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NewTracks New Artist: Canaan Ene

NewTracks New Artist: Canaan Ene

South Aucklander Canaan Ene Ponifasio has combined his well-proven skills as a multi-instrumentalist and creative video filming to achieve viral TikTok success and nearly 2 million views to date for his explanatory video series ‘Every Song Is a Reggae Song’. One particular unofficial remix led to an official remix for a Kiwi songwriter called Stan Walker. For his own new single Luv And Company he collaborated with another local legend Swiss. NZ On Air Music felt the vibe, including the summery tune on their NewTracks compilation this October.

What’s your name, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

My name is Canaan Ene, South Auckland born and bred. I’m a multi-instrumentalist – guitar, drums, piano, bass, cello. Self-learning saxophone at the moment.

Was any high school or other music training especially important?

Growing up in a small church meant that I learnt to play many of the staple band instruments at quite a young age. At high school, I also competed in many of the band competitions (Tangata Beats FKA Pasifika Beats; Stand Up Stand Out, Play It Strange songwriting competition). I also competed in traditional music competitions such as the KBB Music Festival and the Big Sing choir competition, which helped diversify my musical palette.

Any other previous projects we might know you from?

My TikTok series “every song is a reggae song” is what I’m most known for. This is a video series where I take well-known songs and reimagine them as if they were written and recorded in the reggae genre. This series, which has so far gained 6+ million views across TikTok alone led to an official reggae collaboration for Stan Walker’s Come Back Home, which was released on his most recent album ‘All In’.

What’s the background of how that collab came to happen? 

When I heard Adele’s Easy On Me, I knew instantly that the song would suit well as a reggae track, so in order to capitalise on the virality of the song, I quickly composed a reggae remix of it and posted it to TikTok and YouTube. It didn’t take long for it to go viral, and has since gained 1.6+ million views.

From this, the team over at Sony Music had seen the success of this, and got in contact with me quickly to see if I could create a reggae remix to Stan Walker’s track Come Back Home. A few weeks later – after some tweaks and adjustments back and forth – we released the single in December, just in time for summer, and it received regular airplay on Mai FM and Niu FM radio stations. I have to give full credit to Jaden Parkes over at Sony, as well as Stan and his team for trusting me on this one. It has since given me a lot of exposure and airplay!

How has your music evolved from your beginnings in songwriting to now?

With help of a lot of constructive feedback from friends, family and fellow artists (shoutout Lani Alo, Ponifasio Samoa, Hales as well as brutal feedback from the TikTok comment section, I’ve definitely worked harder to improve my craft. My background is in videography – having been a videographer for the last seven years. So this sudden pivot into music has been a big learning curve for me, and I’m just getting started.

What made you decide to stick with your name as your artist identity?

I’ve gone with my first and middle name as my artist name because I always want to be authentic and true to who I am. My art is a reflection of my identity and I never wanted to hide behind an artist’s name.

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date?

Online success has been the biggest highlight. My social channels have grown so much over the last year, and it has enabled me to connect with fans, as well as artists that I’m a fan of myself.

What is the story behind Luv And Company?

It’s a collaborative reggae single from myself and local reggae hitmaker Swiss. It was heavily inspired by the late Laga Savea, a Hawaii-based island reggae icon. Particularly the drums and BV elements that I sing pay tribute to him.

The track is a feel-good reggae track describing the two main ingredients needed to sustain a successful relationship; love, and the company of each other. After I had given Swiss the riddim it didn’t take long for him to record some rough vocals over my riddim and my BV’s – and the rest is history. I asked a friend of mine TJ Buford (@creationkit) to quickly create some artwork for the track and we released it earlier this month. Within a week the track was #19 on the Top 40 Hot NZ-Singles chart.

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

There’s a breakdown in the second verse of the song where the beat strays from your typical reggae riddim, and sort of goes into musical stabs. Musically this is my favourite part – I composed this part imagining a live band performing it. I mess around with some delay “dub” effects as well in this part that I’m still learning to master, but it was a satisfying experiment for me.

Who did you record/produce the single with? 

The track wasn’t ever going to be something I released. I initially created the reggae beat (or riddim as they’re commonly known as) to promote some drum samples I was going to sell and posted it to my Instagram story. When Swiss saw the story, it was the riddim that caught his attention – so he asked for the beat rather than the drum samples I was selling. Swiss wasted no time in penning the song and we were able to finish off the track quite quickly.

What would you like listeners to take away from the song?

Luv And Company is the perfect easy-listening tune for the upcoming summer. I hope people can enjoy it while they’re driving to the beach, lounging by the pool, or cooking up at the family BBQ.

How do you generally work out what song would make a good single?

Tiktok is my litmus test – if I post a video of a song and it goes viral, it’s a good indication for me to make it a single. But that might change in future – I’ve only done remixes/covers so far, and Luv And Company is my first original I’ve ever released.

Who else is in your team?

I’m a solo team at the moment; which has its benefits and limitations, but it’s been good learning how the game works. And I’ve been utilising my own network of friends and mutuals to gain knowledge that I can’t find online.

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for?

Not at this stage. Because I’m not much of a singer, collaborative releases are the game for me at the moment. I’m focused on producing / writing / BVs so that I can collab with some established artists as well as showcasing new artists.

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside yours.

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