How Tash Sultana is bringing multi-instrumental artistry back to music
When you listen to Tash Sultana’s track “Notion,” you feel yourself immediately pulled by the opening guitar riff and the looping electric drum beats and synths that follow.
It builds with a soothing and sweeping guitar arpeggio and the multilayered sound runs sweetly alongside the singer’s vocal range and the soul-baring tonality of their bluesy voice.
Indeed, their voice has traveled extensively — reverberating from the streets of Melbourne, Australia, busking and performing open-mics at local pubs and bars — to now selling out shows in stadium-packed arenas and playing at the biggest music festivals across the globe.
Though the scale of their audience has changed dramatically, when you watch the early videos of musician’s busking days, the image of Sultana surrounded by speakers, a web of electric cords and loop pedals at their feet, reveal that their artistry hasn’t changed all that much. The sense of intimacy remains intact and their sound has a visceral effect on their audience.
In being able to play over 15 instruments, Sultana owns the title of a multi-instrumentalist. Though they have mastered instruments like the guitar, saxophone, trumpet, flute, bass and drums, Sultana’s goal is to learn as many instruments as possible.
Evidently, the 24-year-old artist is committed to their craft. Everything they know about music, they have learned in their own time.
After they received a GoPro from their mother one Christmas, Sultana started filming her jam sessions. Then, they posted a video of herself playing their now-hit, “Jungle.” Sultana’s YouTube channel gained 10,000 followers overnight and the video was shared, over and over again. Two years since it was posted, it has just under 37 million views.
After their videos went viral, they went on to record their 6-track EP, Notion, that they later toured with.
Through their trance-like guitar solos, you get the sense that there is something cathartic to the whole experience for Sultana. Their sweeping scales and playful use of different instruments in their tracks suggest that the artist revels in exploring all the sonic possibilities music has to offer.
Sultana, however, has also been candid about their past, citing how at the age of 17, they developed a drug-induced psychosis that took months of therapy to enable them to get back to a good place and mindset. Music was a form of therapy for the Australian artist.
In an interview with The Feed SBS VICELAND, Sultana describes that difficult time in her life explaining,
“It’s like I opened a can of worms and I couldn’t put them back away. It took ages to put it back together. I remember once, I could not understand if I was actually alive or my whole life was a lie/ a dream or if I was dead and in an unconscious state. I couldn’t actually differentiate between the two,”
Sultana admits that the difficult period of their life, in all likelihood, shapes the way in which they create their music. Yet, the musician isn’t looking to dwell on the past. They insist that they are in a very different place now and their music reflects that.
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Sultana’s music defies any neat category of genre, aligning with their no-bullshit attitude and their aversion to ascribing to the expectations and conventions set out by the industry. It’s a sublime sonic conflation of jazz, rock, pop, reggae, and soul. Every riff, beat, and melody builds and oozes into each other. Music simply exudes out of the artist, just like a flow state to which their debut album describes.
Their debut 62-minute album, Flow State, is composed of a repertoire of tracks Sultana had written years ago. The multi-instrumentalist admits that they struggle with the recording process. In an interview with Billboard, they explained,
“I would say that I am a live artist — the studio is something that I have to do because that is how you market yourself. It is a different art. When I do that crossover to live I change it up because I don’t want play it like I played it in the studio. I want it to have life. It has to have life. It needs to be born somewhere and that’s the stage.”
With fame and success, especially in the digital age, however, comes the pressure to have your whole self accessible to the public. Sultana noted in an interview with NME,
“The music is not enough for people now, I find. They want everything else as well.”
Yet, Sultana isn’t interested in capitulating to the numbers game or exhibiting themselves in any titillating music video performances, that characterize the body of work of the most popular artists today. Their fierce commitment to privacy is central to preserving both their genius and a state of respite for their mind.
The music video for the Flow State track, “Cigarettes” is composed of various VCR home videos that showcase how Tash’s musical journey began at an early age; in which they are shown strumming the guitar at the age of three. Sultana remains enthralled by the fact that their music connects to so many people, expressing to The Feed SBS VICELAND,
“I love the fact that there are so many people who have come to appreciate what I’m doing, that is just the best feeling in the world.”
At the same time, the artist is committed to seeing how far they can take their solo-act live shows, as they declared to ABC News,
“I haven’t put myself in a box and I don’t have a limitation.”
Plus, since their live shows have already taken the multi-instrumentalist all around the world in just a short span of time, why not?
Acknowledging that other people’s artistry and ideas will be another site where they can continue to learn and develop their music, Sultana is looking forward to linking up and collaborating with different artists.
Their genre-blending musical style, speaks to the Sultana’s free spirit and infectious energy; indicative of a true artist.
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