Acclaimed electro-soul artist Ya Tseen brings alchemy and a ‘healthy synth obsession’ to Melbourne Recital this month

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Acclaimed electro-soul artist Ya Tseen brings alchemy and a ‘healthy synth obsession’ to Melbourne Recital this month

Ya Tseen
Words by Nicole Smith

Nicholas Galanin is an Alaskan Tlingit and Unangax̂ contemporary artist who has as many creative personas as he has disciplines, a prolific body of work that covers music, video, sculpture, textiles installation, photography, and jewellery.

He’s playing at Melbourne Recital Centre on May 31, as part of Future/Present, a showcase of First Nations musicians curated by Neil Morris. While in Melbourne, Galanin will perform under the moniker Ya Tseen (derived from Galanin’s Tlingit name Yeil Ya Tseen, meaning ‘be alive’) alongside Zak D. Wass and Otis Calvin III (OC Notes).

Previously releasing work under the names Silver Jackson and Indian Agen, Galanin says music is “a way of humanising an experience, whether it is a song about the universality of love or songs about the land.”

Ya Tseen at Melbourne Recital Centre

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Galanin told Ears to Feed that performing music under Ya Tseen is “a broader step that’s not focused on one period of time or history”, while his musical releases are likened to TV on the Radio, Moses Sumney, James Blake and FKA Twigs.

Every project is different for Galanin, from the instruments to the process and the team of collaborators. Collaboration is a key part of Galanin’s musical output: “There’s an alchemy that happens and so much possibility.”

Indian Yard, his first album under the SubPop label as Ya Tseen, features collaborations from Benjamin Verdoes, Portugal, The Man, Shabazz Palaces, Nick Hakim and Qacung. Galanin says Indian Yard is a project that “allows space for conversations based on aspects that oftentimes are overlooked intentionally, when we’re written about in the institutional or academic world.”

His music explores authenticity, socio-political resonance, freedom, and the repair of cultural divisions, and puts an Indigenous lens on positive human experiences such as connection, love, relationships and raising children. The electro-soul artist also has a “healthy synth obsession” and has said that the political changes and life events that occurred during the three-year creation of Indian Yard, brought with them a sound evolution.

Galanin doesn’t view his disciplines as being separate – to him, it’s all art. He believes that the way to sovereignty and freedom has always been creative. In the way of a true artist, Galanin prefers to let his creativity flow and work with what is felt at any given moment. His blindness to genre may be connected to his father working as a local radio DJ.

The 2024 Guggenheim Fellowship recipient is excited to share his music with Melburnians, saying “I work with incredible people. I hope people enjoy what we bring. I’m looking forward to being able to travel to these countries, expand my knowledge and connect with Indigenous people in those places.”

One thing is certain for Melbourne audiences, seeing Galanin live – a person who transcends genre and label – will not only be a performance but an experience, especially, as the show notes espouse, ‘for those who are globally conscious and creatively curious’.

Ya Tseen is performing at Melbourne Recital Centre on May 31. Get tickets here.

This article was made in partnership with Melbourne Recital Centre.