"Giving A Piece Of Myself To The World" Priya Ragu Interviewed

"Giving A Piece Of Myself To The World" Priya Ragu Interviewed

Swiss-Tamil superstar-in-the-making speaks to Clash...

Backstage at Manchester's Victoria Warehouse "chilling out" and waiting to do her soundcheck before she opens for Jungle later that night, Swiss-Tamil superstar-in-the-making Priya Ragu tells us about why amplifying her voice is so important.

"It’s a real honour to support Jungle," Priya tells us. "I’ve been a big fan of Jungle for a long, long time and so it’s a pleasure and a privilege to be able to write music with them and perform in the same sphere."

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Priya's mixtape 'damnshestamil' was released earlier this month. After a year of working on it, it feels "amazing" to finally have it out for listeners to enjoy. "It is incredibly fulfilling to get my first project out into the world and to see everyone reacting to it in such a positive way. It’s taken a while to put it out there so it’s almost extra special," Priya enthuses.

Priya Ragu's sound is so distinct and unique that it has developed an entire genre of its own and it's called 'raguwavy'. "'Raguwavy' is all about the fusion of the different influences me and Japhna [Priya's brother and producer] grew up with. This includes Tamil folk, R&B, hip-hop and other sounds that don’t even really fit into a genre."

When she was younger, her musical influences ranged from Stevie Wonder, Lauryn Hill and A.R Rahman. Now, it’s Anderson .{aak, Snoh Aalegra and BADBADNOTGOOD that Priya enjoys.

Her heart and soul goes into her work so sharing it with fans is undeniably a highlight of the creative process. "It’s like giving a piece of myself to the world through my music. I think that my fans really understand my music and perceive it the way that I feel it. It’s so special to be able to connect with people in this way," she says.

The title of her mixtape makes a statement. A bold one. Making these sorts of bold statements in her music was "for sure" a conscious decision, especially because representation in the music industry is important to Priya. She says, "I feel like Tamil people are really underrepresented in mainstream music, and I wanted to title it in such a way as to show everyone that we’ve got a voice."

Having previously described 'damnshestamil' as her most "pure and sacred work", Priya explains, "It’s my first project I’ve put out and I’ve always followed my inner voice, trusting my instinct. In this way I feel the music is pure and true to me."

Her energetic single 'Lockdown' is about "wanting to be with someone in this time where we’ve been so split apart. It doesn’t have to be love, just that connection and energy you get when you’re around someone that means a lot to you."

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Meanwhile, in the music video for 'Kamali', the Tamil actors featured had darker skin than you might usually see on screen. Priya said, "Darker-skinned people aren’t shown as much as lighter skinned people on screen. Trying to increase the representation of darker skinned South Asian people on TV is really important."

Priya's songwriting process can be quite spontaneous. There's no 'secret formula' to creating her hits, and they do take time - such as with 'Good Love 2.0'. "I don’t have one way of writing songs. Sometimes I’ll just come up with a melody and record it on voice notes, sometimes Japhna will write a beat which I’ll riff on. There was initially a 'Good Love 1.0', which was a little different to the final 'Good Love 2.0', and we got into the studio and worked on it. I knew there was something really special inside of 'Good Love 1.0', but it just needed to be worked on and enhanced in the studio."

Lyrics are drawn from her own personal experiences but she is also inspired by external factors too. "Sometimes I take inspiration from my surroundings and personal experiences and sometimes it can be inspired by movies, documentaries and places I visit and learn about!"

With a lot of recent support from BBC Radio 1 and BBC Asian Network, Priya Ragu is no doubt destined for stardom. "It’s unbelievable! My grandad used to listen to BBC radio when he was young and now to have grown up and have my own music on their stations is something that is crazy and something that I am so, so grateful for."

We ask why she decided to sing in tamil on the track 'Santhosam' to which Priya answers, "Because I wanted to!" - and we can't say fairer than that!

Our next question? Are there any plans for an album? Priya says, "I would love to put out an album soon…let’s wait and see!" We are eagerly anticipating the release of a potential debut LP but, for now, we're also hitting the 'repeat' button on 'damnshestamil'!

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'damnshetamil' is out now.

Words: Narzra Ahmed

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