Think Music: Kazim Ali

Today’s Think Music guest is Kazim Ali, author of The Far Mosque (Alice James Books) and The Fortieth Day (BOA Editions, 2008).

Dear Alice, Dear Coltrane

When in January 2007 I was walking along the fog-beaches of Santa Cruz, looking down over the banister to the red rocks below, I wondered.

Wondered as I walked on the pier, the sea lions sleeping below, waking up with shouts in the early morning sun.

What is the edge of the universe, I wanted know. What is the difference between I and I and what can I know when I know what I know.

When I called you to California, you knew I would meet you in California.

At all ways and all edges the music of Alice Coltrane was the music at the end of what I did not know and what I knew and was the beginning of the new part—what I never knew and what I now know.

Which is what

On April 6, 1971, Alice Coltrane and her band got together in New York City. And under her direction, while she led them on the harp and the organ, they forged a fusion of new sound, sound with the movement and energy of jazz, the absolute Now, and the structure and instrumentation of ancient ragas, timeless and yet of course always absolutely Now.

So as my breath moved through my body I heard the sound of Alice Coltrane in the ether as breath—everlasting, taintless and pure, beyond all things.

And in my case, the first vibrations of sound off of Alice Coltrane’s harp were the first stirrings of breath in my new body being at last born into the air in Croydon, England that same day.

Unbeknownst to me (for sure) and Coltrane (perhaps), Igor Stravinsky had died some time during the night, likely in the very early morning hours when Coltrane was playing and I was sliding through from the other side of the universe.

When I called you to Brahma Loka, you knew I would meet you in Brahma Loka.

Only a few years after that Alice Coltrane renounced her public career and took a new name, Turiya Saatgeetananda, meaning Truth-Music-Bliss. Indeed.

I began writing the “blue my promise a swan” poems in September of 2006 before I knew Alice Coltrane herself was soon to fly forth from the mortal shape that had for a little while held her. But in the space left by her spirit the other poems rushed into their place.

Eternal sound of the universe who are you and what do you sound like. When I called you to Turiya Loka, you knew I would meet you in Turiya Loka.

Dear Alice, Dear Coltrane, let me in your light a little while sing.

Kazim Ali

April 2011

Italics are from “OM Supreme” from Eternity, Alice Coltrane, © Jowcol Music.

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