Priya Ragu is the Swiss-Tamil artist exploring her familial roots

By Ansam Farag on December 8, 2020

Priya Ragu is Switzerland’s latest popping, hybrid artist. In collaboration with her brother, Japhna Gold on production, they merge various elements of both R&B and Pop. This brother-sister duo is creating waves not only in Switzerland but all around the world. With tracks like ‘Leaf High’ and ‘Good Love 2.0’ recently featuring on FIFA Sport’s 2021 playlist, Priya’s recent success is a testament to following your path, nurturing your roots and keeping it authentic. As a Swiss-Tamil artist, Priya is a bonafide creator and an incredible example of trans-cultural fusion art.

With collaborative work from dear friend Oddisee and features on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series, Priya’s soulful voice and Japhana’s bold production, combine to create a distinct and lively sound. As a duo, the team amplify the importance of family and kinship as they closely work together to construct a fun and smooth, yet meaningful sound. Due to recent (pandemic) events, Priya’s career may have come to a physical stasis; however, thanks to digital communication, she is busier than ever. We caught up with Priya to chat more about familial roots, growth and manifestation.

How are you? Are you in London right now?

No, I’m in Switzerland right now! The day just started it’s 9 am. I got up literally 15 minutes ago!

Wow. That’s actually a struggle. I appreciate you hopping on and speaking with me!

No problem. 

How was London?

I was there for a month, we did some promos and created some content and videos. So everything we did there was during lockdown and quarantine, which my brother Japhna and I had to do for two weeks. After that, every day we had a plan to do something. It was quite busy.

I know you’re Tamil in Switzerland, and that so many South Asian cultures uphold and nurture family values. I wonder how this has translated for you, and how big of a role family has played in your journey so far?

I think, if it wasn’t for my brother, I wouldn’t be doing music, you know? It all started when my father created a band when I was ten years old. My brother played the keys, my father played the ‘tabla’, an Indian percussion, and I sang. We played at events and weddings and stuff.

So it was already a family affair?

Yeah, it always was. My brother was always into Hip Hop and R&B. We were really competitive about music. Sometimes I would hack his computer and check what artist he was listening to. It took us a very long time to realise what the right formula was to work with. He produced with a local Swiss artist and I did the backing vocals and features, but I never took it seriously.

I had an eight-to-five job. It was only until around two years ago that I began to take music seriously. I wanted to see how far I could go with it. That’s when I decided to do music with my brother. It can’t be a coincidence that I’m a singer and my brother is a producer. We just said, “you know what, let’s try it out.” We created songs and released one, really soon after we received a lot of media attention from Switzerland. We just started to reach more people around the world.

It’s almost as if it was fate. You’ve had your achievements like being included in the FIFA 21 soundtrack. I’m wondering what that was like for you?

So basically 2020 was the year of my life so far. It was pretty magical. My brother and I had just released four songs with no promo. Luckily BBC Radio discovered our music, and they played it. Especially BBC Asian Network and Bobby Friction. He was also the one who showed the music to Andy Mac from Radio 1. She played ‘Good Love’ in January, which was already released. As soon as she played it, all the labels came knocking. Luckily we had a management team by then. Everything happened fairly quickly. Thanks to Corona, we were able to be signed via zoom call. FIFA 21 also happened through our publicist. My brother is such a FIFA 21 fan, we jokingly asked around and asked if it was possible to put ‘Good Love 2.0’ on FIFA 21. Everybody was laughing until soon after they came through with the news that it was picked. That happened really fast as well. Everything that I had visualised at the beginning of the year has manifested.

Amazing, so you put in the work and manifested it into fruition?

Absolutely. I did a vision board in January with all the things that I want to achieve this year. Even though it sounded so impossible, I put it up. Literally, everything is happening!

I’m curious to know what sorts of things are on there!

The thing is I can’t tell you the news yet, but I will tell you once it’s out.

I love that, keep it close to your heart. I did want to know about your lyricism and your writing process. I know plenty of artists and creatives vary a lot with how they write and what’s going through their mind when they’re producing work. How do you go about writing your songs and where is that coming from?

Songwriting is always different, but I mostly write with my brother. He sends the beat over and I try to come up with a melody. I make up some gibberish, but I try to write the lyrics down. Sometimes I write the complete song, sometimes my brother does. We both do it in a way. Every time it starts with a melody though that comes out very fast. The lyrics take the longest time.

Sometimes listeners miss out on these details, often all we get to see is the final product. It can be hard to know what went into that piece of work, which makes it so great to hear your take. Is there anything that you’ve learned so far in your journey that you’d want to communicate to people who may want to step out into this industry and spaces?

What I’ve learned this year is trusting myself and other people, in a way, blindly. The whole team that I have right now I’ve never met in person. So, trust is important in order to grow and be able to share success. Only this way you can grow. That’s a key I would say.

That’s a great answer. Thank you so much for speaking to me. If you ever want to come through to Australia, we’d love to have you!

Yes! It was never on my mind to come to Australia, you’re so far away, but I’d definitely love to.

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