Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Fitness Journey

Let’s just say that today was an important landmark in my personal fitness journey. Deadlifting 100 kgs! Nothing great for all you strength champs out there, but think of a 47 year old Carnatic musician, totally unfit and overweight for the better part of 15 years. Think of the singer who had to move his feet around 45 minutes into the concert because of constant knee pain. Think of this obese dad who had to carry his sleeping 6 month old in one hand and the tambura in the other as his wife pulled along with the sleeping 5 year old up 3 flights of stairs after an exhausting concert. Think of the ever hungry, always raiding the refrigerator, couch potato watching cricket matches or browsing the internet in his spare time.

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The weight start growing slowly around 1989-90 and suddenly before I knew I was creeping up to 75 kgs by the time I was 25 years old. The fitness journey had a series of beginnings back then. Failed attempts to go ‘jogging’ in the beach. Joining a nearby gym but hardly stepping into it. Then all this was heavy stuff. All you need to do was just brisk walking for about 45 minutes right? Fast forward to 2003 and there I was 90+ kilos and knee pain starting to hit at crucial moments in a concert.

First serious attempt at fitness began with Yoga. Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram was my destination and I kept at it for a few years off and on. What was missing was discipline and continuity. Then around 2007 having reaching a peak weight of 102 kilos I finally mustered the courage to join one of these new age gyms with all those cardio machines, weight training, dumb bells, personal trainers etc etc. Things worked. One lost weight, was looking better definitely and things improved overall. Then came the “Great Half Marathon trap” that I fell headlong into. Haruki Murakami runs marathons you know. Road runs began in right earnest. 5k, 7k, 9k and then one day 13K! WOW! Wasn’t that something! It had taken 2 hours 10 minutes but still was something right! 

By this time one had crossed 40. Not much strength training done. Constant running and cardio was having its strain on the muscles. Knee pain, groin pain, ankle pain! Name it and it started hitting me soon. Rehab time! That was when I had my first interactions with Primal patterns and their physio Navneet who slowly started me on a rehab program. 2013 and things were not looking good at all. 45 years old, weight was creeping up again, knee pain appears again and finally we had that fantastic meeting with the Boss himself, Shanker Basu of Primal Patterns.

First piece of advice “Stop running  till I tell you”. Secondly, “Read these books” - Dark Side of Fat Loss, Wheat Belly, Obesity Epidemic etc etc. Slowly cut out the carbs bit by bit, add protein. Forget about workouts for the moment. Get you bio chemistry in order. Hunger craving has to come down. A couple of months and things started getting better. Lost a few kilos and things were looking better. Then began the slow path of getting stronger. That was the basic philosophy. Get strong! Get strong! Strength is important for everything. Here was a “bhagavatar” who had never held a dumb bell in his hand till the age of 37 and I was slowly doing Front squats, back squats, Dead Lifts, Bulgarian split squats.

The last 6 months has been a fantastic journey for me with my trainer Arun. I was too eager, he was patient. I wanted to workout twice a day, he restricted me to thrice a week! But then progress was slowly being made. Small goals were set and achieved. Form was being corrected. Volume was being accumulated. It was all quite familiar now. Concentrate on the basics. Get your talam in order. Sing the classical compositions. Sing a lot of concerts. Don’t worry about the audience. Get more miles under your belt. Senthil (the Tamizh actor, comedian, in ‘Boys' was it?) said ‘Information is wealth” didn’t he? When you were a music student listening to concerts was most important. You need to know what to sing, you need to know what NOT to sing.

Today an important target has been achieved! Thanks Basu! Thanks Arun! Thanks to every member of the Primal Patterns team who has encouraged em along the way! The journey continues!

Writeup in Kumudham magazine


Monday, January 12, 2015

New Album - Vani Mahal Dec 2014

Greetings and advance wishes for a Happy Pongal!

I am super delighted to announce the launch of my new album Vani Mahal Dec 2014. As the title indicates it is a recording of a live concert that I have sung for the Thyaga Brahma Gana Sabha at the Vani Mahal in Chennai on the 19th December 2014.

I am working on a few more products and hopefully several of my concerts from the recent December festival will be released in the coming months.

The accompanying artistes for the concert were S Varadarajan - Violin, SJ Arjun Ganesh - Mrudangam & KV Gopalakrishnan - Khanjira.

Please click https://gum.co/RkHln to download the album. As usual the pricing remains on the "Pay What You Want" model.

I know that a few have expressed inability to make payments with a Rupee credit card. I am really sorry about this. I am also hoping to slowly to start releasing a few of these albums on iTunes as well so that it will make the task easier.

Thanks for downloading, supporting and listening!

Sanjay Subrahmanyan

To download Vani Mahal Dec 2014 please click https://gum.co/RkHln

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

Aaand 2015 is here! This season has been fantastic as always and I would like to thank so many of you who have turned up in such large numbers. The last year has been very significant musically for me.

Learning up, practicing and singing compositions is a favourite activity of mine. I believe that a large repertoire is very important for me as a Carnatic musician. It gives me a better understanding of the ragas especially when you learn multiple songs in the same raga. In the modern age when technology helps in communicating what one is doing on stage within seconds to any part of the world, the variety in presentation helps to keep one’s music fresh and current. It breaks monotony in presentation and motivates me to look forward to each and every concert.

I have identified a few ‘musical quests’ if you can call it that for the year 2015. Of course every year I used to call them resolutions and promptly never kept them! This year however I would like to call them quests. This word has a slightly different connotation. One is that it is not time bound. After all did not people spend lifetimes chasing impossible quests?? Secondly it has a very exotic and ancient kind of meaning that sounds so much more lofty, much like the jargon that some artists employ to define their music, so that everything else can be dismissed by a term of their own choosing!

Ok so I will let you in on a secret. One of the quests is to sing every one of the 72 melakarthas. I have had this going for a few years now. I have made significant progress and have only about 16 left. This was primarily inspired by the rendition of compositions of various composers by Thanjavur S Kalyanaraman, specially recorded in the US, and finds itself in many a private collection. I have not learnt songs in all the 72, but I did cheat a little by including them s RTPs, Slokam/virutham or Ragamalika Swaram/Tanam/Neraval etc. Now if I were to revise the terms of the quest then it would involve singing and recording and releasing compositions  and RTPs in every melakartha. Now that is a quest worth pursuing right? I am sure someone else will have the time, effort and patience to complete it and hats off to anyone who has or will do it. I just thought I’ll commit to this in public so that I will look like an idiot when someone comes up to me and says “Yenna, have you finished your quest?” and it will inspire me to go ahead and complete it!


One of the highlights of 2014 has been the launch of the digital distribution of my music via Gumroad and http://www.sanjaysub.com where the albums are being offered on a “Pay What You Want” pricing model. Essentially it is all free if you choose to pay 0$. I would like to thank each and every one of you who clicked on the links and downloaded the albums. It is a sign of support and encouragement and I hope to continue and release many more such albums during the current year with a few surprises thrown in. Happy New Year!!!