100% Priya Ragu: the Tamil-Swiss singer inventing the genre-colliding sound of Raguwavy

The artist has defined her own style of music, blending soul, electro and pop with a nod to her South Indian heritage.

Priya Ragu knew she was destined for success, she just needed to take one giant leap. Growing up in the vast, yet quiet town of St. Gallen in Switzerland, she always had a vested interest in music. The child of Sri Lankan parents, Ragu would sing in Tamil at family functions and made her stamp on the Zurich music scene from an early age. She just never thought her music would be heard by millions.

In Switzerland you don’t see that many artists that break through internationally, so there was no one to look up to, she says. I didn’t feel [a music career] was really realistic for me.” The one day, Ragu had an epiphany.

In 2019 she quit her 9 – 5 and travelled to New York, setting herself one task – to write ten songs in six months. While she was there she hit up US rapper and long-term friend Oddisee and recorded her soulful tracks in his studio, giving her momentum, recognition and most importantly, self-belief.

I really loved the energy,” she says of the experience. There were a lot of creative, positive vibes. [Oddisee] gave me the equipment and I just worked with my brother via Skype and voice messages.”

Ragu’s slick production is all down to her rapper brother Japhna Gold, proving it pays to keep it in the family. Together the duo have developed a signature sound, blending raspy vocals with an electro-pop beat that often nods to their South Indian heritage.

Debut single Good Love 2.0 is an absolute banger, guaranteed to get stuck in your head. If you haven’t already heard it played via Annie Mac on Radio 1 or on Radio 1Xtra earlier this year, you no doubt will have caught it on loop while playing FIFA 21.

For now, Ragu is working on getting her tracks out into the world and gearing up for the day she can finally perform live. I just hope that we can tour, she says. We just created a band, so it would be dope if we could play live again and create memories, you know.”

Listen to Good Love 2.0 below and get your 100% fill with Priya Ragu.

10%: Where were you born, where were you raised and where are you now based?

I was born and raised in St. Gallen, which is in Switzerland, and I am back in St. Gallen. You know, my parents live here. So, yeah, it’s like I have never left the city.

20%: At what point did you realise you’d be able to do what you love for a living?

I noticed that I had a voice when I started to sing in my father’s band when I was 10-years-old. We mainly sang Tamil songs and played at weddings and birthdays, but it’s not like I was enjoying it. Eventually, when I discovered Lauryn Hill and the Fugees and Brandy, I would write down lyrics. I practiced every day and I recorded myself.

I got into the Zurich scene and got to know other musicians, like minded people. I did like a lot of backing vocals for Swiss local artists but I was never really serious about music.

For a long time, I just ignored pursuing it as a serious career because I was comfortable. I was safe with my super safe job working for Swiss Airlines, buying aircraft parts.

Then the voice inside of me got stronger and stronger, and I was like, you know, what? If I don’t try out, then I will never know. So I quit the job. And I went to New York. I gave myself a half year of time to write 10 songs. And that was the only task. I’m really glad that I did that.

30%: Break down your typical day at work…

I still work three hours a day in the morning buying aircraft parts. At the moment there’s a lot of promo stuff going on for interviews and podcasts, all the things, so mostly in the evening, I go to the studio with my brother and then we create some music or work on ideas.

40%: How would you describe your music?

Me and my brother, we grew up between two cultures, two worlds. And those two worlds are merged in the music, our style and visuals. It’s a mix of R&B soul, hip-hop, pop and South Indian music. And we just gave it a name, which is Raguwavy. So we are just going to go with that.

50%: What kind of emotions and experiences influence your work?

All the songs that we create are based on true stories, our story, but also stories from friends and documentaries that we watch.

60%: What’s a piece of advice that changed your life?

This year I have learnt that it’s important to trust in other people, not just me, so we can work together and take that network further. The team that I have right now, my management and my label, I’ve not met in person so I was kind of forced to trust them blindly. I’m glad that I did that because it’s just opening doors, you know.

70%: What’s a bad habit you wish you could kick?

I don’t have any! Maybe I should stop taking things too personally? I really have to learn that. When you go through these comments on socials you can go nuts. And since this is the beginning of my career, I have to figure out how to deal with these things.

80%: Biggest pet peeve?

I really dislike it when people talk shit about other people. I mean, it depends who it is, you know, because if it’s in a funny way, it’s cool. But if you really hating on somebody, then I’m allergic to that.

90%: How did you celebrate your last birthday?

I used to need a lot of attention on birthdays, but I feel like the older I get, the more it changes, you know. The last birthday that I remember, I was in India with my family. My father booked this five star hotel for us, because he wanted to make it special. We never go to five star hotels. It’s always like two or three. And in India, that’s like a big, big difference. But we went to Tirupati, which is a temple that we go like every time we’re there. We go there to get the blessings because it’s a tradition.

100%: What can you tell us about your next project?

We are currently working on the rollout plan, so it’s going to be single after single. My melody is very melancholic, a Western sound and with the Indian beat and all that. We just came back from London and created a lot of content, so we have a lot of things to release and to put out, so I’m really excited about that.

I just hope that we can tour, we just created a band just so it would be dope if we could play live again and go on tour and create memories, you know.

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