Self Taught Brilliance of Tash Sultana Comes to the Cedar


Tash Sultana, perhaps one of my favorite musicians of the last ten years and now favorite people. If you know me personally and especially if you’ve spoke to me about music, you know I swoon over Tash’s music and personality. Frankly I find it hard not to. She is a self taught musician who began playing as a child and not until she was in a drug induced coma did she go hard after music. She discovered her joy and a sense of peace with things by “playing away her pain” she has said. And in her Ted talk you can watch HERE discusses this and other aspects of her journey through music at length. But the two biggest take aways I had personally were the importance of being happy and always feeding your curiosity. Something I admire greatly in my own artistic journey and something Tash has stayed true to despite her massive success in the last year alone.

I’ll spare you the rest of my inspirational musings courtesy of Tash’s journey and Ted Talk videos though and we’ll get to the show. Mind you I have not been to the Cedar Cultural Center for about a year, actually since my very first official “concert shoot”. The place was absolutely packed. This is maybe surprising for anyone thinking who in the hell is Tash Sultana I still don’t get it and why you praise her. But for anyone who’s followed Tash from youtube busker of Australia to the present, there’s nothing surprising in it at all. She sells out every show across Australia and so far on her tour in 2017, minus the shows she cancelled for personal reasons, she’s sold out nearly all shows. This may have changed so don’t quote me as I couldn’t check EVERY sales site there is. This is impressive all the more when you consider many of her fans ran across her by chance. I myself found her music by listening to Owen Campbell for the last couple years, a contestant from Australia’s Got Talent. In my recommended videos show Tash and I was jaw to the floor in shock.

This is because Tash plays over 10 instruments, and taught herself all of them. She has no formalized training or schooling for them and despite the variation of instruments makes some incredible sets, most out of improv. That included her Minneapolis show which, as I learned chatting with her manager, had a rehearsal setlist but Tash just does her thing so show time came and she just improv played. Needless to say you won’t find any songs this review for me to suggest based on the show because I was lost in amazement, photographing, and she doesn’t stop playing but just flows into the next song continuously. 

My experience at Tash’s show was immediately one of shock. I expected a crowd, it was sold out, no duh there is gonna be people. But as I made my way to the stage through the ever stuffed group near the front I realized, these folks are actually defending their ground like a warzone. The benefit of holding a large camera in those cases is most people know you aren’t there to be a pest and you will be gone in a song or two. But none the less I heard the conversations around me as we waited. And fast learned many fans I spoke with had been there over 3 hours to insure they were as close to Tash as possible. So much for being a YouTube hit from across the ponds, this show had brought out some passionate fan base I had no idea existed until that night in Minneapolis. 

I made friends with some folks around me after promising I was going to be gone before they knew it and then the show began. Now I don’t know if she ever had shoes, but Tash definitely didn’t have any on when I began shooting. It’s her style, I get it, she never wears them when playing really. But I so badly want to know if she ever had them on at all there. Anywho!. As I made my way through the crowd and Tash began jamming it was immediately apparent that she was lost in the music, and so were her fans. I had to make no effort to navigate the crowd and as I got to the outside of the densest areas at the Cedar I was able to get up and see things better. From the vantage point of a bench you saw Tash, cruising an impromptu guitar solo, a memorized crowd, and not a single person holding a phone up for more than a brief second. In fact the entire time I was in that spot I saw maybe 3 or 4. This was a crowd there, as Tash herself requested, to simply BE.

Much of the show is hard to describe as said, Tash is an improv musician who thrives on intimate busker style playing and likes to be casual. Including telling the audience she’ll not deal with any assholes and if you are one, you’ll be asked to leave because nobody needs you there. I think the crowd understood that rule clearly. What I can say is that for someone who often thinks you can’t be GREAT at 10 things you will usually be decent at 10 things unless you pick less you’ll never master them, I think Tash is an exception. As much as I love her music I had worries the style would be hard to translate to a full set and the flow would die at some point with having a beat machine, loops, trumpet, etc. It never felt like it did. There was a balance of crowd conversation, reflection on her tour stories, and music which allowed the night to flow smoothly. This was a huge sigh of relief for me because nobody wants to have their hopes shattered when it comes to idols.

If you are still unsure that the multifaceted, bare foot, dread lock haired, Aussie busker with more loop pedals than I can count, musician that is Tash is to your liking. Please, PLEASE, give her a try. I don’t normally dig into this genre much, it’s chaotic and inconsistent often times. But I love her music and even more so after her live show. Her energy live is infectious and the fact she is self guided in her style seems to allow her to just bend every norm without any effort, it’s fantastic.

Get to Know Tash Songs: Jungle, Notion, Synergy

Must Watch : NPR Tiny Desk HERE