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Riley Lee
American shakuhachi flutist Riley Lee is one of the few Americans who's been named a grand master of the shakuhachi flute. However, it's not just his formidable skill on the instrument that's so impressive, it's the poignant poetry he creates with it. Recording albums since the 1980s, Lee began enjoying the recognition he long deserved in the 1990s with albums such as "Wild Honey Dreaming." His most recent album, "Sanctuary: Music from a Zen Garden," a collaboration with Bert Moon on koto recorded in 1991, shows him at his most emotive and spiritual, making him our New Age Artist of the Year.

Here are some up-and-coming artists who made inroads in 2000 and who promise to make an even bigger splash in the coming year:

Axiom of Choice
Axiom of Choice may be an unlikely name for a Persian-American duo who create Middle Eastern New Age jazz, but their music definitely reflects the idea of random choice. The two's vision of gentle, improved jams and exotic desert sounds made for inspired music featured on their new album, "Niya Yesh." Their debut album, "Beyond Denial," mixed the traditions of the East with the intellect of the West in a tumultuous display of virtuosity and musical abandon. This year's "Niya Yesh" established a more contemplative music based on grooves and moods, proving to be one of the most refreshing CDs of 2000.

The New Age world knew that Vas--singer Azam Ali and percussionist Greg Ellis--would be important contributors to the body of New Age music when their debut, "Sunyata," won several awards and became a New Age bestseller in 1997. Since then Vas have produced two strong albums, "Offerings" and "In the Garden of Souls," each one exploring their refined alchemy of dark, haunting music more deeply. Azam Ali's roots are in Iran, so Persian sounds dominate Vas's music with frame drums, tabla, zils, and nylon-string guitar, but the two also display elements of ancient hymns, likening them to Dead Can Dance. With a sound as luxurious as velvet, Vas promise to journey toward even more interesting spaces in 2001.

Johannes Linstead
Canadian guitarist Johannes Linstead has mastered the fine art of exhibiting one's virtuosity while rendering flavorful, melodic songs. Oftentimes talented New Age flamenco guitarists strut their stuff while overlooking the soul of the song. Not Linstead. He shows he can challenge the listener while remembering less is more, as his debut, "Sol Luna Tierra," and the follow-up, "Kiss the Earth," reveal. With crisp playing and memorable melodies, Linstead reminds one of Ottmar Liebert: he excites but doesn't overwhelm and pays tribute to tradition while looking toward the future.

Explore the year's best music from across all genres by visiting's Best of 2000 page. You'll find our customers' favorite CDs, our editors' favorite CDs, artists of the year, and more.



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