That ‘Santhosam’ takes its title from the Tamil word for ‘happiness’ should give some idea of what’s inside Priya Ragu’s debut: it’s a record so sonically buoyant one wonders if it shouldn’t have been released in the early summer. The tracks themselves, meanwhile, must surely give an insight into if not what was on the family stereo at the Ragu household while Priya - and brother Japhna Gold, who once again takes on production duties - were growing up, at least what the siblings themselves were taking in. The sounds of early ‘00s radio mainstays are found throughout: as ‘Vacation’ plays cleverly with classic pop chord sequences to instant earworm effect, ‘Easy’ takes in UK garage beats, and ‘Lovely Day’ oozes with smooth R&B. Equally, closer ‘Mani Osai’ showcases a more traditional family affair, with the tabla beat paired with a retro pop sound on ‘School Me Like That’, while the sugary chorus of ‘Adalam Va’ gives way to an infectious rhythm, playing with Tamil influences. Most importantly, though, ‘Santhosam’ lives up to its name, as a record that reflects happiness.
Priya Ragu explains why she chose artist Manuja Waldia to paint the artwork for ‘Santhosam’.
“I discovered Manuja’s incredible work through my friend Kanika at Nobordersshop in India. I instantly fell in love with her paintings, the vibrant colors, and the representation of brown people so I felt very fortunate to collaborate with her for my debut album artwork. The artistic vision was to reflect my roots in Jaffna, Sri Lanka on the album cover, while also showcasing the mountains of Switzerland. Jaffna represents my heritage, while the Swiss mountains symbolise my home. Working with Manuja was a pleasure, as her vision added a whole new dimension to my album; she perfectly incorporated both aspects and allowed me to visually express the duality of my identity as an artist.”