Finding a Place Through Music: Tash Sultana at TEDxUniMelb (Transcript)

Tash Sultana – Australian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist

How are you doing? That was ‘good’? So my name is Tash Sultana, and I don’t ever plan things.

So tonight I figured that – They have asked me to come and talk, and it’s about myself, so that’s not really that hard – considering I am me. So I’m going to give you a little briefing on who I am and what I do. I’m a self-taught musician, and I started playing guitar when I was three years old. From that time, I have learned over 10 different instruments, such as the trumpet, the bass, drums, keys, beatboxing, the Arabic oud, and we can keep going, but I don’t really want to.

And pretty much what I have realized in my 21 years of life is that the only thing that really gets you through your life is learning how to be happy. And I have taught myself through a destructive series of events that you can be really unhappy for really long periods of time. When I was about 17 years old, I went through a really tough time in my life where I associated with the wrong behavior and the wrong people.

And from that, I actually developed drug-induced psychosis, and I was in that mental state for seven months of not knowing what was real or what wasn’t real. I would go to bed, and I would think that there was someone in the room, and I would look around and think that someone was asking me a question, and there was no one there. I couldn’t go to school at this time, because I couldn’t make sense of anything in front of me.

I would look at a chair and go: ‘That was someone’s idea. I can’t understand why you have thought of this idea, to build a chair to sit down when we die.’ How do you live when you’re too scared to live, and you’re too scared to die, and there’s no in between that period of time? And I taught myself through music therapy that I could develop clarity with my passion, and I literally played and played and played the pain away until I could think clearly again.

When I finished school, I couldn’t get hired for a job anywhere, because they would look at me and be like: ‘You’re going to steal everything in this store.’ Not a joke, not a joke. So I decided that, ‘Darn, I’m not going to conform to society’s view of what is right.’ I didn’t go to university. I have taught myself everything that I know because I have a knack of curiosity, and I always want to learn new things. Show me one thing, and I’ll show it back to you as soon as you show me.

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And I decided that I could street-perform. So I street-performed through the rain, went in there on my skateboard. I used to make beats on a suitcase and played a guitar and sing, and I used to get told off for being too loud. I moved my way up and started busking on Bourke Street.

And from there, I got signed to an agency, and now I sell out every single show that I play around the country. And I’m about to tour the world to play shows all over the world. Purely for the fact that I discovered that this is what I’m going to do and no one’s going to tell me that my life has to work any other way but the way I want it to, and the way that makes me happy.

Having this one passion for the rest of my life doesn’t mean that I have to pursue it for the rest of my life. I can have a thousand passions, but this is what moves me and this is what I want to show you that I have developed… this for you to see today. So, who is going to take the microphone so I can play you a song?

(Playing + Singing)

Thank you very much.

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