Desert Island #20: Mallikarjun Mansur, Desh

At its heart, the formal edifice of classical music rests upon older and more deeply-rooted melodies drawn from folk and religious music. Architectural complexity and structured presentation can provide food for the intellect, but it can also detract from the primal appeal of these roots. Classical pieces that retain the raw emotional energy of folk, to the point that the technical structure becomes secondary, are rare. Classical pieces that further imbue their folk bases with a certain transcendent mysticism are still rarer. This recording of Mallikarjun Mansur singing Desh (variously labelled as Sorath) is to me the profoundest example of the latter category. It is futile for me to attempt a technical analysis of its appeal. Suffice it to say that, as a friend wrote of Faiyyaz Khan’s Jaunpuri, this is the recording I would like to hear on my deathbed.

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