Priya Ragu is a Sri Lankan Tamil-Swiss singer, songwriter, and accountant, based in the United Kingdom who is known for her debut single, Good Love 2.0 (2020).
Priya Ragu was born in 1986 (age 35 years; as of 2021) in St. Gallen, Switzerland. She spent her childhood under the supervision of her strict parents, who wanted to protect her from the nightlife, the guys, the alcohol. Therefore, she became a bit of a loner. In an interview, she said,
My parents were very protective. They just wanted the best for us. I wasn’t able to do the things that my schoolmates were able to do…They were able to do sleepovers and I was never allowed to do that, so of course they would leave me out.
Born to refugees of the Sri Lankan civil war, Ragu was first introduced to her roots (the Sri Lankan culture) when she went on a family trip to Toronto. Toronto, home to ample Tamil expatriates, gave her an insight into the Sri Lankan culture as it shares similarities with the Tamil culture. While recalling her experience, she said,
There’s way more Tamil there than in Switzerland. Seeing Tamil restaurants, Tamil shops, even the bus driver was Tamil!”
Her childhood also consisted of family trips to South India, particularly Chennai, which ensured her connection with her heritage. She grew up listening to Tamil soundtracks, particularly by the composers Ilaiyaraaja and A.R. Rahman. Soon after, she discovered the American hip hop group Fugees, consisting of musicians Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean, and Pras Michel, who developed her interest in western music. At the age of seven, she started learning to play the violin. Her musical voice was first discovered at the age of 10 when she joined her father’s band as a singer in which her father played the Tabla and her brother played the keyboard. In Switzerland, her father became friends with the owner of an instrument store. Soon, Ragu, her brother, and her father secured access to the store’s rehearsal room, where they practiced their songs once a week. When she was 16, she secured the opportunity to perform her first live gig, an Alicia Keys’ song, at a show that her brother was doing with his rap group, but her father read about it in her diary and forbade her performance. In an interview, while talking about the event, she said,
The worst day of my life. From that day on, I decided that I wasn’t going to say anything to them about my music.”
Raised in the village Bazenheid, St. Gallen, away from hustle and bustle of the city, Ragu relocated to one of Switzerland’s largest city Zürich in search of musical opportunities.
Height (approx.): 5′ 4″
Hair Color: Black
Eye Color: Black
In the 1980s, following the Sri Lankan civil war, her parents flee from Jaffna, Sri Lanka, to Switzerland. The Guardian His father wasn’t a professional singer, but he loved singing since his days in Jaffna, Sri Lanka (his hometown). While talking about her musical family in an interview, she said,
On weekends we had jam sessions at our house, we had family members coming over and friends, my brother would play the keys and people would sing songs from Kollywood movies (Tamil cinema).”
Ragu’s brother, Japhna Gold, is a musician and her production partner. The duo has carved a niche with their partnership blending R&B (Rhythm and blues) with South Indian beats to create crowd-puller songs.
In order to please her parents, after finishing her secondary education, she pursued a job in Zürich’s Swiss International Air Lines as a technical purchaser buying aircraft parts. Meanwhile, she performed at open mics at night. It wasn’t until 2017, at the age of 30, that she finally decided to quit her job and become a full-time singer. Thereafter, she moved to New York for six months seeking time and space to explore her creativity. While she was in New York, she wrote various songs with her brother contributing to her work through skype calls from Switzerland. In October 2020, she came into the spotlight with the song titled “Good Love 2.0,” which was later featured in her debut mixtape, Damnshestamil. The song caught her Swiss media attention. It was played on the popular BBC radio show ‘Future Sounds,’ despite having no record deal and repeatedly on the Indian music channel VH1.
After the success of the chartbuster song, she released her second song “Lighthouse.” She went to India for shooting the video of the song, which caught the attention of international media and numerous record labels.
Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, Ragu secured herself a major label signing with the record label Warner Records. Thereafter, the mixtape Damnshestamil was released under the label Warner Records. Other ten-track mixtape Damnshestamil included the songs Chicken Lemon Rice, Forgot About, Kamali, Lighthouse, and Lockdown.
The music video of the song “Chicken Lemon Rice” earned Ragu the nomination for ‘Best Wardrobe Styling in a Video’ at UK Music Video Awards (2021).
She has over 200,000 listeners a month on the music streaming platform Spotify, and she voiced the soundtrack for Fifa 21, the 28th installment in the FIFA series.
- Singers: Alicia Keys, Lauryn Hill, Stevie Wonder, PB Srinivas (Indian playback singer), Snoh Aalegra (Swedish singer), Stevie Wonder (American singer), Common (American rapper), Mos Def (American rapper)
- Band: The Roots (American hip hop band)
- Song: Mellow My Man by The Roots (1995)
- Film: Life of Pi
- Web series: Insecure (2016)
- As children, their father had them sing Tamil songs at events and weddings to collect money to help people in Tamil Nadu and Jaffna. Although her parents were driven by music, they were against Ragu’s decision to pursue a career in it. They believed Western music and its MTV videos were obscene. In an interview, Ragu said that her parents came on board with her decision to pursue a career in music when they first heard her songs. She said,
They’re very proud that we mix our background with the music. When my father heard one of our songs, he said that A.R. Rahman brought Western music to South India and we are doing the opposite.”
- The brother-sister duo calls its music “Ragu Wavy,” a mix of R&B, soul, hip hop, and traditional Tamil music.
- She was included in the “New Musical Express” list of “100 Essential New Artists for 2021”