Matana Roberts (they/them) is a visual artist, jazz musician, and composer. A self-taught mixed media composer, Roberts is best known for their Coin Coin project, in which they experiment with both sound and style. Roberts has been recognized for their contribution to the innovation of jazz music, reinventing the genre into one that is as politically-conscious as it is refractory.
Music critic Peter Margasak praised Coin Coin stating: "Memory is a powerful thing, but it's so private, fluid, and unreliable that it can seem almost impossible to capture in a work of art-and history is often no more stable, once you look closely enough. Roberts has succeeded at evoking both, though, and gives [their] audience a long look at something ghostly, tragic, and beautiful. [They are] carving out [their] own aesthetic space, startling in its originality and gripping in its historic and social power."
Born in Chicago, Roberts holds two degrees in performance and has attended a number of American institutions. However, they credit the majority of their primary training to free arts programs offered by the American Public School System. They have held memberships in the Black Rock Coalition (BRC) and The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). Their awards and accolades include the Van Lier Fellowship, Brecht Forum Fellowship, Copeland Fellowship, Jerome Fellowship, ICASP Fellowship, an FCA award, and the Alpert Award in the Arts. They are also a recipient of the Doris Duke Impact Award and the Doris Duke Artist Award. They have been invited to teach, lecture, run workshops, and take up artistic residencies in a number of institutions over the past decade and previously served as a faculty member of the Banff Creative Music Workshop, the Rhythmic Music Conservatory, the School for Improvised Music, and Bard College.
Of their work, Matana says the following: "At my artistic core, I am firmly dedicated to creating a unique and very personal body of sound work that speaks to and reminds people of all walks of life to reach, stand up, give voice, regardless of difference, created from mere labels of intellectual classification. In my ideal world the idea of 'difference' is an illusion designed only for modern economic division and elitist intellectual hierarchy. Through my life's work, I stand creatively in defiance."
Live in Studio: Matana Roberts