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

(1940-01-10) 10 January 1940 (age 84)
Other namesDasettan, Ganagandharvan
Alma materSwathi Thirunal College of Music, Thiruvananthapuram
Years active1961–present
(m. 1970)
Children3, including Vijay Yesudas
AwardsFull list
Musical career

Kattassery Joseph Yesudas (/jeːʃud̪aːs/; born 10 January 1940) is an Indian playback singer and musician who sings Indian classical, devotional and film songs.[1] He is widely considered one of the greatest singers in the history of Indian music[2][3] and a cultural icon of Kerala.[4][5] Yesudas is estimated to have recorded more than 50,000 songs[6] in various Indian languages, including Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Tulu, Hindi, Odia,[7] Bengali, Marathi as well as Arabic, English, Latin, and Russian, in a career spanning six decades.[8][9] He is often referred to as Gaanagandharvan (transl. The Celestial Singer).[10] Yesudas holds the record for singing 11 songs in different languages in a single day.[11] 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,[12] 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.[2] He was awarded the Padma Shri[13] 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.[14] 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.[15]

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 was a well-known Malayalam classical musician and stage actor.[10] 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.[16] 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. Rajarathnam 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.[17]

K. J. Yesudas married Prabha Yesudas on 1 February 1970 who hailed from a strict Malankara Orthodox Christian family in Mallapally.[18]

In 2021, Yesudas completed 60 years as a playback singer.[19]


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.[3]

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.[20] 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.[20]

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, Raj Kamal 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.[21]

In 2001 he sang for album Ahimsa in Sanskrit, Latin and English and in a mix of styles including new-age and Carnatic.[22] In his music concerts in the Middle East he sings Arabic songs in the Carnatic style.[23] 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'.[24] Kavita Karkare, wife of Hemant Karkare, handed over the torch to Yesudas to mark the launch of the 'Shanthi Sangeetha Yatra'.[25] Yesudas has performed for 36 times in the 36-year-old Soorya Music festival organised by Soorya Krishnamoorthy.[26]

Personal life

Yesudas is married to Prabha since 1 February 1970. They have three sons, Vinod (b. 1977), Vijay (b. 1979) and Vishal (b. 1981). Their second son, Vijay, is a musician who won the Kerala State Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer in 2007, 2012 and 2018.[27]

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.[28] 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".[29][30][31][32] 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.[2]

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.[33]

Awards and honours

Main article: List of titles, honours and major awards received by Yesudas

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),[34] Padma Bhushan (2002),[35] Padma Vibhushan (2017)[36] and eight National Awards for Best Playback Singer.


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".[45]

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."[46]


On 2 October 2014, Yesudas sparked a row while speaking at a public function on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, where he stated that "Women should not wear dress that trouble others. You should dress modestly and do not behave like men". This resulted in a number of protests from Women's Rights and political organisations, who asked him to withdraw the comment.[47]


As actor

Year Film Role Language
1965 Kavyamela as himself Malayalam
1966 Kayamkulam Kochunni as Khader
1966 Anarkali[48] as Tansen
1973 Achaani as singer
1976 Adhirshtam Azhaikkirathu Tamil
1977 Nirakudam Malayalam
1977 Harshabashpam
1980 Saranam Ayyappa Tamil
1981 Pathira Sooryan as saint Malayalam
2002 Nandanam as himself
2005 Boyy Friend
2012 Theruvu Nakshatrangal
2018 Kinar / Keni as singer Malayalam / Tamil

As music composer


Main article: K. J. Yesudas discography

Main article: K. J. Yesudas Tamil Discography

Main article: List of Kannada songs recorded by K. J. Yesudas

Main article: List of Hindi songs recorded by K. J. Yesudas

See also


  1. ^ Rajadhyaksha, Ashish; Willemen, Paul (10 July 2014). Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema. Routledge. p. 240. ISBN 978-1-135-94318-9.
  2. ^ a b c "Music legend Yesudas turns 70". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 10 January 2010. Archived from the original on 3 March 2014. Retrieved 8 January 2011.
  3. ^ a b "'I don't sing trendy music'". Rediff. Archived from the original on 25 February 2008. Retrieved 6 September 2009.
  4. ^ "An icon's music and musings". Deccan Herald. 12 May 2010. Retrieved 13 July 2021.
  5. ^ Sivapriyan, ETB (25 September 2020). "S P Balasubrahmanyam and wife performed 'padha pooja' on Yesudas". Deccan Herald. Archived from the original on 29 September 2020.
  6. ^ "Yesudas receives CNN-IBN 'Indian of the Year' award". 17 December 2011. Archived from the original on 13 March 2016. Retrieved 1 September 2016.
  7. ^ "K.J Yesudas all odia songs".
  8. ^ Kurian, Sangeeth (3 September 2002). "Those magical moments..." The Hindu. Archived from the original on 31 January 2021. Retrieved 31 January 2021.
  9. ^ Padmanabhan, Savitha (8 February 2001). "Life devoted to music". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 29 October 2009. Retrieved 19 August 2008.((cite news)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  10. ^ a b Wangchuk, Rinchen Norbu (10 January 2020). "Here is Why KJ Yesudas is Known as 'Celestial Singer'". The Better India. Archived from the original on 4 August 2020. Retrieved 14 November 2020.
  11. ^ നായർ, അനീഷ് (10 January 2020). "അര നൂറ്റാണ്ടിനിടെ ഗാനഗന്ധർവൻ എത്ര പാട്ടുകൾ പാടിയിട്ടുണ്ടാവും?". Malayala Manorama. Retrieved 13 July 2021.
  12. ^ a b Kumar, P. K. Ajith (14 April 2018). "A record most melodious for this singing legend". The Hindu.
  13. ^ "Padma Vibhushan is another stepping stone for K J Yesudas". The Times of India. 26 January 2017. Archived from the original on 20 June 2018. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  14. ^ "Padma Bhushan Awardees – Padma Awards – My India, My Pride". India.gov.in. Archived from the original on 10 October 2012. Retrieved 9 September 2011.
  15. ^ "One for the records". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 1 December 2006. Archived from the original on 18 April 2010. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  16. ^ Nagarajan, Saraswathy; M, Athira; Pradeep, K. (10 January 2020). "KJ Yesudas: A name that spells melody". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 4 December 2020. Retrieved 14 November 2020.
  17. ^ "With 70,000 songs to his credit, legendary singer Yesudas turns 78". Malayala Manorama. 10 January 2018. Archived from the original on 14 November 2020. Retrieved 14 November 2020.
  18. ^ "This voice is my life's greatest fortune: Prabha Yesudas". Malayala Manorama. Onmanorama. Retrieved 6 October 2023.
  19. ^ Soman, Sandhya (9 September 2011). "Book on Yesudas tracks the men who made the star". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 30 October 2020. Retrieved 14 November 2020.
  20. ^ a b "CDR K J YESUDAS THE INDIAN PLAYBACK SINGING LEGEND'S RAGS TO RICHES". stateofkerala.in. Archived from the original on 5 December 2011.
  21. ^ "KJ Yesudas completes 50 glorious years as singer". Asianet india. Archived from the original on 24 January 2012.
  22. ^ "Ahimsa Album". Hinduonnet.com. 19 February 2001. Archived from the original on 10 December 2006. Retrieved 9 September 2011.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  23. ^ Vineet Pillai (15 November 2003). "Exclusive – Interview with Yesudas on 15th November 2003". Indien-netzwerk.de. Archived from the original on 31 May 2010. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  24. ^ "Yesudas' Musical Campaign for peace". oneindia.com. 13 January 2009. Archived from the original on 17 January 2021. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
  25. ^ "Tributes paid to Hemant Karkare". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 12 January 2009. Archived from the original on 3 November 2012. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  26. ^ "Gaanagandharvan graces the Soorya festival for the 36th time". thiraseela.com. Archived from the original on 30 June 2017.
  27. ^ Ajay Gosh. "Dr. KJ Yesudas: Singer with a Golden Voice". Archived from the original on 22 February 2014.
  28. ^ "'I do not sing trendy music': Yesudas". Rediff.com. 7 May 2001. Archived from the original on 1 June 2010. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  29. ^ "Gandharva of songs : K.J Yesudas celebrates 70th birthday". Non Resident Kerala Associations. Archived from the original on 27 December 2018. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  30. ^ "Yesudas celebrated Birthday at Kollur". Oneindia Entertainment. 19 January 2009. Archived from the original on 11 July 2012. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  31. ^ PTI (10 January 2012). "Music legend Yesudas turns 72". The Hindu. Chennai, India. Archived from the original on 3 March 2014. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  32. ^ "Yesudas celebrates 70th birthday in Kollur". The New Indian Express. 11 January 2010. Archived from the original on 7 March 2014. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  33. ^ "Dr. K. J. Yesudas". keralatourism.org. Archived from the original on 1 June 2010. Retrieved 18 March 2010.
  34. ^ "Padma Shri Awardees". Ministry of Home Affairs. Archived from the original on 4 December 2014. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  35. ^ "Padma Bhushan Awardees". Ministry of Home Affairs. Archived from the original on 4 December 2014. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  36. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 January 2017. Retrieved 25 January 2017.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  37. ^ "'I don't sing trendy music'". Rediff.com. 7 May 2001. Archived from the original on 19 June 2017. Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  38. ^ "A Brief History of the University". University of Kerala. Archived from the original on 30 December 2020. Retrieved 8 November 2020.
  39. ^ "Varsity confers honorary doctorate on CJI, Yesudas". WebIndia123. 19 May 2009. Archived from the original on 17 January 2021. Retrieved 8 November 2020.
  40. ^ "Saroji Devi Honours Yesudas". 12 April 2015. Archived from the original on 17 January 2021. Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  41. ^ "Singer Yesudas among 62 chosen for Karnataka Rajyotsava Award". The Week. Archived from the original on 17 January 2021. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  42. ^ "Swaralaya awards presented". The Hindu. 20 January 2003. Archived from the original on 4 March 2010. Retrieved 18 March 2010.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  43. ^ "Swaralaya award for Shankar Mahadevan". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 16 December 2007. Archived from the original on 24 April 2008. Retrieved 18 March 2010.
  44. ^ "Tributes paid to Hemant Karkare". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 12 January 2009. Archived from the original on 3 November 2012. Retrieved 18 March 2010.
  45. ^ "Yesudas gets a Rolls Royce!". Sify. 4 December 2003. Archived from the original on 24 December 2003. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  46. ^ "King of Ooh la la land". Archived from the original on 2 July 2016. Retrieved 1 September 2016.
  47. ^ "KJ Yesudas: India singer criticised for 'sexist' jeans remark". BBC News. 3 October 2014. Archived from the original on 15 November 2018. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  48. ^ B. Vijayakumar (31 May 2010). "Anarkali (1966)". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 8 November 2012. Retrieved 8 November 2011.