After hearing several New Zealand bands I wanted to find out about Tash Sultana, the 22 year old multi- instrumentalist from Melbourne who’s busked her way to worldwide attention. I wasn’t the only one with an interest. Tash was to perform at one of the two stages in the old Western Springs inner stadium (where the speedway is held) and the act immediately before her were local rappers P Money and Scribe, on the stage literally right next door.
The pair drew a big and enthusiastic crowd, but as their set neared its end, many started to shuffle the few metres across to the adjoining stage to take up a good position to see Sultana. I joined them and immediately felt rather old. Tash’s fans were young, and, around where I was standing, mostly female.
A small raised stage was prepared for her, adorned with several guitars, keyboards, a trumpet, and at least three microphones. Then in she strode, to a huge ovation. There wasn’t much banter – she got straight into the music, and a mesmerising hour flew by. Trying to categorise her music style isn’t easy, but I’ll go with a kind of funky and groovy rock. Tash Sultana apparently started playing guitar at the age of three, and her skills are formidable. I thought her guitar work was superb, with some of her lead breaks evoking something of Jimi Hendrix.
She plays her own compositions, and the final two songs, “Notion” and “Jungle” were very well known to the young fans around me, who sang along. Sultana builds a song layer upon layer, playing a line, recording it on loop (by operating foot pedals, it seemed) and then adding another layer of melody. It only takes a few moments and you are hearing what sounds like an orchestra in front of you. It’s clearly been practised over many, many hours, but it appears organic and of the moment. Sultana sways to her composition, her face extremely expressive. Other artists have adopted this approach, but it’s the first time I’d seen it live, and I thought it a virtuoso performance. At one point she had one hand on the keyboards, one hand playing the trumpet, and her feet operating the recording loops. Later she added a pan flute and a smaller guitar which had a balalaika type of sound. I’m not sure ”virtuoso” even covers it.
Tash Sultana let her music do most of the talking, although at one point she did pause to welcome everyone, except homophobes, racists and trans-phobes, who she told to f*** off, raising a huge cheer. Near the end a couple of fans next to me asked what I was doing making notes. I explained I was writing a review and they insisted it be a five star one. I haven’t adopted a star rating for my reviews, but if I did, this captivating performer would get one. If Tash Sultana comes back, check her out.