Previously known for songs like ‘Lighthouse,’ the R&B/pop singer and producer Japhna Gold cook up a heady fusion sound Anurag Tagat Oct 19, 2020
When the civil wars in Sri Lanka meant that Priya Ragu and her family could no longer visit their country of origin, the Zurich-based R&B/pop artist would often visit Chennai in India instead for holidays every alternate year. Ragu is quick to add though, “It wasn’t vacations like swimming pools and four star hotels, like you wish as a kid but it was more of every day we went to temples and it was like a temple vacation.”
Growing up around Tamil film aka Kollywood music at home, Ragu and her brother – who currently produces her tunes under the moniker Japhna Gold – made formidable strides in the global and diaspora music space when the smooth love song “Lighthouse” released in early 2019. Officially pegging her start in 2017 in terms of releases and performances, Ragu’s sublime, distinctive croon is entirely cultivated from open mics, jamming and backing up Swiss bands and artists and not something she picked up from vocal training.
She says, “Recently I started with Indian classical music [lessons]. But I didn’t invest so much time in music before I started doing this. It was just in me. I just had to discover it and embrace it.” Citing influences such as American soul artist Lauryn Hill, Ragu quit her day job in 2017 and spent five months in New York specifically to work on music, with beats and ideas being sent over by Japhna Gold. Ragu recounts that the only goal was to write 10 songs. She adds with a laugh, “All of those songs were written in the last month. The first four months I was just drinking a lot of coffee and shopping. It’s a good team, me and my brother. It just took us a long time to realize that.”
While “Lighthouse” was delightful in going from a serene professing of love to a surprising Tamil folk and devotional twist right at the end, it’s something her latest single “Good Love 2.0” also delivers on. Her first release since getting signed to Warner Music U.K. in August, “Good Love 2.0” was also released independently before being put aside and re-released with a slightly different mix but the same music video, shot in Goa. Ragu says when she was originally releasing it, she was hoping it would go out to the “right people.”
Soon after, about 20 international labels came knocking at Ragu’s door, according to the artist. “Luckily, we had management by then. So we had one Zoom call after another and then we decided to go with Warner,” the singer says. The siblings have never worked on a song for this long, but the fruits are clearly there to see, finessed over the span of two years, complete with yet another Tamil street folk flip of the beat that elevates “Good Love 2.0” to fusion territory.
Ragu, however, points out that not every song would necessarily incorporate Tamil music elements. “It just happens organically, the Tamil fusion. He was in the studio and he was like, ‘How about we just bring this beat in?’ And then I came up with a Krishna chant.” She did think out loud whether the music was “too eclectic” for Switzerland radio stations, but they’ve now got Ragu repping a little bit of South India in her music.
While the performance part of promoting “Good Love 2.0” is on hold still, Ragu is working on a “roll-out plan” for the song and more singles. Like previous occasions, she might just make it back to India when the coast is clear. “I really hope I do, that would be amazing,” she says.
Courtesy: Rolling Stone (India)