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Visit Alice Coltrane’s spiritual home in this gorgeous documentary by Luaka Bop, Boiler Room and Petite Planetes.
“In 1983 Alice Coltrane Turiysanagitananda founded the Sai Anantam Ashram, in Agoura Hills, California. The Ashram became a sanctuary and a refuge for many, and a multi-ethnic and multigenerational community developed.”
So reads the intro to “ASHRAM: The Spiritual Community of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda”, the 33-minute documentary on the great harpist, composer and seeker. Released in 2019, the film explores the ways in which the artist, who died in 2007, spread her messages and music.
The film, which was produced by Luaka Bop, Boiler Room and Petite Planetes, captures a musical ceremony during Sunday gathering at the Ashram not long before it closed in 2017. When Alice was alive, she led her community in these meditations and released a number of them on her private label. Gliding through traditional Sanskrit chants, mantras and original compositions, the artist captured the essence of music’s ability to transcend language.
Co-directors Vincent Moon and Priscilla Telmon shot the ceremony and edited it into a stunning piece on sound, love and unity. It includes narration by Alice’s sister, singer Marilyn McLeod. Sadly, the Ashram burned to the ground during the 2018 Woolsey Fire.
Even before the fire, one narrator in the film stressed that the loss of the physical space wouldn’t hinder the teachings that Alice — or, as her students called her, Swamini — offered. “We will continue this path that Swamini set us on. Sometimes we will continue excellently, sometimes not so excellently, but we will continue.” He added, “Whatever we do, Swamini’s work is spreading out. There’s no stopping that. No individual can stop that.”
Not coincidentally, this Friday during our ongoing residency at Neuehouse, In Sheep’s Clothing will be playing a never-before-released album of Alice’s devotional songs. Called “Kirtan: Turiya Sings,” the listening party is being held in conjunction with Alice’s longtime record label, Impulse!