Past Performing Arts | Music

Tarta Relena and Yasmin Williams

On the left, two women tan themselves with foil reflectors outside on a sunny day. On the right, a musician sits with an acoustic guitar on her lap.

This exciting double bill features next-generation artists Tarta Relena and Yasmin Williams, who expand on musical traditions to write new chapters of their own.

Merging traditional songs with contemporary sonic techniques, self-dubbed “progressive Gregorian” folk duo Tarta Relena (Marta Torrella and Helena Ros) sings in Spanish, Catalan, Greek, Latin, English, and the Judeo-Spanish language Ladino. Their music connects the far corners of the Mediterranean and beyond, using refined vocal synthesis and minimalist electronic flourishes to create a sound that incorporates both ancient and pop influences. On Tarta Relena’s latest album, Fiat Lux, the duo uses everything from electronic bass, Diwali Riddim, and artificial reverb to build evocative textures that blend with their voices in perfect synchronicity.

Reimagining the white male–dominated genre of fingerstyle guitar, Yasmin Williams dazzles with a virtuosic style that showcases her own trailblazing techniques. She often plays with the guitar in her lap, strings facing skyward, and also deftly layers percussive elements like the kalimba, mallets from hammered dulcimers, and even tap shoes. At once comfortingly familiar and wholly original, Williams summons a surprising ensemble of sound that tells a story. Her second and most recent album, Urban Driftwood, was completed during the COVID-19 lockdowns and Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, serving as a diary and means of finding solace during that year. We’re thrilled to finally have Williams onstage following the cancellation of her performance in October 2022.

Left to right: Tarta Relena, photo: Duna Vallès; Yasmin Williams, photo: Zach Pigg.

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More about the artists

Tarta Relena chevron-down chevron-up

In January 2019, Tarta Relena released their first album, Ora Pro Nobis, on The Indian Runners label. Winner of the Enderrock Critics’ Prize for best folk album of 2019, it consists of eight a cappella songs with a subtle electronic presence. In April 2020 during the COVID-19 lockdowns, they released their second work, Intercede Pro Nobis (Indian Runners), recognized by Rockdelux as the best national EP of 2020. The duo’s first full-length album, Fiat Lux, is an exploration of memory, nostalgia, and the cyclical nature of history and human behavior. Just as love poems by Sappho of Lesbos or traditional Sephardic songs deal with emotional problems we face in the present, the self goes through the same timeless processes of joy and pain—whether in ancient Greece, medieval times, or today’s global pandemics.

Yasmin Williams chevron-down chevron-up

Growing up in northern Virginia, Yasmin Williams was inspired to learn electric guitar after she beat the video game Guitar Hero II on expert level in 8th grade. She taught herself to play electric guitar and other stringed instruments by ear before deciding to focus on acoustic guitar for its versatility, along with the ability it gave her to build on the lap-tapping techniques she developed playing Guitar Hero. Williams recorded and mixed her first EP, Serendipity, in 2012 while still in high school. She went on to receive a BM in Music Theory and Composition from New York University in 2017. Her inspirations include Jimi Hendrix; Nirvana; Earth, Wind & Fire; Sister Rosetta Tharpe; and Amadou Kouyate. Williams’s most recent album, Urban Driftwood, was released in 2021 on the radical feminist record label Spinster.

Doris Duke Charitable Foundation

Greater Columbus Arts Council 
The Wexner Family
National Endowment for the Arts 
Ohio Arts Council
L Brands Foundation
The Columbus Foundation
Nationwide Foundation
Institute of Museum and Library Services
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Past Performing Arts

Tarta Relena and Yasmin Williams