- Birth Date: 10 Jan 1940
- Birth Place: Cochin
Kattassery Joseph Yesudas was born on January 10, 1940, in Fort Cochin, the ancient port city of Kerala to father Augustine Joseph and Elizabeth. His father himself was a well-known singer and stage actor who rode the Kerala stage like a colossus for over a quarter of a century.Eldest of the four sons and one daughter of the Joseph couple, Yesudas took to music at a very early age. His first guru was his beloved father, who lovingly and painstakingly led little Yesudas through the basic precepts of Carnatic music while he was hardly five years old.
At the St Sebastian's High School, Pallurthi, Cochin, Yesudas was the top singer for several consecutive years. In 1957, he stood first at the state-level school youth festival in Carnatic vocal singing. In 1958, he was the recipient of a gold medal for vocal singing at the 'All Kerala Catholic Youth Festival' at Ernakulam.
After school, Yesudas joined R L V Music Academy, Thirupanithura, near Cochin, for the Ganabhooshanam course.He was scoffed at for being a Christian and attempting to learn Carnatic music,which he completed with a double promotion and distinction in 1960.He was almost thrown out of the RLV Music Academy for defaulting the monthly fees and when he was found not upto the mark by the All India Radio, Trivandrum, he did not lose heart. It failed to deter the singer in Yesudas from his passion and love for music. The young singer then joined the Sree Swatithirunal Music Academy, Trivandrum, for higher studies.
The budding singer took lessons under several musical wizards in and around Cochin and nurtured his native talent with discipline, dedication and determination.He learnt music from Kunjuvelan Aasan, who was a disciple of nagaswara vidwan Rajaratnam Pillai. Then came Joseph, Ramakutti Bhagavathar and Sivarama Nayar. Then he got received training under Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar.
Yesudas got his first break in 'Kaalpadugal', a Malayalam movie, on November 14, 1961. The first song was with the verse written by Sri Narayana Guru. The lyrics were very meaningful: "This is a model place where all the people live like brothers and sisters, unaffected by the difference of caste and the enmities of religion." Besides Malayalam, he sang in all other South Indian languages. In 1976, he started singing for Hindi movies, and films in other North Indian languages. Today he is the only Indian musician to have recorded songs in all Indian languages except Kashmiri and Assamiya.
As a singer, Yesudas, has become a legend in his own lifetime. Yesudas got his first recognition at the tender age of nine; he won a gold medal for music, at a local competition in Cochin. Yesudas, son of the noted stage actor-singer of yesteryears, Augustine Joseph,fulfilled his dream of being a singer, when divine intervention made it possible for Yesudas to get his first break in the film 'Kalpaddukal' in 1961.
Endowed with a "divine" voice and a penchant for hard work, it was a triumphant journey for him, becoming one of the most recorded artists ever. After recording over 40,000 songs and winning scores of accolades including the coveted Padmashree honor and seven national awards for the best playback singer, he is till enchanting music lovers the world over. Yesudas is the recipient of thirty-four State Awards. Sixteen from Kerala, eight from Tamil Nadu, Five from Karnataka, Four from Andhra Pradesh and one from Bengal. India has bestowed upon him the highest honors including the PadmaBhushan, the Padmashree, Sangeetha Raja, Sangeetha Chakravarthy, and Sangeetha Sagara for his invaluable contributions to Indian music and national integration.
Till the date he has recorded over 40,000 songs in different languages and won scores of accolades including the coveted Padmashree honour and seven national awards for the best playback singer and many more awards . In spite of all his success in popular music, he enjoys classical Karnatik music more than any other. He is one of the few singers in the world who sings in the classical idiom as well as he does in the popular.
Yesudas, has assumed the role of cultural ambassador of India during his numerable performances abroad, promoting both Carnatic and film music. He is largely responsible for popularizing Indian music and spreading the message of international fellowship, for which Mother Theresa of Calcutta rightfully honored him with the National Citizens Award on World Peace Day, 1994. On November 14, 1999, Yesudas was presented an honorary award by UNESCO for "Outstanding Achievements in Music and Peace" at the event named "Music for Peace", a concert to mark the dawn of the new millennium.
Yesudas performed the title track from his new album, "Ahimsa", accompanied by the extraordinary Pakistani group Junoon. The synergy created by Yesudas and Junoon, aimed at peace, was an inspiration to all those present, which included renowned artists like Lionel Ritchie, Ray Charles, Montzerra Caballe and Zubin Mehta conducting the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra. The legendary actors Gregory Peck, Sydney Poiter, and Peter Ustinov were the masters of ceremony. Dignitaries from around the world, including the heads of the European union and the ambassadors from 170 countries attended this global event. They gave Yesudas's performance a standing ovation.
His humility, perseverance and devotion to music are an inspiration to all the young aspiring musicians, who wish to follow in his footsteps. Yesudas's life's philosophy has been that expounded by Sri. Narayana Guru of "One Religion, One Caste of all Humans". Yesudas continues to mesmerize us with his ageless, magical voice.