In close to two decades of singing, Vijay Yesudas has given anthems of love and longing to a generation of music lovers across languages. He talks about his relationship with his father, the legendary KJ Yesudas and his experience as a playback singer
What are your earliest impressions of listening to your father?
Right from my childhood, I have grown up listening to my father while running around the house, playing under the bed, sleeping on his lap while he practiced and so on. All this might sound very cinematic, but it’s true. So you can imagine the influence his voice has had on me.
Did you decide early on to take up music as your career? How did your father train you in it?
I just loved singing, humming or tapping the classroom table during the class and it was just me. Only later I took it to a serious level by training in western classical music and then after recording my first songs in Malayalam and Tamil in 2000, I started training full-length in Carnatic music too.
It would have been a blessing to grow up under his influence and also a challenge at the same to match high expectations.
Lucky is the word, to be under his protection or shade rather than shadow where I could grow but that growth came with a certain amount of frustration of the need to prove yourself and find yourself. And my biggest advantage was that I was under his roof during those times. But then, making a name for myself was still a challenge and luckily, he never helped. So even though it took over seven years for me to breakthrough, especially in Malayalam, it was sweet once it happened on my terms and as a result of my struggle
When did you tell him about your decision to take up music as a full-time occupation?
There was no major decision per se; it just happened. I knew I had the talent to sing from an early age. The question was where I would get with it and how I would grow with it. Those were left to my fate and my hard work, I guess. Today, my father is very proud of me but still feels I can do more and learn more. Perhaps that’s what he feels about himself too.
Are your kids showing an inclination towards music and how is your relationship with them different from what you had with your father?
My father is a legend now and was a prodigy when he was 5 and 12 and 20 when he started in films and then when he ventured into Carnatic and also in so many languages
I’ve grown slowly. I’ve taken the time and things have just fallen in place. I was no prodigy and I didn’t breakthrough big but now I’m still growing and just enjoying every part of my career. So I don’t expect anything from my kids. DNA is truly an amazing thing and in that I see traits of myself and my dad in my kids that is astonishing. But what they will become and what they want to eventually do is all for them to decide and I hope they enjoy it as much as I have done.
How do you ensure time for practice in a hectic schedule? What is it that you feel needs to be accomplished next?
I always understood the importance of practice seeing my father practice on a daily basis even now. But for me, more than the practice done every day, it’s the type of songs that I’ve recorded over the many years – be it films, devotional or albums – have improved me more. Of course, training is always required to polish your skills. Like my father says, it’s like an uncut diamond; one needs to cut and carve it out so as to get the best part or the shiniest part. I think just being able to record for different composers and rendering a variety of songs has and still is making me better. Still a long way to go perhaps.