The Identity Series
SEASON 1, EPISODE 7: PRITT
In our seventh episode, Inaya Hussain from the Rights Collective is joined by Pritt - an emerging R&B artist hailing from South London. By coupling R&B beats with traditional Carnatic melisma, and using her experiences as a Tamil woman to subvert stereotypes through her songs, Pritt’s music takes on an ‘Eastern meets Western’ stand both musically and lyrically. In this episode, Pritt shares her personal experiences navigating identity, balancing duty & passion, and redefining what community means to her.
UPBRINGING & IDENTITY
Pritt was born and raised in Denmark and moved to South London when she was young. She shares how she used to shy away from using Tamil as a way to identify herself, instead opting for ‘brown’ or ‘South Asian’:
“I didn't want to get into it, basically. I wasn’t ashamed, just not very aware of how important it was to say that I was Tamil. Now it’s the complete opposite [...] The one thing that is so constant with me now is saying I’m Tamil.
Pritt’s difficulties grappling with identity started in secondary school, which had a significant Tamil population. She often felt as if she wasn’t ‘Tamil enough’ to fit in with this community, but ‘too Tamil’ to fit in with the white students, who frequently made racist comments about her identity and culture. This was exacerbated when she attended sixth form, which was predominantly white.
“I started whitewashing a lot of things and not really talking about who I was as a person. I just started conforming a little bit and then when I went to uni I realised that that was really wrong. I re-learnt who I was again and wore who I was as a person with pride”.
Pritt’s outlook on her identity changed when she attended university. People were suddenly interested in who she was as a person, and this encouraged her to be more open and proud of her identity.
Though her relationship with her identity has had it's ups and downs, Pritt has reached a place where she feels comfortable and confident, and recognises that a lot of this is also down to her conversations with her parents. She recalls how her mum has always reminded her that she will feel stuck between two societies, but as long as she remembers and recognises where her roots and her history lies, stability will follow.
“My identity is Tamil, and I’m just trying to be the best version that I can be for my parents and for myself [...] I say I’m Tamil with my chest, it’s a pride thing. There’s a lot of weight and responsibility attached to the word Tamil, it’s just who I am. My parents always say, no matter where you live or who you end up marrying, you’ll always be Tamil.”
Inaya shares that this is the second time her and Pritt are recording this episode of the podcast due to some of Pritt's concerns with the content of the first episode and her general feeling about the topic. Upon reflection, Pritt decided it was best to re-record as she did not feel she represented herself genuinely the first time round, and wasn’t so honest about her reaction to this season’s topic.
She shares how the lack of representation and exclusion of Tamil people within the wider South Asian community can lead to feelings of difference, othering and an erasure of Tamil identity. Pritt felt that ‘South Asian’ was too much of a generalised term, and took away from her specific culture and identity:
“When you try and generalise it [identity], there is no value to it anymore, and I think it kind of makes my position worse. I am sat here openly saying, you know I am South Asian, where I know for a fact I am not. I don’t fit in that bracket.”
Both Pritt and Inaya are extremely pleased that they got the second chance to record, as well as being able to share this journey with our listeners. This process has encompassed many of the difficulties pertinent to navigating identity which are explored in this season.
COMMUNITY & BELONGING
As Pritt has become more sure of herself and her identity, she has felt the need to search for community less and less. For her, community lies in her family and friends, and she doesn’t yearn for more than this.
“I’ve always had a good support system with my family and I’m always grateful for that. Growing up I had problems with people butting into my business, and I always used to ask my mum why this person has something to say about this, I never understood why people cared.”
Pritt shares that, as she’s gotten older, she has learnt to approach this issue with her parents with understanding, and realises now that sharing their children’s achievements gives them a sense of achievement in return.
“For my parents its like a sense of security, that they’re bringing their kids up in the right way and everyone around them is applauding them for doing that.
They come from a country that carries a lot of trauma, and a lot of sadness, so this is a way for them to feel good.”
Despite feeling communal pressure growing up, Pritt shares her pride in the way that Tamils support one another when someone from the community needs support:
“If there’s an issue, everyone comes together, and its amazing, because solidarity is key.”
She goes on to discuss how she engages in intergenerational dialogue with her parents. Growing up, Pritt recalls that her parents did a good job at hiding the trauma and pain they experienced from her and her sisters, as they wanted to protect them. As she has gotten older, Pritt feels like she can communicate much more freely with her parents, especially when it comes to their expectations of her and her sisters and the realities of their lived experiences:
“I feel like we don’t give our parents enough credit for what they do for us, and how far they’ve come as people. It’s not easy coming from a home that is a war zone, coming from such an intense situation and then coming over to the Western world, where you have to learn a new language and the new norm. I wish I could go back and apologise to my mum for the things I’ve said out of pure anger, but I think she has definitely learnt that with time these things kind of blow over. My mum and I have always been close.”
EXPERIENCE IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY
Pritt’s first impressions of the music industry were a little isolating. She shares how hardly anyone knew about the Tamil community, and there were hardly any girls that looked like her:
“The more I learnt about the industry, the more I made an effort to be seen in the industry.”
She has often been mistaken as a Black woman, or having mixed heritage, which further exacerbated her feelings of isolation and made it hard to find a place to fit in within the industry. This feeling was fed by the stereotype that South Asians are more academically inclined than they are creatively.
Due to the lack of Tamil role models in music, many of Pritt’s inspirations and those who she has aligned herself with most closely have been Black women:
“It's difficult because there aren't a lot of females in the music industry and then there's not a lot of dark skinned females in the industry. Then all the dark skinned women all get merged into one group, and you don't have a sense of who you are as a person because you are grouped together.”
Pritt has recently celebrated her achievement as the first Tamil woman to be featured on BBC Asian Networks Future Sounds. She was shocked to be featured, and didn’t expect something so big to come so early on in her career:
“For me I tend to downplay all my successes to people, just because it makes sense to me to kind of celebrate the small wins in my own way.”
For Pritt, seeing how proud and supportive her parents have been of her achievements makes her feel the most successful, and makes her feel confident that she can pursue music as a life-long career and passion.
Thank you to the Podcast team who worked on this series, including Inaya Hussain, Tasha Mathur, Nishma Jethwa and Minnie Bhullar.
Music produced by Substeppers
Substeppers are British Asian bass music duo combining the precision of Sunny Banger, with the mastery of Vxks. After a long hiatus, they are back to capitalize on their early success and send ripples of their new sounds all around the world. With consistent support from the likes of BBC, MTV & Mixmag, their newest EP entitled Bollywood Trap led them to become the BBC Introducing's first British Asian production duo. The Substeppers project aims to take people to another world with their latest single & explore eastern themes combined with progressive ideas, through the lens of electronic world music.
Artwork produced by KakiKasi
KakiKasi is currently based in the Bay Area, California with roots in the American Midwest and Punjab. They are an artist, writer and overall community-centred creature. You can find some of their artwork @KakiKasi and some of the work they’ve curated of South Asian queer and feminist art @popadumart.