By Pravin Nair

Lunadira is Marching to the Beat of Her Own Drum

The singer-songwriter looks back on the journey so far.

She walks fresh off the set, hair wet. Water meanders down the nape of her neck and onto her chest. In quiet defiance, she asks, “Can we not mention my age?” It is worth mentioning that her hair, too, is a slight off-tinge of red, echoing the drapes of the set backdrop. Dressed in the finest of Kit Woo, she is transfixed, posing for the camera as the flash goes off for an hour. She is poised, moving about with ease. This is what it must have been like for her on the stage, performing multiple sets during her stint at SXSW in Sydney last October. Or when she performed in July for Good Vibes, moments leading up to its cancellation. When she arrived at the studio earlier dressed in a sheer Voile top, she breathed out a sigh as she placed herself on the makeup chair.

“I’ve just been drained! It’s been back-to-back visits to the studio with the album release coming up soon,” she confides as she has her face primed. Nadira Diah, better known as Lunadira, explicates clearly to the microphone when asked to describe herself. “I consider myself more of a songwriter than a singer.” As she elaborates on her stance, affirming the pressures that come tied to being a performer, the singer shares in her low register: “There’s this need, I feel, as a singer, to reference yourself, your peers, and industry legends.” Describing her career using two words: “Almost Famous”, she pauses, hesitates, and asks, “Have you watched the movie? That’s how I see my career as a singer.” She clarifies her statement, sharing no ill will in wanting to remain in her own bubble. There is an agency to choosing the trajectory of one’s career and Lunadira is living her truth realistically.

KIT WOO, Dress.

Being in the industry for the last seven years, Lunadira is anything but new to the game. With her Sun in Gemini and her Moon and Rising signs in Virgo, the songwriter states that her gravitation towards music is rooted in the need for community. Her big three seem to be in alignment with her highest self. Virgos, after all, are community-oriented people. She regards herself to being a multi-faceted creator and emphasises her realistic approach to music-making. “What makes a true pop artist is persistence. When I started in the industry in my early twenties, I began with a rebellious spirit. This sense of self has not escaped me. I’ve always known what I’ve wanted to do with life,” she says. Chasing a career and stardom is not a pathway the singer is itching to seek out. The focus, rather, is placed on creation. Having had a knack for writing, she reminisces on her past and takes time to pay gratitude to a lecturer from her time in boarding school. “I had intended on pursuing a degree in marine biology. When she came across my UCAS application, she, stunned as she was at my decision, told me to take on writing instead.”

A turn of events and a change in circumstance later, Lunadira finds herself in the lecture halls of Monash University Malaysia for a business degree. It was during her time here that she became acquainted with musicians and artists like Nadhir Nor. The two have since blossomed their relationship over the years. In being around these friends, Lunadira began her foray into music. Witnessing them pursue a career in the arts, selling their work, and actively pushing forward, served as a motivational cog for her to make a name for herself. She recalls the resistance that she faced from family members the day she decided to pursue music. “My mother, however, was supportive of me in wanting to have a musical career. Don’t get me wrong, I always received support in my pursuit of all artistic endeavours. But the acceptance to my career in the industry only took a turn when I got featured on Colors.” Trailing her first instance into music to her time in Hamburg as a child, where she auditioned to be a part of The Lion King (a role that she did not end up making), Lunadira reveals a fun party trick to us.

“Ich kann auch ein Bisschen Deutsch sprechen,” she says over giggles. Her four-year-long placement in Germany with her parents left her the ability to command the language from memory. Through her laughter, she digresses, sharing that she’s been on Duolingo in her free time to brush up on it. The last year and a half have been laced with a sense of joie de vivre and the innate struggle that comes with being a singer. From struggling to secure grants, facing performance restrictions, and facing fodder from the music industry as a female artist, Lunadira remains keen on taking her music on the road like the characters in Almost Famous. With her upcoming album slated to release in the coming weeks, one that she has worked on laboriously with her recurring collaborator Reddi Rocket, she leaves the interview with a wistful sense of hope—one where she insists on staying despite the hardships she’s endured. Despite the hardships that the minority groups, who happen to be her main demographic of listeners, face daily. Despite it all, Lunadira is here to stay. On her own terms.

Photography: Wee Yang
Styling: Sarah Chong
Art Direction: Shane Rohaizad
Coordination: Nikita Nawawi
Hair: Juno Ko
Makeup: Jenn Teh
Photography Assistant: Adrean Wong
Styling Assistants: Lorraine Chai & Astrid Zulhaime