An Evening of Sheer Pleasure: 'Yesudas Golden Nite in London'
by Elizabeth Menon

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An Evening of Sheer Pleasure: 'Yesudas Golden Nite in London'

Dr Elizabeth Menon

The Royal Festival Hall in London was blessed again by the presence of Padmabhusan Dr. K J Yesudas, the legendary Indian Carnatic Musician, Playback Singer and Composer. It was symphony of music, melody, rhythm and sheer magic -- how else could one describe an evening with the living legend, the 'Uncrowned King of Kerala'. the 'Gaana Gandharvan (Celestial Singer), whom we lovingly call 'Dasettan', who shot across the cultural landscape from the land of palm fringed beaches and stunningly beautiful backwaters of Kerala! 'Yesudas Golden Nite' on Saturday 21 May was organised by the Hartley College Past Pupil's Association (HCPPA, UK Branch) on the occasion of 'Naatha Vinotham 2016' in association with Darbar. Yesudas was accompanied on stage by Alka Ajith, Anita and few other artists. 'Lakshman Sruthi' from Chennai provided the live orchestra. Audience were also blessed to have the presence of Mrs Prabha Yesudas and Vinod Yesudas! Yesudas sung mostly Tamil songs followed by Hindi and a few Malayalam songs, and of course, the most scintillating segment of 'Musical notation with no language' by the Gandharvan! Alka Ajith was excellent and showed great promise and so did the other singers. Anita impressed the audience by the range in her beautiful voice. Yesudas was honoured on stage with a Ponnada and a Crown. There were small acts in between the songs, to the delights of the audience! The Executive committee of HCPPA and Darbar can be proud that they have organised a great function and I am sure all those attended the function would have wished them the best in all their ventures in the UK and Sri Lanka.

Yesudas started the magical evening with most popular Tamil songs that delighted the audience. Songs such as 'Kanne Kalaimaane', Amma Endrazhaikkathe and Athishaya Raagam brought deafening applause from the audience! These were followed by 'Alai Paayuthe, Daivam thantha veedu, Kalyaana Then-nila, Aantavan otta, Mahaa Ganapathim, Bommakkutti Ammaavukku, En Inya pon nilave, Kannurangu ponmayile nee, Nenje nenje maranthu vitu, Poongaatre poongaatre, Poongaavium pesumovium, Thenral kaatte, Kannukkum kannukkum, Yaarikku yaar swontham and many more. Alka and Anita performed duets withYesudas – 'Malare Kurinji malare' and 'Thenral Vannu' were greatly applauded by the audience. Yesudas sang the Malayalam classics that brought nostalgia to all the Malayalees in the audience, though they wished for more! They were mesmerised by the eternal classic 'Akale Akale' with Alka Ajith, 'Pramada vanam' and the devotional Ayyappa-sthuthi 'Harivarasanam' in closing, just as at the Shabarimala Temple! Alka's rendering of 'Akale Akale' with Yesudas was very close to the original! When Yesudas sung 'Pramada Vanam', I was reminded of the 'Year 1990', when that perfect beauty of a song, the song that caressed all your senses and more, 'Pramada Vanam Veendum' from the film 'His Highness Abdulla', was not chosen for the National Award that year! I will never forgive the judging panel and I am sure all those who love music would join me in that!

'Sixty thousand songs' to his credit and 'Seventy six summers' behind him, 'Gaanagandharvan' Yesudas still makes music that is so perfect in every which way -- words come to life, dancing to his every word, and sheer delight to the listener! The electrifying brilliance is such that even the seasons have sailed past, without as much as a glance! Quality of a song is proved when one wishes to hear that song time and time again, and the beauty of Yesudas's scintillatingly serene voice let that happen, gliding you to celestial bliss every time. It is 'Real Music' that is honoured when Yesudas gets an award, and our blessing to share the same world as him, feasting on his beautiful songs! Yesudas started his odyssey on 14 November in 1961, 54 years ago, with 'Jaathi Bhedam Mathadwesham…' and he is still creating magical haven for us with his celestial voice! It is sheer bliss every time one listens to his songs, and his voice is like the wine that gets more beautiful, stronger and divine as it gets older -- but, one is at a loss to decide which is better, the old songs or the new ones, because his new songs may appear better than the old and at the same time, the old ones appearing superior -- all because he still hasn't lost the magic of creating celestial music, powerful enough to captivate the listeners of all ages! He sang in Tamil for the first time for the film 'Bommai', but the first released film was 'Konjum Kumari'. He has recorded songs in most Indian languages, Malay, Russian, Arabic, Latin and English and has won seven National Awards for the Best Male Playback Singer and 43 State Awards, including five State Awards from Tamil Nadu and four from Andhra Pradesh. He was bestowed with the Padmasree in 1975 and Padmabhusan in 2002 by the President of India and he is a recipient of many more prestigious awards!

Yesudas has this unique power to bring out the beauty in any language, bringing people of different creeds, colours and nationalities under one roof. You remember when you first heard certain songs and therefore immediately nostalgic, whether you were there the first time round or experiencing the magic of these songs in their immediate context for the first time, you are in for a wonderful feast during his exhilarating performances. One can tell that one is about to experience something truly special, by the heart stopping silence that sweeps through the audience at his concerts. One feels that it would not make much difference what he sang, Malayalam, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu or any language, or 'Just musical notation with no language', as most of his power lies in his melodious voice and its range! He has a wonderful rapport with the players around him as well as the ability to sweep you off your feet and take you through a thick romantic mist to an altogether more beguiling place. He has performed in front of packed audience at the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Festival Hall and other venues across UK, Sydney Opera House, France, Switzerland, Germany, Gulf States, USA and many venues in India.

Yesudas has given us songs for each of our emotions and more, caressing all our senses to last us a lifetime and beyond! It is his voice that most of us hear when we wake up and the last thing at night before we go to sleep! He is the 'Living God' for some of us and the gods are woken up and put to sleep by his celestial voice, like Shabarimala Sree Ayyappan! And it was rather fitting that Yesudas chose to wind up the magical evening with the Ayyappa devotional song, 'Harivarasanam'! As the Celestial evening came to an end, the audience felt as if they were brought back to earth suddenly, as the hours looked like minutes and they hoped that the 'Gandharvan' would make his appearance very soon!

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© E Menon



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