An Evening With Celestial Powers
by Elizabeth Menon

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An enchanting evening in London: Royal festival Hall stood whispering to the gentle breeze, bathed in the glorious golden sun. Thousands of people eagerly waited for their idol; among them were exponents of Classical Carnatic Music, those who enjoy music in any form and another group who were there just to have a glimpse of 'that serene face', to bask in the glory and reach the sublime listening to his irresistible voice or perhaps just to be in his presence!

At last, the agony was over, the legend appeared. There was standing ovation as the evergreen icon of generations walked on to the stage quite oblivious to the crazy adulation from the audience and his serene face was humble. He looked as though the seasons sailed past by him, even without as much as a glimpse! I refer of course to YESUDAS, the priceless treasure of Kerala. You could tell that you were about to experience something truly special by the heart stopping silence that swept through the audience. He has the power to stop conversation in any room simply by entering it and create magic with his alluringly elegant voice. Within minutes the dazzling music filled the hall and it was the music summit of melody, rhythm and pure magic.

One felt that it would not make much difference what he sang, as most of his power lies in his melodious voice. He has a unique rapport with the players around him as well as the ability to sweep you off your feet and glide you through a thick romantic mist, to an altogether more beguiling place. It is not just one of the most beautiful voices in the world, it is pure enough to make you think of walking on dry snow when the sun is shining (as in 'Ottakampi Naadum') or perhaps the smooth bubbling of cream and melting chocolate dripping with honey (as in' Chandana Lepa Sugandhum'). His melodious voice has many facets like a freshly cut diamond, ranging from soft alluring elegance gliding through dazzlingly beautiful tones, breaking into a trail blazing magnetic tonality with utmost precision. The electrifying performance is such that every note is interpreted and yet there is clarity, precision, freshness and vitality. When he sings he gives his all, creating sheer magic. The hushed reverence from the hall sent golden waves to the celestial planes and the gods listened to this liltingly beautiful, mercurial voice in absolute silence!

Songs such as' Kali veedurangiyallo, kannaadi aadiyamaayen, alli yambal, parayu nin ganathil, thanka bhasmakkuri, aayirum mounangal, kaattile paazhmulum, sree-vinaayakum, raghu vamsha pade, ponnarangaanum, unaru sangeethume, jaan-e man, yeh subah suhani ho, jab deep jale aana, theri choti se ek phool,aap ki mehki huyi' are just a few examples of his varied style! 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.

It was Yesudas who opened the doors of classical carnatic music to thousands of people who would have been oblivious to it otherwise. He was the first Christian, to climb the ladders of carnatic music, which was inaccessible to all, but Brahmins and a few high caste Hindus. He received distinction from RLV Music Academy at Thripunitura, Cochin and 'Gana Bhushanam' in 1960. His contributions to music over the past four decades have been phenomenal. He has rendered around 30,000 songs, since his debut in' kaalpaadukal', his first Malayalam film. He has this unique power to bring out the beauty in any language; bringing people of different creed and colour under one roof: song writers and their lyrics reach immortality through his inimitable voice. Yesudas has won innumerable laurels; 'Ponnaada' from the great Chempai Vaidya Natha Bhagavather, Padmasree from the President of India and an honorary Doctorate from Annamalai University, to name a few; perhaps a Knighthood is just waiting for him in the wings!

He is perhaps, reserved, shy, meditative and often solitary, with a wonderful sense of humour that is known to only a select few, but his ability to communicate through music is magical. His unique style and alluring voice made him the living icon of all ages, darling of the old, inspiration to the youth and absolute craze among women of all ages, profession and class, to which he is quite oblivious! If I were to compare Yesudas's inimitable voice I would say that Freddie Mercury's voice, the late lead singer of Queen, would come close, as they both have this wonderful range, from soft melody to trail blazing tonality, reaching beyond known barriers, like only they can.

© E Menon



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