Alice Coltrane’s Ashram Burned Down in California Fires
A worship center established by Alice Coltrane in California’s Santa Monica Mountains was lost to the Woolsey wildfire that has burned outside Los Angeles for the last 10 days, Pitchfork notes. Coltrane, who died in 2007, founded the Sai Anantam Ashram in 1983 for the practice of the Vedic religion, an ancient precursor to contemporary hinduism, and made a series of musical recordings with her followers there in the ’80s and ’90s that were reissued in part on last year’s acclaimed Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda release.
Sita Michelle Coltrane, Coltrane’s daughter, shared the news of the fire damage in a statement posted to Facebook over the weekend. “Most all of the structures have been burnt to ground, thankfully there was no loss of life,” she wrote. “The fellowship, families, children who grew up on the land, celebrations of holy days, marriages that took place on the grounds, all of these things will last forever.” The ashram was closed at the end of 2017, and according to Sita Michelle Coltrane, the property no longer belongs to the Coltrane family.
In Coltrane’s music, the composer, harpist, pianist, and organist merged experimental jazz with gospel, classical Indian music, and her own sense of cosmic spirituality. She founded the ashram after an astonishing run as a solo artist and bandleader in the late 1960s and ’70s, which began when her husband and close collaborator John Coltrane died of liver cancer in 1967. The music she made at the ashram was both a continuation of and a break from this earlier work, melding many of the same sounds into performances that emphasized communal singing and chanting over extended instrumental improvisation. It was originally released on a series of small-run cassettes that were intended for religious use by the community at the ashram, but eventually built a reputation among Coltrane fans before finally being reissued widely on the Ecstatic Music compilation last year.
Read Sita Michelle Coltrane’s full statement and hear “Om Shanti” from Ecstatic Music below.