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Sahara Beck – All attention to your emotions

It was some time about midway through 2016 that I first heard Sahara Beck sing. I was watching the now defunct “Balcony T.V.”, a worldwide internet launching pad for unknown and emerging performers.
The song was “Tapping on the roof”, a quirky, swingy, minimalistic song that captured my attention from the first few seconds. I replayed it 3 or 4 times, fascinated by Sahara’s performance, and by the truly original flavour of the music, from the way the lyrics landed in a way that shouldn’t work, but absolutely does, to the way the instrumentation was used sparingly, but so effectively to create the footing on which the lyrics could stand.I was struck by the finesse and originality of her performance. She was breaking new ground. Sure, there are familiar elements, recognisable but slipping by just outside the barriers that would contain them to any definable genre or label. I love that. I just do. I was once told by well known songwriter, Max T Barnes that the best reason to learn the rules is to figure out how best to break them. I hunted down a few more of her songs, like “C’Mon ,man, you’re dead” and “Brother and Sister”. The same approach is easily recognisable. This was something new.

So, naturally, when I heard that Sahara Beck was doing a show in our fine city, I asked very nicely if I could please (pretty please, with whipped cream etc etc. ) ask her a few questions.

At the ripe old age of 11, Sahara decided that she wanted to be a musician. “I was lucky to have very supportive parents. They said that if that’s what I wanted to do, then I should put my heart and soul into it. My mother was very involved. She drove me to gigs and helped in any way she could”

My next question was about ‘Tapping on the roof’ and the associated video clip.

“At the time ,I was very into Tarantino films…I still am. I actually storyboarded every scene of that video. The song is about losing your mind and hearing things that aren’t there. The clip is about when you finally snap and say ‘I’ve had enough’. The idea of shedding constraints and limitations in order to have control of your life is also a part of the theme.”
“I love old school music. It seems like a more honest style of music. It helps you get through what you’re going through when it’s honest. I never really feel anything in a mild way.I feel things fairly intensely. If I feel really angry right now, or really in love, or really sad, and the music matches how I feel, its so much more meaningful, and you know if its honest. You just know. I try to bring that to my work”.
“It has made it harder for me to get on radio and on festival lineups , because there is that element of not really understanding what I’m trying to say, but I feel like I connect with the audience authentically.”

As hard as it may be Sahara achieved something that some of us only dream of: A performance a Glastonbury Festival. “I played Glastonbury a couple of years ago. It was such an amazing experience. I still can’t believe it happened, to be honest. It was in the middle of the Summer Solstice, so we were playing at like midnight,and the sun was only going down for 4 hours or so.It was stinking hot. It was amazing though. Glastonbury is like a little city in itself . You should try to make it over if you can. Who knows how much longer festivals like that will keep happening.”

Sahara has been performing professionally for about 13 years. I asked her how the scene has changed in that time.

“So much about live music has changed, especially since the pandemic. We have 24/7 entertainment at our fingertips now. It’s easier to stay home than go out and spend money seeing a live show. The excitement of that experience just…isn’t exciting for a lot of people any more, and another obvious thing is the cost of living now. Entertainment is not prioritised as much.”

One of the most interesting aspects of Sahara’s music is the wide range of creative pools she dips into, without losing the distinctive , quirkily sophisticated sound that sets her apart from so many other artists of her generation.

“I don’t intentionally write from the point of view that ‘I’m going to write something for a different genre now. I find that I get bored really easily playing, or even listening to music that sounds like it’s all an extension of the same song. Life isn’t always the same, and the way you feel isn’t always the same, so the song should reflect the feeling that inspired it. Maybe it would be easier for me in terms of commercial appeal if all that I did was the same but that’s not why I do this”.

“Something that I am surprised by, and never expected, is when I do my live shows and look out into the audience, there’s no target demographic. Its people between the ages of 8 and 70 years old, from all different walks of life, and I don’t understand what connects all of those people, but Im glad they are enjoying it.”
“Im really looking forward to coming to Cairns.. I’ve never really done a show like the one I’m planning for you guys. I’m bringing my band with me, of course. Its in Three parts. All of the softer, prettier songs at the start, building up in the middle section, and finishing with our more intense songs at the end. I’m excited about the new approach. We have always kind of played what we thought was right in the moment. This is more carefully planned.”

“The new album is called ‘All attention on your emotions’ and that’s what the show is about. Be prepared to feel things. I think people don’t want to feel things any more. We are afraid to be angry, or to cry for a couple of minutes. I want to say ‘That’s O.K.’ I want people to know that it’s okay to feel things. There’s a huge mental health issue in society now, and I think, in part, this is because we are told to just get on with it, and that it’s wrong to feel. I think we need to normalise just having a little moment sometimes.”

If you appreciate well crafted and genuinely original music, and you enjoy being entertained , you absolutely owe it to yourself to catch this show. Sahara Beck will be appearing at The Tanks Art Centre on April 19th. Tickets are available through Ticketlink.

Noel Keid

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