"I always try to document my life through my music," says Zenith, DJ and producer from Jaipur

Harshit Agarwal, professionally known as Zenith has cemented his position in the Indian dance music industry with his heterogenous DJ sets and unfeigned original productions like “Junglee.” He started out as an EDM DJ and producer back in 2014 but today, he is making independent Hindi music – Why? 

The 22-year-old native from Jaipur goes OnRecord about his journey, switch in songwriting, working with Bollywood singer Benny Dayal and his latest single “Karvaan.”

You started off 2019 with a killer track, “Junglee” which was dubbed the best pop record of the season by Amit Trivedi. How was it being mentored by Benny Dayal on this track?  

2019 started off in the best way possible, Bacardi House Party Sessions was an amazing surprise and such a delight to work on. Benny was an insightful and supportive mentor who encouraged Charan and I to maximize the potential of our song. A lot of producers ask us about the idea behind the intro vocal layer in the song and the interesting part is that when we first got into the studio with Benny, he was randomly whistling a melody which ultimately turned into that intro. Small things like this from Benny’s expertise and experience made it a really enthralling experience being mentored by him.

You worked with Charan on “Kho Gaye,” and you’ve collaborated with him on your new single, “Karvaan” as well. What do you think draws you and Charan together as artists and individuals? 

Making music is an integral part of who I am and I always try to document my life through my music. Everything that I write/produce comes from personal life experiences and events. When I was introduced to Charan by a mutual friend at a party, we began talking about how important it is to express what you feel in some way or the other. The next day we found ourselves jamming in the studio and 14 hours later, we had the first draft of “Junglee” ready. I believe Charan and I have a similar approach towards acquiring inspiration to make music and that’s what draws us together.

Talk us through the production process and thought behind your latest track, “Karvaan.”

Karvaan” is a song that really resonates with both of us. It talks about how we go out on our own and travel to multiple destinations for gigs, it also depicts our interaction with the people we meet on the way who ultimately become a part of this journey. I think traveling and meeting new people is an essential part of our lives now. “Karvaan” for me is like a big ‘Thank you’ to the universe for letting me do what I love. The idea was to express my feeling of gratitude and the euphoria I feel when I’m on the go. Through this song, I hope everyone listening gets to experience this as well.

What inspired you to make the switch from EDM to creating independent Hindi music?

When I started out, EDM was one of the most consumed forms of music, so it was always nice to be making music for an audience that was so receptive to this genre but somewhere through this journey, I couldn’t shake this feeling of wanting to be more expressive through my music. I used to ghost produce remixes for Bollywood in school much before I got into EDM. Hindi music always sparked something in me, so I just listened to my heart and started writing independent Hindi music, which gave me the liberty to really express myself. It wasn’t a very easy decision to make but I’m extremely grateful to everyone who has supported me through this shift and showed so much love to my Hindi originals.

Starting as a ghost producer for Bollywood remixes, how did you discover your passion for songwriting? How do you start penning down the lyrics to a song? 

As a kid, I listened to a lot of Bollywood music and I gradually started remixing bollywood songs professionally. I was always intrigued by the lyrics and wondered how these composers put them together in a way that made each song so catchy. Around that time, my first EDM song “Rumble” got played at Tomorrowland by Steve Aoki, so I focused all my attention to EDM and I started producing Electronic Dance Music and then Western Pop. Travelling across the country for shows and playing at so many clubs, campuses and arenas, a feeling of incompleteness always bothered me and ultimately sometime last year, I realized that this isn’t who I am. I found comfort in penning my thoughts down and being able to express myself; my experience in producing Hindi dance music from my Bollywood remixing days really helped me to gradually start composing the lines that I wrote and this is how my journey as a songwriter began.

Coming from Jaipur, a city where nightlife industry isn’t at par with metropolitans like Delhi and Mumbai, what are some challenges you faced along the way and how did you manage to overcome those?

Here’s a really fun fact, I had never been to a club before I played my first gig in 2014 and this nightlife culture seemed like a whole other foreign universe to me. It took me a while to get used to it but there was always so much happening at such a rapid pace that sometimes it was really difficult for me to understand and keep up with it all. Back then, I used to be very shy and didn’t speak to a lot of people, so I was often misunderstood as someone with a lot of attitude. Being behind the console always made me feel special but it came with a lot of anxiety and mental health issues. I was fortunate to meet Arjun Shah who signed on to become my manager and from then on, his company Shark & Ink has always had my back and managed to keep me sane through it all and they still do.

What was your parents’ reaction when you decided to pursue an unconventional career path?

Initially, my parents didn’t understand what I did and as a kid still in school, they always wondered how I managed to buy the latest gear and gadgets by myself. So, the first time that my parents came to one of my gigs in my hometown, it was a very special moment for me. That show was for 5000 people and to see the proud smile they had on after the show was priceless, it motivated me to work even harder. For a family with an established export business, it wasn’t easy for them to accept my career choice. Till today, it’s still quite difficult for me to explain what I do to my relatives when I meet them at family functions. Everyone always expected me to become an engineer and so I had to break those barriers and stay true to my music to do what I love.

Do you feel like people’s attitude towards you has changed, now that you have made a name for yourself in the industry?

Within the industry, I’ve found that your name isn’t as important as the friends you make and the relationships you build. With respect to fans, I am extremely overwhelmed to see people responding with so much love for my music. It’s a great feeling to create something and watch it reach so many people. To be able to receive so much love and support from everyone is such a positive change that I couldn’t be more accepting of it.

What is one thing you know now that you wish you knew when you started your journey back in 2014?

I’d love to answer this one very honestly. As a young kid from a small town, I didn’t know the importance of networking and building relationships when I started this journey back in 2014. This is also one piece of advice that I give to all budding artists too, stay true to your art, always be humble and try to help as many people as you can because building relationships is one of the most important aspects for growth in this industry.

Closing this interview with your two cents on people who think DJing is all about pressing the button.

DJing is so much more than pushing the drop button or twisting knobs and tapping on keyboards. It is an art that artists spend hours crafting and perfecting. Whether the mix is live or not, the fact is that the producer arranged and cut the tracks, they strive for perfection and want to present the best music they can for their audience. Gigs aside, there’s a lot more to an artist’s career. It’s about travelling thousands of miles, dealing with irregular or no sleep patterns, missing out on spending time with loved ones, handling the pressure of strict timelines, simultaneously switching between shows, studio sessions, shoots and other professional commitments, all at once.

Listen to Zenith‘s latest collaboration with Charan, “Karvaan” only on JioSaavn.