K.J. Yesudas, the popular film singer, has been a central figure in the realm of popular culture constituted by Malayalam cinema for more than half a century. The singer’s voice is often accorded the status of ‘the representative modern voice’ and the singer could excel in the dual spheres of Carnatic and film music traditions. When the classical Carnatic tradition remain close to the upper caste elite Hindu tradition and performed for a reserved audience, the Indian film music is hybrid musical form is widely enjoyed by the public. I would like to argue that the balancing of these apparently different musical traditions is one of the key cultural factors that have constituted the cult of the modern singer in Kerala. This paper would like to analyse the figure of the Modern singer in Kerala as a discursive site of the ‘popular’ and the ‘classical’ music traditions and attempt to understand how the popular singer’s affiliation with the Carnatic works to make him the voice of the modern singer in Kerala. How do the singer places himself in relation with the seemingly opposite traditions? The first part of this paper will attempt to look at the construction of the singer’s connection with the classical tradition by using selected photographs and literary text and make sense of how this ‘belongingness’ to the classic Carnatic tradition operates in the construction of the figure of the modern singer. The second part problematizes the singer’s relationship with other popular music traditions in Kerala.
Navya. V.K, The English and Foreign Languages University, India