The Record Collection

Riley Lee: Waiting for the Angels / Mixed Spice

New World Productions – NWCD-719

Track list:

01 – White Horse In Dark Valley
02 – Mixed Spice
03 – Stairway Of Waterfalls Part 1
04 – Stairway Of Waterfalls Part 2
05 – Waiting For The Angels
06 – Carasol
07 – Felucca To Zanzibar
08 – Serendipity


Riley Lee – shakuhachi
Alan Posselt – sitar
Aneesh Pradhan – tabla

The album Waiting for the Angels (aka Mixed Spice), released in April 1999, is described as having “an upbeat Indian flavour with tabla and sitar.”

Riley Lee was born in Texas in 1951 and lives in Sydney, Australia.

Riley began playing the shakuhachi in 1971. He is the recipient of two of the oldest and most venerated lineages of traditional shakuhachi, which can be traced back to the Zen Buddhist komusô, or “priests of nothingness” of the Edo period in Japan.

In 1980, he became the first non-Japanese to attain the rank of dai shihan or Grand Master.

Riley’s music is meditation. It has been used worldwide in yoga and tai chi classes, and by massage, acupuncture, and other bodywork therapists.
— (credit: Riley Lee photo by Rudi van Starrex )


New age multi-instrumentalist Riley Lee has become known for his polished musical compositions, and specifically for his talent of playing the shakuhachi flute.

The shakuhachi, which is traditionally played by Japanese Buddhist monks, has propelled Riley into a prestigious role of being a dai shihan (grand master) of the shakuhachi.

His musical work is breathtakingly meditative, soothing, and spiritual.

His near-flawless approach has made a complex range of ethnic fusion absolutely stunning.

He has released material since the early ’80s and signed a deal with the worldbeat label Narada in 1999.

Buddha’s Dream appeared two years later and the same year New World Music issued the career retrospective Postcards from Bundanon.

Lee then released Yoga Tranquiliy and Music for Zen Meditation, two sparse shakuhachi recordings designed to accentuate relaxation, yoga, and meditation.

Picture Dreams, an album of duets with renowned koto player Satsuki Odamura, followed from Narada in April 2003.


Once upon a time in Japan there was a class of people known as komoso (nothingness priests) who were practitioners of Zen Buddhism of the Fuke sect.

The adherents of this sect were committed to expressing the ineffable aspects of spiritual enlightenment and therefore, like their colleagues in other sects, did not chant Buddhist sutras.

Rather they played a long bamboo flute known as the shakuhachi, and in particular, a meditative tune cycle called honkyoku which expressed and encouraged spiritual awakening.

The komoso had special permission from the Shogun to travel about the countryside as part of their spiritual practice, a privilege not granted readily in those days to common folk.

As they wandered, komoso would often cover their heads with a wicker basket to signify their detachment from the world’s pleasures and temptations, and blow their plaintive pipes.

Now, we all know that in the contemporary world, many a sinner has found secure lodging behind the mask of religion.

But this is not a modern turn of events.

Even in those days of medieval Japan, warlords and petty kings saw the advantage to be had of sending out their spies dressed up with a basket on their head and a flute on their lips.

The public and officialdom would both respectfully defer from approaching the mendicants, who were more often than not, making mental notes of mischief makers and unsuspecting innocents to report back to the boss.

But the Fuke masters were not ones to let their practice be corrupted by politicians.

So they composed intricate musical passages, which only true monks with many years practice could perform. Whenever there was a need to test the bona fides of a basket-wearing komoso he would be asked to perform a shika na tone (test).

If he failed he quickly met his fate in the form of a sword through the body.


(credit: Yellow field photo by Ken’ichi Nagata)

(About the Shakuhachi) (pdf 43KB)

(Riley’s Journey) (pdf 80.1KB)