Yesuvarasanam - Dr.K.J.Yesudas


Anyone who grew up in the 1960’s would remember things like playing street cricket, when we had to behave very, very well and also study very,very well to get an ice cream or a chocolate (we had to earn anything which was not basic), like when we collected leaves & twigs for our scrap book, like our mothers wore kum kum powder on their foreheads (sticker bindis had not be devised), like we didn’t have to call people before we visited them, like listening to the Beatles, like Ameen Sayani’s voice on Binaca Geetmala on every Wednesday and Yesudas singing ‘Enna Parvai Unthan Parvai’ for the film ‘Kadhalika Neramillai’. 

Anyone who grew up during 1970’s will remember things like their black telephone instrument covered with an embroidered cloth (sometimes locked so that people didn’t misuse it), like black & white tv with Doordarshan being the only channel and programmes starting only after 6pm and ending by 9pm, like playing book cricket, buying books to read during train journeys, having pen friends, listening to ABBA and Yesudas singing ‘Athisiya Ragam’ for the film ‘Apoorva Ragangal‘ and while also making a fantastic impact in Bollywood with ‘Ka Karoon Sajni’ for the film ‘Swami’ and ‘Ghori Tera Gaon Bada Pyaraa’ for the film ‘Chitchor’.

Those who grew up in 1980s will remember India winning the World Cup under the captaincy of Kapil Dev changing the face of Indian cricket forever, when a teenager called Sachin Tendulkar took the cricket world by storm, when colour tv came to replace the black & white, when India went to space and Yesudas singing ‘Kanne Kalaimane’ for the film ‘Moondram Pirai’. 

Those who grew up in the 1990s, will remember, India becoming a nuclear power, India winning Miss World & Miss Universe, when a life changing thing called mobile phones entered our lives and Yesudas singing ‘Pramadhavanam’ for the Malayalam film ‘His Highness Abdullah’. 

In the 2000s, 2G became 3G and 3G became 4G, and Sachin has retired but what remains constant is that Yesudas is still singing. I have to state that there is none before Yesudas and none after him. Literally, Yesudas is one artiste whose kutchery is never before or after any other performer. His concerts starts at 6pm and there is no event before that and often it goes on beyond 9pm, so again no concert after that. So obviously, the audience he gets are coming there purely for him and it’s not some spill over crowd. What is interesting is that sabhas are willing to have only one concert versus two concerts which will only get them more revenue. Such is the respect he has been commanding for the more than 5 decades. 

During this December Season, I walked into Narada Gana Sabha, found myself pleasantly surprised to see an almost full hall for him, when all the younger and well known artistes were singing somewhere or the other at about the same time. The crowd at NGS was his own loyal audience and one of them was me.

This post is a tribute to this striking personality with flowing white hair and white beard. But hold on, his age stops with his completely grey hair. There is no stoop in his posture, no spectacles, no lack of enthusiasm, no loss in memory, or sharp wit and humour, and most important no change in the involved melodious rendering. 
How many people among us can sit crosslegged for more than 3 hours ? As for me, I don’t see myself making it to 80, let alone sitting upright and crosslegged ! 
I am no musical wizard to judge anyone technically, but if there goes a saying that Music transcends religions, breaks barriers, and Music can move anything or anybody then all this was achieved through his music. He is the king in emoting the sentiment in the song, and I am yet to find such a golden voice !

This particular concert for KFA was no different with a selection of lovely songs. One of them being my own favourite Purandaradasa krithi ‘Guruvina Ghulama’, which was followed by Meenakshisuthan’s composition ‘Rakshamam Sharangata’ in Ragam Nattai. This composition is on Lord Guruvayurappan and everyone knows how the temple authorities are so opposed to allowing Yesudas into the temple. I really think this is most ridiculous and I am almost tempted to go and convince the Devasom authorities to allow this person who has taken Guruvayurappan close to millions of people with his songs.
What followed was Patnam Subramani Iyer’s ‘Apradhamulanniyu’ in Lathangi Ragam. His next choice was Saint Thyagaraja’s ‘Marubalka’ in Ragam Sriranjani and this is where you must put your heart over your mind. His rendering of Mysore Vasudevacharya’s ‘Devadhi Deva Shri Vasudeva’ in Ragam SunaadaVinodhini was soulful. Then was Saint Thyagaraja’s ‘Marugelara O Raghava’, in Ragam Jayantsri. This is our family’s ‘Yaadon Ki Baraat’ song (you know the kind where all of us get lost in Mela, and this song will reunite us, because practically all of us know it.) 

Just as you are marvelling at his energy & commitment, the audience start clamouring for songs of their choice. They have waited through the first half of the programme only to hear him sing their favourite songs, which only he can sing the way in which it can melt a heart of stone ! 

The first request was ‘Thiruparkadlil Palikondaye Sriman Narayanan’ and what a response he got for it ! He didn’t refuse a single request from the audience though it was a long concert. His humour is still intact and that was visible when he narrated an interesting anecdote about him singing a Bengali song for a Kannada biopic about Swami Vivekananda & Ramakrishna Paramhamsa and it’s was his personal choice to present it to us. 

He obliged the awaiting crowd with his signature piece on Swami Ayyappan ‘Enna Varam Keppen Naane’. No concert of his can be complete without this song which continues to move people to tears. 
It was more than 3 hours but not once did he sip a drop of water and not once did he adjust his sitting position. He went on to sing a Kathakali Padam by Kottakal Madhu on Kuchela Vritham ‘Ajithare Madhava Krishna’. Towards the end he sang Sundaramurthy Nayanar’s ‘Pitha Pirai Choodi’ and there is no match for his emotive singing. 

If there are critics who are looking for technically brilliant but occasionally soulless singing...I have only one thing to say that mine is not a review but a tribute to a man who had stood the test of time !
I know how I heard him as a child and used to sing his ‘Jab Deep Jale Aana’ from Chitchor with my cousin brother and today I have lost my voice, energy and sadly that cousin too but Yesudas is there sitting before me with an attitude, enthusiasm and honey dripping singing which is beyond human comprehension. 
I say this as an example ... my mother was one of the most innovative and best cooks publicly acknowledged and accepted by all who knew her and today she is almost 80 (like Yesudas) afflicted with Parkinson’s among other things. She is unable to do as much as before, and often not even the simplest of things like a Pongal. This doesn’t take away the fact that in my opinion she remains one of the best cooks ever ! She is beyond criticism & judgement !! 

I learnt that some of his concerts after this one were cancelled due to a setback in his health and I know lots of people were disappointed and worried. Every single person who spoke on this to me had him in their prayers. And I was glad this has worked and he was to sing in Kamaraj Arangam on the Jan 15th evening. 

There is a belief that wherever Rama’s name is chanted, Hanuman is present. Maybe all of them there, like me, felt that Lord Ayyappan was going to sleep after hearing Yesudas’s Harivarasanam, like it is the case in Sabarimala every night. 

Here is what I think, one doesn’t judge legends...... You just salute them ! 

About the Author:

Sandhya Shankar belongs to a well respected business family in Chennai. She is a Life Skills & Corporate Trainer by profession. She is an avid reader and a natural writer, who has written several poems and articles. She even presented her poems as a reading at the British council. She has keen interest in all art forms  and has explored many different forms of painting like stained glass and Tanjore being among them. 

Music being her first passion, she had her formal training under Terakotti Chandrasekharaiah at Bangalore and later briefly under Mrs Champa Kumar. She is a regular visitor of concerts, theatre and other live performances. Her witty reviews have gained a loyal and interactive readership for their sound technical commentary and relevance for every kind of melophile, from the casual-goer to the ragam expert, frequenting Chennai’s rich music scene.

(*The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of Music of Madras.) 


  1. Amazing tribute to yesudas. Brought out so well. Decades goes by everything changes but our legend stands tall. Enjoyed reading every bit of it

  2. Fabulous coverage ! KJY sir sings from his heart so much of Bhakthi for his Guru that has made him what he is today !May he bLord Guruvayoorappane shower him with lots and lots blessings for a long and healthy life and happy singing

  3. Amazing, amazing, tribute, Sandhya. Lived every single word and so true. He is truly a legend and we are so lucky to have been on mother earth when he wove his magic and continues to do so. Thank you Sandhya, and much love to you.

  4. So nicely penned! Hats off to u dear!!


Sakhiye Snehithiye - Janani Narayanan

Sakhiye Snehithiye All dance occurs in the three dimensions of space and the fourth of time — but it can be a beautiful experience...