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Discernment. Online

'He is such a well-respected Ustad and yet he maintains a childlike innocence and joy'
In Association with

'“Sacred Spaces” are those places in ones head where you are alone with the sounds and melodies that come from some source that is both within and without you'
 ' Having a wide taste has given me the ability to be unique in my own approach to the instrument and composing in general'


Excerpts from the interview with Lee Boice








Spacing into two worlds  

Lee Boice with Ustad Sultan Khan translates two worlds of music into his latest album Sacred Spaces

Lee Boice

Sacred Spaces


Lee Boice 2000



















Lee Boice is a musician with many skills. He plays the guitar, the synthesizer, the sitar, and the dobro (a guitar louder than the normal guitar, of American invention dating back to 1927). And on this album, he plays with an Indian maestro, Ustad Sultan Khan.

This album took shape when the sarangi maestro visited Boice’s studio in New York. Besides being fond of film soundtracks, Boice follows a lot of Indian classical music, and has learnt the sitar from Bina Kalavant (see interview for more details). Sacred Spaces is an experiment at fusing the various kinds of music that Boice loves.

New Dawn has some Sanskrit slokas (Om shanti) and a phrase on the sarangi to begin with. Then the synth guitar, sounding like a shehnai, draws out the mood in slow shades of raga Chandrakauns. You can hear the pakhawaj, distortion guitars and more drums layering out the spaces behind the shehnai or the bagpipe soundalike.

Night flight has some lazy piano meandering and then Boice takes up the acoustic guitar. The notes hold your attention, they come like rain: the tight patterns are a cross between the swaraprastharas (ad lib solfa notes jamming in Karnatak style) and simply jamming in style. Sultan Khan sings one mesmerizing line and then lets his sarangi do the talking. I loved this track. The drums, in parts a drum machine and in others the tabla (Badal Roy), go in the background where Boice breaks free.

Khanstruction begins with the ghatam, the bass and then Sultan Khan the sings soft, petulant, half-evolved phrases, and then the techno track begins. The sarangi phrases that he tricks into the track are dissonant. Some heavy rock guitar adds intensity to the immensity of what Sultan Khan is constructing.

Jugalbandi of Jazz is an outstanding piece of cross-genre jazz. Take the beginning: it is very folksy in an Indian context, with a tabla, some bells, some sarangi, and you can almost visualize a mela atmosphere, with its chaos, dust and noise. Then the fairground disappears and a sophisticated blues interior appears, with sax, piano and a neater drum pattern. The sarangi improvises on this.

Ceremony makes some slow statements on the sarangi and then female vocals take up fast tans. The Visit is full of acoustic and electric guitars. The theme is slow. This song creates space for thought.  I liked it immensely.

But Sultan’s blues is my favourite. With overtones of raga Jaunpuri, the sarangi pulls you into this one fast and takes you across a field of emotions to return you home with a warm welcome. The beat is relaxing. The guitar sometimes repeats phrases and end notes of the sarangi. At others it curves off on its own. The tenderness of a sarangi and the heavy notes of the guitar open up different spaces, which can be interpreted as the emotional and the intellectual.

The River/Dreamscape suggests a slow sluggish journey into some inner scapes of thought. Guitar chords, sitar (both by Lee Boice) and the tabla form a syncopated background for the sarangi to flow on. The sarod (Steve James, Ravi Shankar’s student who also plays the violin) introduces you to Ceremony. The way it meshes with the santoor, sarangi and voice is very deliberate, slow, filled with etiquette and courtesy. Then a regular beat lends it a gait. Bill Buchen takes care of the percussion.

Ascension is a faster track with a racing tabla beat and features a female voice flanged heavily. Jungle blue is a brief safari-style adventure, mainly on the guitar.

Lee, written about as the John Mclaughlin (of Shakti fame) heir, engages your attention with his consistent creative energy. Sultan Khan’s mesmerizing vocals and sarangi places Lee’s music in the Indian context, and translates it easily for us in these parts. Sacred Spaces is a testimony to Boyce’s abiding love of Indian music.


S Suchitra Lata

Check out the interview with Lee Boice
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Published on 29 July 2002

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