Radha Botofasina (Courtesy photo)

Composer, multi-instrumentalist and former Alice Coltrane collaborator Radha Botofasina’s new release “The Spirituals, Vol. 2: Carry On” will be available on vinyl March 1.

The collection of spirituals in Botofasina’s singular, roots-based style meshes gospel sensibilities with contemporary and eastern influences to deliver potently unique renditions of such foundational songs as “Satan, We Gonna Tear Your Kingdom Down” and “Mary, Don’t You Weep.” The sonically revelatory album is a follow up to Botofasina’s similarly-themed 2009 release, “The Spirituals,” and each track is rooted in a Biblical story.

But then Botofasina has always been one for teaching and learning.

Although she started out planning to be a civil rights lawyer, Botofasina’s free spirit, reverence for elders and lifelong affinity for music took her on a journey through two Vermont colleges, Bryn Mawr, India, England, a mentorship with legendary musician Mary Lou Williams in New York, and she wound up finding other ways to uplift, advocate and inspire—as a vocalist and pianist.

After all, as a foster child, growing up, music was a shelter, a realm she knew she could always inhabit for comfort and encouragement.

“Nothing broke my spirit,” she recalled, looking back. “Not beatings, not abuse of any kind, or having no bedroom to sleep in from age eight and a half to twelve. It was easy because my brain was always thinking about music.”

Botofasina made it her mission to learn from the living greats, and she relishes her memories of meetings with the likes of Big Mama Thornton, Muddy Waters, Ike & Tina Turner, Little Richard, Otis Rush, and Taj Mahal, all of whom undoubtedly informed her style.

“They were all playing the roots music,” noted Botofasina. “I’d just sit around and listen to whatever they had to say.”

In the 1970s, she toured with her band named after a group from the 1930s, Spirits of Rhythm. “We decided to shift the whole paradigm from playing in bars,” she said. “We would only do concerts.”

Botofasina was gifted her first harp by friend Alice Coltrane-Turiyasangitananda. Photo taken in 1989. (Courtesy photo)

Botofasina’s spiritual path began with devout Catholicism, and she at one time quite seriously contemplated serving God as a nun. At the same time, she was being exposed to the Nation of Islam, as well as storefront churches down south and in Brooklyn, and she could appreciate them all.

Reflecting on a trip to Georgia in the 1970s to hear a particularly dynamic reverend named Bishop Jenkins, Botofasina, who never made it to the Gladys Knight show she’d been planning to attend that weekend, recalled, “Everybody was being so lifted in the spirit. I didn’t get out of church for 4 days. For me it was all about finding what was organic. And there was nothing more organic than singing in the name of the Lord like that.”

With a new baby — whom she chose to keep against the advice of her management — and an Artist Community Grant, she headed west to California, working with differently abled people to create community musical performances.  As a new mother inspired by Alice Coltrane’s “Monument Eternal”—Coltrane’s book written about the spiritual expansion of her consciousness following her husband John Coltrane’s passing — Botofasina was drawn to L.A. and would embark on a life-changing path living, worshipping and playing music at Coltrane’s ashram, the Vedantic Center. It was Coltrane who gifted Botofasina her first harp in 1983, and she has been incorporating the instrument into her musical compositions ever since.

“[Alice] used to point to her heart and say, ‘I found out that the music is in here…and that music is an expression, so with that, you just express the part of yourself that you can resonate with. If you’re trying to sing one note, sing one note. You want to go to the next level and just sing for the Lord, then just sing for the Lord,’” Botofasina said. “That proves to be the challenge I attempt to meet every single day of my life.” In addition to the four devotional albums she recorded with Alice Coltrane, Botofasina has produced over 17 albums in the last 20 years. She continues to play throughout southern California and around the world.

Learn more about Botofasina’s “The Spirituals, Vol. 2: Carry On” at radhabotofasina.com. See the video for the single “Carry On” on YouTube here.