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Carnatic Music For Workouts? A New Album Series Has It Covered

Record label and event organizers MadRasana have released six albums by various artists based on a public survey conducted in Chennai

Anurag Tagat Oct 07, 2019

Mahesh Venkateswaran (pictured above) and his team at MadRasana has launched six 'MadRasana Sessions' albums, keeping in mind workout routines. Photo: Mahesh Venkateswaran

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At one of their annual festival gatherings last December in Chennai, label and event organizer Mahesh Venkateswaran and his team at MadRasana undertook a survey to understand their audiences. That one and another conducted on social media told them that many listened to Carnatic music during their exercise time. Now, the company has launched six MadRasana Sessions albums, specially recorded for length and pace keeping in mind workout routines.

Vocalist Ramakrishnan Murthy says, “I had always associated working out with high-intensity, heavy metal type music, but then I realized that everyone has a different way of working out.” Photo: Hariharan Shankaran

Mahesh indicates that the album only came about due to the very specific responses they received in their survey of about 400 people. “We got in-depth answers like what type of workout they engage in, we got what type of ragas they listen to, what type of songs – short pieces or long, what speed – fast , medium and slow. Few even gave us the beats per minute they need the songs to match their running stride,” he says. Sharing this info with artists, the listening and recording sessions began earlier this year, with the experience also incorporating binaural mixing technology and a silent disco experience of a small audience hearing the music via headphones.

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“It’s a great way for me to distract my mind from the physical demands of a workout, and focus on something more enjoyable,” says vocalist Sandeep Narayan. Photo: Kunal Daswani

The 45-minute albums feature vocalists such as Sandeep Narayan, Ramakrishnan Murthy, Sriranjani Santhanagopalan, Ashwath Narayanan, Vignesh Ishwar and young flute-veena duo Ashwin Srinivasan and Ramana Balachandran. Some of the artists say they were a bit surprised when Mahesh approached them for the idea to record the albums but warmed up to it. Murthy says, “I had always associated working out with high-intensity, heavy metal type music, but then I realized that everyone has a different way of working out, a different mindset while going through their routines, and different tastes with regards to music when it comes to what keeps them going and motivated during their exercise.” Narayan, for his part, says he related to the idea of listening to Carnatic music as a way of aiding his workout. “It’s a great way for me to distract my mind from the physical demands of a workout, and focus on something more enjoyable,” he says.

Vocalist Vignesh Ishwar at a MadRasana Sessions recording. Photo: Mahesh Venkateswaran

Whether it’s for a jog in the park or even gym time, the artists specifically performed pieces that fit into five-minute slots. Narayan even let his instrumentalists take over on the album, with percussion solos or extended violin parts. The concerts themselves are different compared to the regular fare – hosted in cinema halls, smaller rooms without any monitor speakers and headphones for attendees. Their annual MadRasana Festival takes place at Sathyam Cinemas at the peak of the Madras Music Season, between December 23rd and 27th, featuring powerhouse vocalist Bombay Jayashri and more. Mahesh says, “There are already 4,000 concerts that happen and we didn’t want to add one more to that list unless we can do something that no one else has done before.”

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Download the MadRasana Sessions albums here. More details on the MadRasana Festivals and future concerts here.

Watch a video performance on MadRasana by Sandeep Narayan below. 

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