With her family hailing from Sri Lanka and growing up in Switzerland, Priya Ragu fuses her Western influence with her South Asian origin and merges it into a cultural accumulation of traditional rhythms and contemporary R&B and soul. With Good Love 2.0 and Chicken Lemon Rice, she has released two feel-good songs – two odes to life. Spreading positive vibes, she aims to celebrate female empowerment and her passion for music. Priya Ragu talks with us about working together with her brother Japhna Gold, meditation, food and the underrepresentation of different ethnicities in the music scene.
You have grown up in Switzerland and your family hails from Sri Lanka. Initially, your parents wanted you to settle down and stick to a regular 9-5 job. However, you kept on working on your music and now you can already celebrate international success. What was the most challenging aspect you had when growing up?
The most challenging aspect of growing up between two cultures was wanting to meet everyone's expectations. It was definitely not an easy ride and the only thing that kept me on the right path was the voice inside of me.
You were surrounded by music from an early age, considering the fact that you started playing the violin at the age of 7 and that your dad had a band performing at weddings and birthdays. Do you have a significant memory of when you realised you wanted to make music professionally?
Although music was always a part of my life, it took me a long time to realise that I wanted to give it a try and see how far I can take this. I did have a safe job and my family and friends were doing well in life. I was having a very comfortable life for so long until I asked myself: shouldn’t there be more to life than working every day on the same excel file? Aren’t we all born to create?
What advice would you give young artists who struggle with cultural conflicts and the underrepresentation of different cultures?
If you don’t see what you want, make what you want to see.
Currently, your brother, also known as Japhna Gold, produces your music and, as you can see from famous examples like Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas, this can also lead to a lot of success. What are the benefits/disadvantages of collaborating with a part of your family?
I only see benefits in creating art with your siblings. When I am at the studio with my brother, I can truly be myself. We speak the same musical language and yet we bring our own unique style into the art we create. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, meaning we don’t have to prove ourselves. The best thing about making music together is, that we can celebrate every little success that comes along together.
After your first releases, you quickly got some attention from the international press. How does it feel to be successful with your passion? Was there a specific moment when you thought “I did it”?
I am still figuring out when the right moment is to say “I did it.” For me, it’s really about the journey, which I am eternally grateful for.
The music video for Good Love 2.0 was shot in Goa, India. There, you collaborated with other creatives. What does it mean to you giving other South Asian creatives a platform? How important is it to you that your visuals feature your origin as well?
Whatever I do, be it musically or visually, I try to include my origin wherever I can. Whenever I mix both of my worlds, it always brings something very special to the table. It’s a hell of fun to be able to express my creativity in that way.
Your latest release is called Chicken Lemon Rice, is that one of your favourite dishes?
I didn’t even know that this dish even existed before. Now, it does of course, and it's super delicious!
Getting signed with Warner UK is a big deal, especially as a newcomer. In your opinion, what differentiates the music scene there from your home country of Switzerland?
There are four official languages in Switzerland – German, French, Italian and Romansh. This means, that the chances to make it on the French side as a Swiss-German musician are pretty small and vice versa. And then there are musicians that sing in English and for them, it’s hard to compete with artists from the United Kingdom and the United States. There aren’t really easy ways to make a good living as a full-time musician in Switzerland.
Artists with South Asian influence are still very underrepresented in the music industry today. If you had the chance to change something, what would you do?
The industry in the west doesn’t represent us at all. If I had the chance to change something then I would 'normalise' everything and make TV look like the world looks.
Your music evolves around female empowerment and spirituality. What advice would you give your younger self today?
In order to understand who you are, you have to appreciate and embrace your origin. Meditate every day and be grateful for everything, and I really mean everything in life!
As an artist, what message do you want to convey with your music?
I want people to experience something beautiful when they listen to my music. I want to take them to a higher state of mind and let them know that anything is possible if they put their mind to it.
The pandemic has been going on since you released your first song. How do you feel being an upcoming artist in these uncertain times? Do you feel like you are missing out on something?
Not really, I really enjoy this time being at home and creating new music, spending time with my family and still be able to connect with others through my music. I take it as it comes and find ways to get where I want to be.
What are your dreams and hopes for the future regarding your career?
Honestly, I am digesting all the dreams that came true up until now. I still can’t believe what's happening right now! It’s more exciting to walk into the future without having any expectations.