Priya Ragu recently signed her first record deal but was told by her parents not to give up her day job. For months, she balanced the two until the burden got too much and she decided to give notice as a technical purchaser buying aircraft parts and concentrate on her music.
Priya’s south Asian-influenced R&B has made her one of the year’s breakout pop stars whose career trajectory has been nothing short of spectacular ever since she launched Good Love 2.0.
With its forward-thinking R&B and South Asian sonic flair, Priya’s Good Love 2.0 proved to be one of the most remarkable debut tracks of 2020. Earning a wave of critical acclaim and airplay spanning Radio 1, 1Xtra, 6 Music and BBC Asian Network, Good Love 2.0 introduced an artist with a unique vision and limitless potential. Priya started 2021 in a similar fashion, with a host of tastemakers – Vogue, iD, NME, The Line Of Best Fit, gal-dem, The Forty-Five and Notion – tipping her as One To Watch.
The 35-year-old Swiss-Sri Lankan star’s soundtracks blend the buoyant R&B with folk rhythms of her native South Indian Tamil. It’s a fusion that incorporates Priya’s heritage and which has won her attention from the big hitters in the industry.
After releasing a handful of singles that have made her one of the most hotly-tipped breaking artists around, Priya is releasing her eagerly anticipated debut mixtape damnshestamil. The mixtape was announced with the single Kamali, which was premiered by Annie Mac on Radio 1. Subsequent airplay included daytime and specialist support from Nick Grimshaw, Jack Saunders, and an A-list playlist at BBC Asian Network.
Born to refugees of the Sri Lankan civil war, she was raised in St Gallen, Switzerland, straddling two differing cultures. As a child, she enjoyed her parents’ jam sessions with the local Tamil community in St Gallen that included “Kollywood” songs so that she would never forget her cultural heritage. Her parents were strict and conservative and didn’t approve of the R&B sounds she loved. She was forbidden from having singing lessons or from performing.
So Priya did what she had to do. She compartmentalized her life: for her parents, she finished school, got a job as an accountant with Swiss International Airlines and moved to Zurich. Secretly, however, she sang whenever she could. In 2017, this came to a head when she finally decided to move to New York for six months to pursue her passion and concentrate solely on her music. While there, Priya asked her brother, producer Japhna Gold, who was still in Switzerland to help her work on music together over Skype.
It was her brother who suggested they add Tamil influences, words from the language that they speak, thus reconnecting with that culture on a deeper level.
The product of Priya’s creative partnership with her producer and brother Japhna Gold, the damnshestamil mixtape truly represents Priya’s incredible musical range as she makes an immediate impression with the sugar-sweet vocal harmonies that introduce opening track Leaf High, before blending bass grooves and evocative Sri Lankan flute on Lighthouse, and then weaving eclectic vocals over alt-pop beats on Deli. The bonus track, Santhosam (Happiness), is the purest expression of her heritage and lives up to its title, as Priya sings entirely in Tamil over a backdrop of traditional instrumentation.
Damnshestamil, more than lives up to Priya’s burgeoning reputation. You’ll have a feel of what to expect from her previous singles — Good Love 2.0, Chicken Lemon Rice and Forgot About — but Priya raises the bar to take her glorious, genre-blurring Raguwavy sound global.
Her voice is versatile, showcasing an uplifting, world-class talent to match her next-generation sound. The sonic touchstones of her Sri Lankan roots give the mixtape a truly unique edge, not only taking R&B and electro-pop in bold new directions but doing so in a way that feels entirely natural.
Priya says, “This is the most pure and sacred work that I have ever put out into the world. I’ve carried it within me for a very long time until I found a way to translate it into these songs. If I could make your day better even if it’s for a blink of a moment, is more than I could ever ask for. I can’t wait for everyone to hear it.”