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priya ragu

I had the chance to see Priya live, opening for JUNGLE last year at O2 Brixton Academy. I have to admit, the sound was not really good and although her voice and music was really interesting to me, I didn't enjoy that performance because of the sound in the venue. When I travelled to Greece in October 2021, my best friend Smaragda was putting "Lockdown" on the car speakers all the time. I felt that I needed to give another chance to Priya in my head and when I took the time to really I listened to "damnshestamil", I understood what an unbelievable artist Priya is.

Since her breakout hit, the buoyant Good Love 2.0, the 35-year-old Swiss-Sri Lankan star has carved out a space for herself with a sound that blends the slinky R&B of Kehlani or Summer Walker with folk music from the Tamil population of south Asia and samples from Tamil-language “Kollywood” films. It’s a fusion filled with reverence for Ragu’s heritage and which has picked up praise from Vogue and Radio 1.theguardian

Ragu’s sound has been decades in the making. Born to refugees of the Sri Lankan civil war, she was raised in the Swiss city of St Gallen. As a child, her parents would host jam sessions with people from the local Tamil community. “Everybody would come over and sing Kollywood songs,” she recalls fondly over Zoom. “There was a lot of joy. My parents tried to bring in the culture to ensure that I didn’t forget where I was from.”theguardian

Straddling two cultures did result in some clashes, though. Ragu’s parents were conservative and strict, and this interfered with her musical ambitions. They didn’t approve of the R&B music she was obsessed with and refused to allow her to have vocal lessons. When she was 16, she was due to sing an Alicia Keys song at a show that her brother was doing with his rap group, until her father read about it in her diary and forbade her from performing. “The worst day of my life,” she sighs. “From that day on, I decided that I wasn’t going to say anything to them about my music.”

Ragu divided her life: in order to please her parents, she finished school, got a job as an accountant for an airline and moved to Zurich. In secret, she sang backup for friends and did the odd open-mic night. For a decade, this was enough, until her inner voice telling her to make her own music became too loud. In 2017, she moved to New York for six months to pursue her passion. But instead of connecting with musicians in the US, Ragu found herself turning to her brother, producer Japhna Gold, who was back in Switzerland. Over Skype, the pair began working on music together.theguardian

It was her brother who suggested they incorporate Tamil influences. “It just felt right,” Ragu says. “We began using Tamil words in the songs. It’s the language that I speak. Why not put that into the songs that I create? We’re discovering more about ourselves every time we make music. I’ve reconnected with that culture on a deeper level.” theguardian

Shortlisted in the BBC Sound 2022 and supported by tastemaker airplay from Radio 1, BBC Asian Network, 1Xtra and 6 Music, Priya Ragu is poised to achieve a major breakthrough. spotify

The next step in her ascent comes with the blissful new single ‘Illuminous’, which elevates the joyous Raguwavy vibe that made her debut mixtape ‘damnshestamil’ so special. Priya’s Tamil heritage once again proudly takes centre-stage, most notably in her distinctive vocal cadence which weaves effortlessly through silky R&B and vibrant electro beats to create a unique sonic tapestry. Priya prepares for a big year ahead. She will play her biggest headline show to date at London’s Scala on April 21st, while her burgeoning summer festival schedule includes The Great Escape, Primavera, and End of the Road. spotify


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