Readings on Kerala (1A02ENG)
2. It is argued in "The Voice" that Yesudas faced religious barriers in the early days of his career. In this context, critically comment on the situation that existed in the field of Carnatic music in the 1960s.
3. Describe the trials and tribulations that Yesudas had to undergo as a part of his career in music. How are those trials and tribulations connected to the socio-cultural contexts in Kerala?
During the 1960s Carnatic music was dominated by an upper caste of Hindus. This tradition was broken when Yesudas, a Christian by birth entered into the field of Carnatic Music. He performed as a classical musician on several occasions receiving admiration from listeners. "The Voice" is a short column on the legendary singer K J Yesudas, written by Suresh Menon. The column article shares how his dreams kept his spirits high during his years of adversity. The writers observe the various ways in which Yesudas has become synonymous with the Malayali sensibilities of everyday life.
It was only when Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagawathar placed a ponnadai (shawl) on his at a concert that the more liberal among the classical singing community began to accept Yesudas. The singer was determined to plough through a lonely furrow. On the one hand, he was popular, on the other a serious Carnatic musician who put in hours of practice every day. He gives two different types of concerts, therefore-as a popular musician and as a classical one. According to Yesudas, Classical music is where all music begins as well as what all music aspires to.
Yesudas recollects that sometimes, he was accused of making classical music too accessible by his style of singing. He took that as a compliment. According to Yesudas, if he could have the ordinary many humming pavanaguru or vatapiganapathim then that is an achievement. One of the most important contributions to music by Yesudas is the way he had managed both classical music and popular music. On the one hand, Yesudas raised the tenor of popular music by using classical techniques and on the other made classical music accessible by using popular techniques.
The author remarks that in Western classical tradition such differentiation doesn't exist. Classical musicians like Mozart played his music in bars and concerts. The early days of Yesudas as a singer was difficult. When Yesudas decided to come to Madras to seek his fortune, his friend, a taxi driver, gave him a lift to the railway station and lent him a few rupees. In Madras, Yesudas often drank tap water to fill his stomach and tightened his mundu when even that didn't help. Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, the prominent Carnatic Musician, allowed Yesudas to stay in his car shed. Yesudas repaid the kindness by cleaning the car every day. There was no question if entering the house or being fed anything the great singer and his family might eat. His time in Madras was full of hardships. However, it can be seen that he faced difficulties with determination.
When Yesudas visited Semmangudi years later, after being famous himself, he was received with all the respect and excitement his status now deserved. He was fed and honoured and given a choice of drinks- tea, coffee, or Horlicks. Years of privation having sharpened his sense of irony, Yesudas might have been forgiven for speculating on the difference a cup of tea or a glass of Horlicks might have made to his life some years earlier in the car shed.
Yesudas was part of certain religious controversies too. He sang some of the best songs worshipping Lord Krishna in Guruvayur. However, being a Christian, he was denied permission to enter the Guruvayur temple. Yesudas accepts the situation with humour and humility. In Yesudas' own words, he is like a child playing with pebbles on the sand with the vast ocean of music in front of him. Thus, according to the author, Yesudas puts his achievements in perspective.
REF: Multiple Modernities, edited by Board of Editors, Kannur University, Cohin: Hornbill Publishing House, 2019. Print.