Happy Birthday Dr KJ Yesudas! Kerala’s legendary ‘Gaana Gandharvan’ turns 80 today

Swapna Raghu Sanand
KJ Yesudas, narendra modi, entertainment, music, malayalam music, gaana gandharvan, bollywood, harivarasanam song, Sabarimala, Kattassery Augustine Joseph

Happy birthday KJ Yesudas! Not just Keralites and music lovers worldwide, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also wished Kerala’s ‘Gaana Gandharvan’ on the occasion of the iconic singer’s 80th birthday today, referring to KJ Yesudas’ ‘melodious music’ and ‘soulful renditions’, and his valuable contribution to Indian culture. There is hardly any Keralite who does not turn emotional when listening to a song rendered by iconic singer K J Yesudas, a singer who has redefined the history of music in southern India and transformed playback singing in a way that has now made his name synonymous with Indian music.

His love for Carnatic music and devotional songs is well-known right from his early years as a struggling singer. A recipient of eight National Awards, the musical legend has sung in several Indian languages. In Hindi, some of Yesudas’ most loved songs include ‘Gori Tera Gaon Bada Pyara,’ ‘Aaj se pehle,’ ‘Jaaneman jaaneman teere do nayan,’ ‘Jap Deep Jale Aana’, among many others.

What is most striking about his rise is that even as Dr. KJ Yesudas scripted history as a singer, breaking the traditional boundaries of caste supremacy in the world of music as it prevailed at the time.

Most importantly, he entered the world of classical music and playback singing, without challenging the musical institutions and systems that flourished. He chose to learn by honouring with humility the musical realms that he sought to master as a specialized domain that had brilliant maestros to learn from. Despite the many challenges that he had to deal with, KJ Yesudas maintained his poise throughout the struggling years of his career, which is how he eventually established himself as a musical legend.

His humility and eagerness to learn from the maestros without any ego became his trademark, making him one of the most loved singers in southern India. Today is the perfect occasion to recall your favourite songs sung by Dr. KJ Yesudas, not merely because he is an iconic Indian singer whose voice has been savoured in multiple Indian languages, but his name is also synonymous with the word ‘divine’.

Few people are aware of the fact that Dr. Yesudas’ father

Augustine Joseph was a highly respected classical musician, whose early years of struggle inspired his son to strive harder and embrace music with a spirit of devotion in the world of classical music. With his father’s musical genius, it is no surprise that Dr. K.J. Yesudas earned the title ‘Gaana Gandharvan’.

Among Malayalis, it is a common saying that he is the rare singer who has been blessed with a golden voice that awakens the Gods. While Yesudas has many soulful devotional songs to his credit, especially those invoking Lord Guruvayurappan, his most famous and most loved devotional song is ‘Harivarasanam’, which remains unparalleled in the world of devotional music and chants, invoking Lord Ayyappa, the deity of Sabarimala shrine.

No wonder, Dr. K.J. Yesudas earned the popular tag, ‘Gaana Gandharvan’, which means ‘Celestial Singer.’ The iconic singer has been conferred the highest and most prestigious awards including the Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan.