Singular talent Tash Sultana owns the stage like no other.
WORDS ANNA RAWHITI-CONNELL / PHOTO SUPPLIED
I first saw Tash Sultana play at an Auckland gig last March. I knew about the Australian singer-songwriter and instrumentalist’s rise to fame, but hadn’t yet heard the music live.
Unable to find work, young Tash began busking on the streets of Melbourne. In 2016, five days after a clip was uploaded to the internet of Tash playing Jungle in a bedroom, it had amassed a million views. The self-taught artist had gone viral, becoming something of a hero in a modern-day fairy tale.
That video has now been viewed more than 30 million times, and Tash has been performing sold-out shows across the globe for the past 18 months. The rising star was the first in the world to sell out three dates at O2 Academy Brixton in London without having an album released.
When I saw the preternatural talent playing Jungle, listening to it was like walking into a powerful wall of sound, then riding one hell of a wave with thousands of others as the track rose and fell. Tash is undaunted by the idea of single-handedly holding a crowd in the palm of a hand. “It’s all I’ve ever done, so it’s just normal to me. I have a few rituals before the show. Bob Marley being one.”
Favouring going barefoot on stage, Tash uses a toe or two to switch knobs and pedals on the board on the floor and feels just as comfortable burning up the place like Hendrix on the guitar as beat-boxing. Tash first picked up a guitar at age three and now plays 15 different instruments. Guitar is the current favourite.
This musician uses looping – a technique you’ll be familiar with if you’re an Ed Sheeran fan, where a solo artist plays multiple instruments and records tracks with the songs building as each layer is added. But that’s not to say Tash is exclusively a loop artist.
“I write all different types of music that doesn’t always include a loop station. Pink Moon [from new album Flow State] isn’t made with a loop station.”
Tash identifies as non-binary, preferring to use the pronoun ‘they’ rather than ‘she’ or ‘he’. For them, it’s not about delivering a political message – it’s simply about being who they are.
This summer, they’re headlining Bay Dreams. My advice? Don’t miss the chance to experience them live. Even if you’ve seen a Tash Sultana gig before, Tash makes the promise that “you’ll never see the same show twice”.