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Talkback: Priya Ragu & Japhna Gold

Songwriting/Production Partners By William Stokes
Published September 2021

Talkback

The music of Priya Ragu is, on the surface, a solo project. However, a closer look at the Sri Lankan Tamil‑Swiss artist’s work reveals a close songwriting and production partnership with her brother, Japhna Gold. Raised in St. Gallen, Switzerland before basing themselves in London, the duo create a unique brand of R&B, combining punchy electronic rhythms and deep bass with a clever use of South Indian samples, rhythms and even the Tamil language. “It’s definitely a 50‑50 thing,” Priya says. “I might be the face, but behind the face is the bro‑sis!”

“When we started to create music, it was never like ‘OK, let’s fuse Tamil music into R&B and hip‑hop.’ It just happened organically,” she continues. “One day Japhna just said ‘Hey, what if I flip this beat?’ and I was like, ‘OK, let’s do it!’ and then I even started to sing in Tamil. At one point I was thinking: ‘Oh, my God, how are Swiss radio ever going to play this song if I’m singing in Tamil?’ But I just thought, you know what, fuck it. It sounds cool, it’s something different, it’s important to me and it’s a part of my identity. We decided to include it, and the radio did play it! So, you never know until you try!”

Japhna adds: “I truly believe that artists are the bridge‑builders. Whatever god you believe in, whatever political view you have, you still come to the same concert and stand next to people singing the same lyric and experiencing the same emotions. As artists, we are the language of the world. We need more visionaries who say, ‘You know what, brown people are unrepresented and we’re gonna build that company and that label, and actually concentrate on that.’ We need more CEOs who can make those decisions and hire the right people behind the scenes.”

At the moment I can’t stop listening to

Priya: I am listening to old Tamil songs from the ’60s. I really enjoy it. I wake up and listen to a whole playlist from a singer called PB Srinivas. My father is a big fan of PB Srinivas, and he used to listen to it back in the day. I never really understood it, but now I really understand why he likes it. It really brings up old memories. It feels warm, like I’m at home when I listen to it. If that’s the first thing you do in the morning, it feels like the day will be amazing.

Japhna: Especially when you’re away from home.

Priya: But I wouldn’t listen to it at home with my parents. That would be weird!

Japhna: To be honest, because I’m creating music at the moment I’m not really listening to much music! But, I’ve been listening to Khruangbin, this singer called Dyo — her EP Dyologue — and the song ‘Bubba’ from Kaytranda.

The project I’m most proud of

Japhna: For me, I’m having the most fun and I’m most proud of Priya’s project. Not just because it’s the latest one, but because of its growth and how I personally was...

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