An artist born in Shillong, Cana Nongkhlaw is a singer songwriter now based in Sydney. For her, the tapestry of emotions has always been woven through the threads of her music, capturing her vivid mindscape. In conversation with us here at TIMD, the artist talks about her process and upcoming EP.
1. Tell us a bit about your project. How did you begin your journey as a singer-songwriter?
I’ve always enjoyed singing as a little kid and music has been my haven—this safe space I could freely be. I picked up the piano as a young girl & I first began writing songs in 2018. I truly believe that art in its many forms allow us to channel our emotions into vivid pieces of expression; for me, that has always been through music—to be able to translate emotions & experiences into tunes & song lyrics.
2. Which bands/artists were your first love and who is your biggest influence?
That’s a tricky one; there are TOO many! I have massive respect for artists who genuinely make music and write vulnerably. I would say, I first grew up with bands like Cage the Elephant, Twenty one Pilots, the 1975, Pink Floyd, Tame Impala & absolutely love and am inspired by artists like Novo Amor, Hailaker, Hozier, Hazlett, Ray Lamontagne, Birdy & these are only a very few to mention!
3. You recently released a single, “Here and Now.” Tell us a bit about it. What’s the song about?
Here and Now paints a vivid landscape of the mind, amidst navigating through life’s uncertainties, juxtaposing the intensity of inner struggles, all while anchored in the present moment’s fleeting serenity. It emphasises the importance of seizing the moment and embracing the present, even if it’s marred by existential questioning.
4. What is your music-making and recording process like?
All my songs have been written in my home in Shillong, usually when I’m alone is where I find the ability to channel my thoughts and feelings into lyrics and tunes. It’s almost as similar as journaling.
I’ve been able to work & record with respectable musicians from Shillong — Gregory Nongrum, Aidan Wankhar and Daryll Diengdoh who has definitely played a big role & been so intimately involved in the production process & bringing my songs to life.
5. Tell us a bit more about your recently released EP.
The EP “Meet me in Gaḏ-Šmānê” blends themes of introspection, the nuances of mental health and the pure privilege of love, particularly through a heartfelt tribute to my mother.
Essentially in the EP of 4 songs, 2 of the songs (Here and Now & Run away) carries a sense of introspection / confronting the self with themes of emotional depth, escapism, mental health/struggle, existential pondering, seeking solace. Fool’s good is a call for the need of more empathy/compassion towards those who are struggling. Finally, the last song about my mom speaks for itself — the privilege or opportunity of being able to love and to be loved is so precious. To hold and value that, I feel is so important. It’s what keeps me going despite life’s challenges.
6. Why do you make music? What drives you as a musician and what are your songs about?
Music has and will always be my constant source of comfort and this confession sacred space.
I’m absolutely thankful for the opportunity it serves, in that it allows my feelings to find their voice—whether I’m experiencing joy or navigating through moments of sorrow.
I’d say, in the core of my songs lies an introspective journey, delving into the intricacies of personal experiences, challenges of mental health struggle & extending to advocacy & awareness expressed in songs like “Fool’s gold” urging a collective embrace of compassion.
7. Which Indian bands or artists do you admire? And why?
I enjoy a good Prateek Kuhad listen for his soulful, poignant and raw music. I think it’s really bold and absolutely beautiful to be able to talk about your emotions so freely. I have deep respect and love for Khasi traditional music—a few of the many are bands like Summersalt and Daminot, which are rooted in the indigenous cultural influences of Meghalaya—my home, my roots.
8. What’s your take on the independent music scene in India?
The independent music scene in India is thriving and evolving rapidly. It’s heartening to see a diverse range of artists exploring various genres and pushing creative boundaries. The audience’s openness to new sounds and stories is what makes the independent scene so vibrant.