Dakshinamoorthy, Br Lakshmanan, M. S. Baburaj and many others. Thus began his career in playback singing which included the Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada movies thereafter.

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. 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.

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.

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 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'. Kavita Karkare, wife of Hemant Karkare, handed over the torch to Yesudas to mark the launch of the 'Shanthi Sangeetha Yatra'. Yesudas has performed for 36 times in the 36-year-old Soorya Music festival organised by Soorya Krishnamoorthy.

Personal life

Yesudas is married to Prabha. Their marriage was on 1 February 1970. They have three sons, Vinod (b. 1977), Vijay (b. 1979) and Vishal (b. 1981). Their second son Vijay Yesudas is a musician who won the Kerala State Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer in 2007, 2012 and 2018.

Ram Nath Kovind presenting the Rajat Kamal Award to Padma Vibhushan Dr. K.J. Yesudas (Best Male Playback Singer) for the film VISWASAPOORVAM MANSOOR (Malayalam), at the 65th National Film Awards Function, in New Delhi
Ram Nath Kovind presenting the Rajat Kamal Award to Yesudas

Sree Narayana Guru's 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. 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". In 2002, during Marad massacre, 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.

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.

Awards and honours

The President, Shri Pranab Mukherjee presenting the Padma Vibhushan Award to Dr. K.J. Yesudas, at the Civil Investiture Ceremony, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi on April 13, 2017
The President, Shri Pranab Mukherjee presenting the Padma Vibhushan Award to Dr. K.J. Yesudas, at the Civil Investiture Ceremony, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi on 13 April 2017

Yesudas has recorded over 50,000 songs and has won scores of accolades including the coveted Padma Shri (1975), Padma Bhushan (2002), Padma Vibhushan (2017) and eight National Awards for Best Playback Singer.

  • National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer a record 8 times by the Government of India
  • Kerala State Film Award for Best Singer a record 25 times for the best playback singer by the Government of Kerala
  • Tamil Nadu State Film Awards 5 times for the best playback singer by the Government of Tamil Nadu
  • West Bengal State Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer by the Government of West Bengal (1 time)
  • Andhra Pradesh State Film Awards 4 times for the best playback singer by the Government of Andhra Pradesh
  • J. C. Daniel Award from Government of Kerala
  • Honorary doctorates from Annamalai University, Kerala University and MG University
  • Anandalok Best Male Playback Award 1 time for the best playback singer.
  • Sangeetha Kalasikhamani, 2002 by The Indian Fine arts Society, Chennai
  • Padmabhushan B. Sarojadevi National Award (2015) by Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan, Bangalore.
  • Karnataka Rajyotsava Award from Government of Karnataka in the year 2017
  • Karnataka State Film Award (1991)Best Playback Singer Male, Film Ramachari Song Nammura Yuvarani
  • Swaralaya Yesudas award is a prestigious award for music artists in recognition of their outstanding performance. The award is instituted jointly by Swaralaya, an organisation that promotes music and Kairali Channel, based in Trivandrum, Kerala. Awards have been given annually since 2000. Yesudas presents the awards at a Gandharva Sandhya every January.


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." On another occasion during an interview he said of Yesudas, "his voice is unmatched, his voice is god given and I've been hearing his songs since I was 3 years old"

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.

In 2003, billionaire and businessman B. R. Shetty gifted him his 1992 model Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit after listening his concert held at The Indian High School, Dubai. Shetty said: "I was not only touched by his concert but by the man himself who talked about God's kindness to mankind".

Bappi Lahiri said in an interview with Filmfare in 2012: "'Yesudas' voice is touched by God. After Kishore Da(Kishore Kumar), 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."


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 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 Dasarathan as singer Tamil
1981 Pathira Sooryan Prem Nazir P. Krishna Pillai as saint Malayalam
2002 Nandanam Prithviraj, Navya Nair Ranjith as himself Malayalam
2005 Boyy Friend Manikuttan Vinayan as himself Malayalam
2012 Theruvu Nakshatrangal Tini Tom Jose Maveily as himself Malayalam

As music composer

  • Azhakulla Saleena (1973)
  • Theekkanal (1976)
  • Sanchari (1981)
  • Abhinayam (1981)
  • Poocha Sanyasi (1981)
  • Ellaam Ayyappan (1988)


See also

Women's History Month on Kiddle
Women Scientists of Antiquity
Mary the Jewess
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