Symphony of Music -- Melody, Rhythm And Magic
by Elizabeth Menon
Symphony of music: melody, rhythm and sheer magic: how else could one describe an evening with the living legend, who shot across the cultural landscape from the land of palm fringed beaches and stunningly beautiful backwaters. I refer of course, to Yesudas, 'The Uncrowned King of Kerala'. He has the star quality, which is so much more than just fame, fortune and success; it is elusive, almost impossible to pinpoint, but still instantly recognisable and the person who has it is uniquely special. He has that quality in abundance, which gives our more mundane existence a touch of magic, for he is larger than life. He achieved fame against all odds fired by a vocation, through uncompromising commitment and a profound determination to be a perfectionist. The unique tone quality and a predominant brilliance with diamond hard precision contribute to his 'Vocal identity' that is incomparable.
When one finds that his earlier songs are better than the new, and the new songs better than the old, one is at a loss, as there is no flaw in his music. The electrifying brilliance is such that even the seasons have sailed past by, without as much as a glance! His dazzling performance is such that every note is interpreted and yet, there is clarity, freshness and vitality. He has the power to stop conversation in any room, simply by entering it, and create magic with his alluringly elegant voice, which gets better and better like the vintage wine. 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, as most of his power lies in his melodious voice. Songs like Pinneyum pinneyum, Kumkumappoo, Kaiyethum Doore, Maanmizhippoovu, Snehathumpi, and Kaattinu Sugandham, take the listener to a different world. His ability to project intricate melodies with consummate skill and sweetness of tone, with a readiness to throw all inhibitions to the winds when the music demands, is almost celestial and therefore, inimitable. He has proved it yet again by Hari Muralee Ravam, Gange, Sreela Vasantam and Gopike, which challenged the sound waves and human capabilities, which will always remain as a tribute to the great Music director Raveendran, who astonished the music world by his breath-taking signature style, and the magical lyrics of all three are by the inimitable Gireesh Puthenchery!
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. When one hears a certain song, it is so obvious that it was written just for Yesudas to sing: 'Krishna ngan padum geethathodano parayu ninekettamishtam’, could not have been written for anyone else! When he sings 'Darshanam nalkane, Paada smarana sukham, Vathil Thurakku kaleme or Ethra swarangalil', one is tempted to turn around to see if God is amidst us in person; such is the magic of his voicHis 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 diamond hard precision, reaching beyond known barriers as only he can.
When he sings he gives his all, creating magic. When songs such as 'Aaro kamazhthi vachorotturli pole,Villinmel thaalam kotti, Uthrada pooviliyil and kulichu kuriyittu' make you feel the festivities of Kerala, 'Gange, Hari muralee ravam, Samayamithapurva sayahnam, Sathyam shivam, Katile pazhmulam, Raghu vamsha pade, Parvathi manohari, Raghu vamsha sudha, ponnil kulichu and Hindola ragardranayi, take you beyond the sound barriers. 'Omane Nin Mukham, Pinneyum pinneyum aaro kinavinte, Perariyathoru nomparthe, Mudippookkal vadiyalum, Charuthe, Ponnaranganam, Ennodenthinee pinakkam, pinneyum pinneyum, Chandana cholayil, Manja kumkumam, Adyathe nottathil, Kannadi adyamayen, Anchunila panthalitta and Adya¬mayi kanta nal' make you float through a fairyland, on a romantic cloud. 'Amma mazhakkaarinu kan niranju, Paranjilla njan Onnum, Marannittumenthino manasil thulumpunnu, Pradosha kumkumam, Sandhya koluthiya, Iniyennu kanumen makale, Nanni arodu ngan chollentu, Onnu marakkan kazhingenkil and Parannu poya mohame', give you a touch of melancholy! And the words of Vayalar, Kaithapram, ONV, Gireesh Puthechery, Sreekumaran Thampy, Yousafali Kecheri and the others like them reach celestial heights – the magical ingredient of course, is the alluringly tempting voice of Yesudas!
It is not just one of the most beautiful voices in the world, it is pure enough to make one think of walking on dry snow when the sun is shining (as in otta kampi nadam) or perhaps the smooth bubbling of cream and melting chocolate dripping with honey (as in chandana lepa sugandham.) Something special happens even when he sings very ordinary songs -- words come to life and songs become classics. Music Directors, Writers and their lyrics reach immortality through his voice ‘Pinneyum pinneyum, Oru Raathri koodi, Hari Muraleeravam (Gireesh Puthenchery) Kali veedurangi-yallo' (Kaithpram) 'Amavasi nalil '(Yousafali Kecheri), 'Thamasa-menthe varuvan' (P. Bhaskaran), 'Parijatham thirumizhi thurannu (Vayalar), Arikil nee Untaayirunnenkil (ONV) and Uthara swayamvaram (Sreekumaran Thampi) are just a few of many such examples. State Film Award Nights, 'Swathi Thirunal Music Academy, Music festivals in Chennai and Sooriya Dance & Music Festival' in Trivandrum reveal that he still has the charisma to steal the show!
During one of his very rare interviews many years ago, he said, "Life is like a video cassette and your present and future are all pre-recorded; you laugh, cry, or get angry as the tape is being played and one has no control over it". He may be closer to the truth than one realises! He believes that "When one receives a token of appreciation that one deserves, it should be an incentive to become more dedicated to ones chosen career" -- a philosopher? I am even tempted to say that perhaps, he has achieved a 'Celestial status'!
Yesudas has this unique power to bring out the beauty in any language, bringing people of different creeds, colours and nationalities under one roof. Hindi songs such as 'Gori tera, Jane man, yeh subah suhani ho, Jab deep jale aana and Kahan se aaye badra', show his inimitable ability to excel in a different language. 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 in UK, France, Switzerland, Germany, Gulf States, USA and many venues in India. He is still a force to be reckoned with indeed, as he still walks away with all the major awards; his dazzling voice is such that one is surprised if he does not claim them all, even after four decades. He is determined to maintain very high standard and keep his music pure in this era of 'Fusion and remix'.
The irresistible combination of a unique style, alluring voice and a serene face that sparkle with youth, honesty and humility made him the living icon of generations, inspiration to the youth and absolute craze, especially among women of all ages, profession and class, to which he is quite oblivious! He is perhaps shy, meditative and often solitary with a wonderful sense of humour, but his ability to communicate through music is magical. Millions all over the world adore Yesudas, but the small State of Kerala, the 'Paradise or God's own Country' as it is sometimes called, is very proud of its most famous son. At least three names deserve to be mentioned -- his beautiful wife, Prabha, who has been beside him for many years and behind all his endeavours; his father, late Mr Augustine Joseph, and his mother, Elizabeth who guided Yesudas in to the world of music. I entrust the upkeep of this electrifying eternal brilliance, the beacon of certainty and elegance that stood the test of time in an unsure world, in the lap of the gods forever.