Visionary Musician Alice Coltrane’s Deep Links with India and Hinduism

The life and works of jazz saxophonist John Coltrane's wife tells us why she should be called the musician of Hinduism

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Visionary Musician Alice Coltrane
Alice Coltrane was a versatile musician, pianist, harpist and globally-acknowledged composer. Wikimedia
  • April 2017 marked the 10th anniversary of the death of musician Alice Coltrane, wife of jazz saxophonist John Coltrane
  • Coltrane, the devoted follower of Hinduism and Satchidananda, called herself Turiyasangitananda
  • She became a spiritual leader at an ashram in California, with by hundreds of devotees

June 17, 2017: It has been 10 years since the death of the visionary musician Alice Coltrane, the partner of legendary jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. Alice was a versatile musician, pianist, harpist and globally-acknowledged composer.

Remembering the legendary musician, a compilation of her lesser-known work from her final years titled World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda was released. It made it to the top of Billboard Charts in the New Age and World Music category.

Coltrane’s visits to India, which later inspired Alice to take up the Hindu faith, were the influence behind much of the material. She chose to become a spiritual leader at an ashram in California, followed by hundreds of devotees and enthusiasts. Coltrane took on the name Turiyasangitananda, which means “the highest song of god”. It is only fitting that her “cosmic jazz and spiritual compositions have been described as prayers for humanity”.

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A short film narrated by her daughter Turyia Coltrane has also been released along with the album. The short film mainly focuses on what propelled her devotion towards the Hindu religion in her final years. Turyia talks about how in the months following the death of her husband, her mother went into depression, and found peace and solace in India and in the teachings of Chennai’s Swami Satchidananda, who was later the inspiration behind her fourth studio album, Journey in Satchidananda. Satchidananda toured the US in the 1960s and he also opened the famous Woodstock festival.

According to Alice’s eldest child Michelle Coltrane, her mother was a woman who was way ahead of her time, a home-girl from Detroit who founded an ashram in the west. Meditation is now widely popular and has become a part of everyday talk. But in her time, it was considered peculiar and yoga was viewed as just a bunch of people who laid on top of mats on the floor. “But mom was always different,” Michelle added.

In the short film footage from the historic BBC film Bombay and All That Jazz, which recorded the concert conducted by double violinist L Shankar in the city on New Year’s Day 1992, has also been borrowed.

– prepared by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter: @dubumerang