If there is one thing I learned during my six-month stay in Sydney, it is that the music scene is positively flourishing in Australia. There is no shortage of talent in the land down under but one artist that absolutely blew me away during her performance at the Byron Bay music festival Splendour in the Grass is the one-woman musical wonder known as Tash Sultana. If you haven’t yet heard of this rapidly rising star, clear some space in your Spotify library and prepare to jump on the bandwagon as it departs from Australia into the worldwide music scene.
At only 22 years-old, Tash Sultana has amassed an enormous following and has had her hit single “Jungle” rise to number 3 in the Australian Triple J Hottest 100, 2016. She is currently on a world tour that will take her through Europe, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, and she has all but sold out every show. How could such a young artist who has never even released a full debut album have found such tremendous success so quickly? The answer is this: raw, unparalleled talent.
The half-Australian, half-Maltese artist was gifted her first guitar by her grandfather as a tiny but eager three-year-old girl. Today, she is proficient, and self-taught no less, in over ten instruments including percussion, bass, flute, trumpet, mandolin, piano, and saxophone. She is known for her incredible multi-tasking on stage using multiple instruments, looping pedals, and her own powerful vocals to create memorable songs that have captured audiences worldwide.
Sultana credits a number of diverse artists in classic rock, modern alternative, and reggae for influencing her musical style and says she does not make music to fit in any one genre. The abundance of stylistic influences are clear in her songs, which combine beachy reggae vibes, blues-y lyrical tones, dance-y electronic beats, and epic guitar riffs that any rock n’roll legend would approve of. It was impossible on that first night of Splendour to not be hypnotized while watching the petite, dreadlocked beach bum dance barefoot on a faded rug, juggling instruments and belting out her haunting voice as the setting sun basked the stage in a rosy glow. The amphitheater was packed to the brim with adoring fans and Sultana proved herself a born performer and a force to be reckoned with. There was an electricity in the air. The feeling of a legend being born.
But things weren’t always looking so bright and sunny for the young Melbourne-raised artist. As a teenager, Tash Sultana began experimenting with recreational drugs and it wasn’t long before experimentation turned to addiction. At age 17, a bad trip from magic mushrooms caused the young musician to spiral into a depressive psychosis. Drowning in fear, anxiety, and drug-induced delusions, Sultana missed school, lost weight, and couldn’t distinguish hallucinations from reality for an entire nine months. She credits music with eventually saving her and pulling her out of the dark state the trip had left her in. For the first time in nearly a year, Sultana found relief from the confines of her own mind through singing, strumming her six-string, and writing songs.
Unable to hold a job and with no source of steady income, Sultana began playing as a street performer in her home city of Melbourne. As the crowds of passersby would gather to listen, sometimes leaving her notes, drawings and kind words, Sultana finally began to feel she had found some direction since graduating from high school. It was as a street performer, or “busker” as the Aussies say, that Sultana began to hone her style as an artist. Soon, she was gathering a steady following on Bandcamp and at small local shows and open mic nights.
Then, on one fateful day early in 2016, the internet changed everything, as it often does. When a video she uploaded went viral on Youtube, gaining over one million views in just five days, Tash Sultana was suddenly on the map. Her video, a GoPro home recording of herself playing her original song “Jungle,” gave Sultana a Youtube fanbase of over 10,000 overnight and that fan base only continued to grow as she uploaded regular videos of her jams. It was safe to say that young Tash Sultana’s life would never be the same. She was soon picked up by triple j Unearthed and producer Nikita Miltiadou got her into the studio to create the moody, dreamy single “Notion.” By September, Tash had released her EP through her own independent record label named Lonely Lands Records, and it climbed to #4 on the ARIA Australian Albums chart. Her focus lately has been touring as she crosses the globe on her world tour and Australian homecoming tour.
Sultana plans on releasing her highly-anticipated full debut album in spring of 2018. She has already proven herself a dynamic artist ready to take on fame, world tours, and anything else thrown at her. She jumps at every opportunity with arms wide open and puts her blood, sweat, and tears into her music. It only takes one look as she jams out to know that this one truly has the music in her. There’s no telling what she has in store for us next, but the story is surely only just beginning for this breathtakingly-talented Aussie dreamer.