Matana Roberts

Doris Duke Artist Award, 2016
Doris Duke Impact Award, 2014

New York, NY

Matana Roberts is a Chicago-born saxophonist and sound artist. She works in many performance and sound mediums, including improvisation, dance, poetry, and theatre. Her largest undertaking has been a 12-part music cycle called Coin Coin (2005-present), that incorporates Americana research, ancestral memory, imaginative storytelling, instrumental improvisation, and “post-disciplinary” vocal performance, which includes opera alternating with screams of joy. She describes the performance as a large-scale, panoramic “sound quilt.” She is a former member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and the Black Rock Coalition. Her honors include a Doris Duke Impact Award, an Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, and a Foundation for Contemporary Art Grant. She has taught at Banff Creative Music Workshop, Brooklyn's School for Improvised Music, and Bard College. Her latest album, COIN COIN Chapter Three: River Run Thee (Constellation, 2015), is described as “the most vividly potent of the Coin Coin series (so far)” (The Quietus).

  • Photo Credit: Jason Fulford
  • Coin Coin Chapter Two: Mississippi Moonchile (Constellation Records, 2013)
  • Photo Credit: Evan Hunter McKnight
  • "Exchange," The Chicago Project (Central Control International, 2008)

What fuels your impulse to make creative work?

My belief in the unbelievable, my desire to make sense of the non-sensical, and my urge to give voice to the voiceless through the type of work I make.... The positive wave of change/hope/faith I continue to see art give to the world deeply drives me as well. There is so much astounding possibility in creativity. I feel very privileged to have the tools in which to access, explore, and expand these many different terrains.