Tash sultana sometimes plays up to five instruments during one of her shows. She has earned the label of ‘one woman band’ from publications in Sydney, 400 miles from her hometown, Melbourne, Australia, and her unique sound has already created fans around Europe and the US.
Natasha Sultana started busking in Melbourne, a city where many successful independent artists have started their careers, and amassed loyal followings. There are currently 2064 Busking Permit holders in the City of Melbourne, and although the sheer influx of talent into the area’s tourism zones has led to a reputation for the arts, noise complaints from some local residents has led the mayor to recently enforce bans on the use of amplifiers in one popular tourist spot.
Here in Melbourne, Sultana’s style was honed, using a range of different pieces of equipment; acoustic and electric guitars, coupled with looper pedals and drum machines, layered over her blues-inspired vocals to create an echoey, enchanting sound. Her sets are often extended past the 5, 6, and 7 minute mark, and as many festival organisers are beginning to learn, her improvisation makes her a winning edition to any live event.
After her mother bought her a GoPro a few years ago, Sultana began uploading her performances to Youtube, and an audience soon grew. A performance video of her hit single Jungle received over 1 million views in less than a week on Facebook.
This is a story of viral success which is less common now; in a market where Youtube has a monopoly on music videos, Sultana still got one of her biggest spotlights from Facebook. Her ‘bedroom recordings’ online have views in the millions, and the success of these quickly saw her in demand, and before long she was signed.
Her first EP ‘Notion’, was released 23 September 2016 and peaked at number 8 on the Australian charts, but her success away from the charts is the real story. At the start of the year she sold out all nine of her upcoming US tour dates, almost six weeks out from the first show. All this in a country where Sultana is completely new, and has no professional backing.
Sultana’s musical work so far comes partly from a time of trouble. When was 17, she fell into the wrong crowd, and trap of drug addiction led her to a state of psychosis for seven months. After “months of therapy and supervision”, she recovered, but the story of her experience with psychedelics, and her learnings from a bad “headspace”, stay with her. Along with offering her own journey through dark times, she has also been brought into issues on gender-fluidity, having been labelled as a ‘tom boy’ in recent years by some publications. She spoke on gender-fluidity and diversity with Aware Project, a online platform which focusses on hidden issues affecting young Australians.
Tash Sultana is performing at London’s Scala on 27 June, and Bestival on 10 September.
Dan Cody is Editor-in-Chief at No Majesty.