“South Africa, what the fuck is up?!”
The crowd roars in response. We could be 15 or 20 minutes deep into their set and it’s the first time Tash Sultana has addressed the heaving throng of festival goers. They’re kitted out in their standard oversized t-shirt and beanie, and in socks. Classic.
Their entire performance platform was wheeled onto stage earlier. It’s a loungey pod of experimentalism: equipped with a Persian carpet, colourful cloths draping the production stands, a neon cactus and flamingo adorn a corner. They’ve got knobs, dials and peddles for days. A set of chimes glints on the left.
I make a point of getting myself right into the thick of the crowd for artists I love. There’s nothing quite like the electric energy and people dynamic when you’re squashed up against each other just to witness something like this. A 30-something woman sways in front of me, she’s almost in tears as soon as Tash picks up the mic (to be honest I am too). A gaggle of teenage woo-girls cluster to my right, squawking at every lull in the music. While I appreciate their enthusiasm, I’m half inclined to shut them up. This is Tash Sultana, not the Jonas Brothers. Chill out.
Seconds into the set and I’m clear on one thing, Tash Sultana makes music for one reason only: they fucking love to play with sound. There is nothing remotely pretentious about the performance. Every note sung, super-charged chord strummed comes from a place of deep love and wild connection to the work they do.
A friend once told me he didn’t like to watch Tash’s live videos because of their facial expressions when playing. I find it fascinating. They’re skin-deep in the music, eyes wide, mouth wide, hair flying when the beat drops. They swear like a trooper and shoots cheeky glances into the audience. It’s one of the most authentic performances I’ve ever seen.
Half an hour in and they address the crowd again with a grin. “We’re moving into the second half of the show now, so this is the time to light a joint if you have one.”
This is when the real stuff comes out. Tash is a self-taught multi-instrumentalist with about 20 instruments in their repertoire. Tash shreds guitar with fierce abandon, beat-boxes with a pan-flute to their lips, picks effusively at a mandolin. They don’t pause for a second.
Renditions are stretched to almost 10 minutes apiece, each built from the ground up as they navigate the complex loop station with their toes. You’d be likely to think they’re free-styling half the time – and maybe they are, I’m pretty sure the riffs and beats change from show to show.
I’m not counting but Tash probably only plays around six or seven songs throughout the hour-long set, and it’s hardly like anything you’ve heard off their EPs – in fact, I’m surprised they were even able to whittle down their hits the way they did. They are a rampant reggae-flavoured acoustic-electro psych show. We only get one verse of “Jungle” and about 5 minutes of acoustic debauchery and that suits us just fine.
“I’m just going to have to come back,” Tash grins as the crowd erupts again. Yes Tash, yes you will.
All pics courtesy of Aidan Tobias.