K.J. Yesudas’ recent concert for the Kerala Catholic Society was a blend of music and message

“It feels good to sing here. More cutcheris should be organised here,” said K.J. Yesudas about Museum Theatre, where he performed recently as part of Kerala Catholic Society’s endeavour to raise funds to provide education to bright, underprivileged students.

The singer’s deep-throated voice remains untouched by time and so is his persona. Clad in a crisp, white dhoti and kurta, Yesudas who has ruled the music world for more than half a century, revelled in the purity of notes. Despite his musical outings through classical compositions, film songs and bhajans, this student of the legendary Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagvathar believes in the dignity of lyrics and the dynamism of music.

Known for his secular approach to life and art, the concert had compositions on Ganapati, Rama, Yesu and more. The interactive Yesudas communicated to the audience the essence of many of these compositions and how they have inspired him to view life in a positive manner. “All gods are one is what we keep saying but I have experienced it truly through music. These elevating notes have the power to open your mind and soul, to accept people as they are and to understand the world in the right perspective,” he told a receptive audience.

In the popular ‘Vathapi Ganapathim’ (ragam Hamsadhwani) his rapid journey through the swara passages displayed his virtuosity with the classical idiom. The antiquity of the art seemed to stand out against the majestic structure of the Museum Theatre. The amphitheatre-like seating made the exchange between the listener and the performer more impersonal with the musical sounds being perceived equally by people placed at different distances.

After ‘Paavana Guru’ (Hamsanandhi) and his guru's ‘Rakshamam Saranagatham (Gambhira Nattai), as Yesudas began to render the Carnatic composition ‘Mokshamu Galada’ (ragam Saramati), he stopped to speak about the challenges of understanding the underlying emotion in this popular Tyagaraja kriti. “It’s close to my heart since it talks about moksham through nadopasana that is devotion to music.”

Through ‘Sugunamule Cheppukondi’ (Chakravaham) another Tyagaraja composition, Yesudas explained to the audience the significance of dhyana and dhanam. “They underline the purpose of this evening’s performance too. If all of us decide to set aside a very small amount every month to help bright children from poor families seek education and lead a good life we can prevent many of them from getting misled.”

And what is a concert without understated but thoughtful accompaniment? So there was the well-known mridangist Tiruvarur Bhakthavatsalam, Mahadeva Sharma on the violin and Father Poothigal on the tambura.

Presiding over the programme, Mayor Saidai Duraiswamy complimented the members of the Kerala Catholic Society, particularly Molly Antony in their efforts to bring underprivileged children into the mainstream of society.