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HARJI: “My best advice? Leave your ego at the door”

HARJI is an artist blending innumerable styles and influences in his music, born in New Delhi, India, and now living in Brooklyn, New York. From larger parties in Beirut, to the strobe-filled club scene at legacy venues such as Pacha NYC & Cielo, all the way to underground Brooklyn warehouse raves, his live performances are refreshing, groove-led and exploratory.

Determined and full of creative drive, HARJI thrives on producing and playing a range of styles, from house and tribal to techno and electronica. His sets are always full of edits and unreleased music of his own, and he has kept those dancefloor secrets a secret, until now. For this latest release, he has teamed up with Manu Dibango and Nhii for a melodic and deeply atmospheric house cut.

Connect with HARJI on Soundcloud

Thanks for talking to us today – how’s the year been treating you so far?

This year has been so exciting from a musical standpoint. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with and alongside some amazing, talented artists from all different genres.  

First of all, we want to get to know you “from the beginning.” How did your history with music begin?

My love for electronic music happened in 1998. If I close my eyes, I still remember the day I first heard Paul Van Dyke’s For An Angel. It was on one of my uncles’ CDs, and we listened to it in his car. The energy and the sound just gave me goosebumps. I remember he let me keep that CD, which had a few other gems on it. As cliche as that sounds, I felt like I understood this music, and it understood me. From that day, I was hooked. Searching for new music almost daily, from forums to Winamp video channels to record stores. These were the Napster, DC++, and CD Burner days. I was obsessed. 

My parents have always tried their best to fuel my passion, and I remember when I got my first set of turntables and CDJs one Christmas morning. I taught myself to DJ. I would be in my room playing sets for myself and my friends every day when I came home from school. Fast forward a few years, when I was about 16, one of my good friends (shout out to Matt Felner) would throw events all over NYC. He saw my passion for playing and would book me in venues all over the city. Man, those were the days, 16-year-old me played in venues like Pacha and Club LOVE, alongside artists like Benny Benassi, Ingrosso, Dubfire, and so many more. I would play almost every weekend until I graduated college, then life happened. 

I didn’t come from a wealthy family, so the luxury of not working to support myself wasn’t an option. And living in NYC is costly! I spent the last decade (2012-2022) building companies in the design and tech space. I kept producing and playing shows on the side, but it wasn’t until late 2021 that I was in a place where I could finally focus full-time on music. A part of me sometimes wishes I had just kept pursuing music when I was younger, but the other part of me is grateful things panned out the way they did. And I’m looking forward to the next years ahead.

You’ve played at some incredible venues over the years… how do you think the different scenes in Beirut and NYC have influenced the music you produce? 

Beirut, and that part of the world in general, is a magical place. I was last there before COVID and the devastating blast, so it was pretty different. The venues there, the people there, the food, the culture, it’s all so beautiful. The crowd there is so passionate about the music, and as an artist performing, you can feel that energy in the room with every filter or EQ you twist. My time there was inspiring and exposed me to so many different genres of music, rhythms, and sounds, all of which I try infusing into my style of music today. 

NYC will always be my home. This city is now becoming the electronic music capital of the world. From the massive raves to the underground warehouse parties, there is an unmatched energy here. The New York tribal house sound has always been something I’ve infused into my sets, and I’m trying to bring back some of these older sounds and grooves into what I’m producing now.

Tell us about the genesis of your new track Bessoka… how did the collab work with the other artists involved? 

This track happened so organically. Every so often, I’ll have vinyl sessions at my loft in Brooklyn. This particular time, I invited Nhii over to jam out with me. He’s such a talented artist, and truly cares about the craft. I’ve always loved what he’s been doing, and I genuinely think his taste in music is elevated! After our B2B vinyl set, he asked me to show him what I was up to on the production side. We skimmed through a few Ableton project files, I played a few things for him, and then I opened up the project file for this record, Bessoka! Right there and then, we both knew this was the track we wanted to collaborate on. 

Originally composed by Manu Dibango, the Cameroonian saxophonist and Afro-jazz pioneer, “Bessoka” has long been revered as a masterwork within the realms of world music. Manu Dibango’s musical contributions spanned across various genres, including jazz, funk, soul, and traditional African rhythms. His unique fusion of African melodies, captivating rhythms, and intricate saxophone improvisations captivated audiences globally and earned him a well-deserved reputation as a musical luminary.

Nhii and I took the essence of Manu Dibango’s original composition and carefully infused it with our signature deep house and organic house sounds. Unfortunately, Manu Dibango is no longer with us, so wanted to preserve music’s soul while adding our artistic touch, creating a connection between the past and the present, paying homage to the spirit of the original while adding our own distinct flavor. Together, we created a remix that seamlessly blends nostalgic elements with contemporary production techniques. The result is a fresh, vibrant, and infectious track destined to become a summer hit within the deep house, afro, and organic house scenes.

You’ve landed on a great label for the single, how did you hook up with Sol Selectas? 

We sent this to a few labels and got some great feedback, but when Nhii and I heard back from Sol Selectas, we knew it was the right home for the record. Sabo, the visionary behind Sol Selectas, is known for his impeccable curation and forward-thinking approach. It was an honor to be entrusted with remixing such an iconic track.

Additionally, Sol Selectas has obtained official clearance for the sample used in “Bessoka” from Soul Makossa Publishing, ensuring a fully licensed and authorized release. This attention to detail highlights Sol Selectas’ commitment to ethical and respectful collaboration within the music industry. Something Nhii and I both truly admire. 

What does your current studio set up look like? Lots of hardware, or are you mainly ‘out of the box’ type producers?

I’m a huge believer in the less is more philosophy. My current setup is the Push 3 as the center of my workstation, and I mainly run Ableton as my DAW. My favorite hardware piece I have is this tiny little synth called dreadbox nymphes! Not much hardware, but slowly buying more gear and am now building a modular rack which should be fun.

Other than the single, what should we be looking out for from you in the next few months? 

There’s so much I’m looking forward to, from collaborations with artists such as Kahani, Kunal Merchant, Caio Vieira, Nhii, BAHE, and a few more who I can’t just talk about yet! Excited to also be releasing music on some of my favorite labels. Additionally, i’ll be working on remixes of songs from a few artists in the Middle East. One artist in particular, ROBN, is an uncut diamond. I feel this guy will be the next Drake, and I’m excited to do something with him soon. 

What is the best advice you ever received as an artist?

  • Done is better than perfect. 
  • Be open to collaborating and leave your ego at the door. 
  • You are only as good as your team. 

Anything else you’d like to tell us…?

I recently did a radio show for Ibiza Sonica Radio which you can check out.

I plan to spend most of this year in the studio, getting out all the music I’ve been meaning to release, and I plan to start hitting the road to tour next year. I’m also working on a live set to play most of my productions live and throw in some fun improvisation!

Thank you, HRAJI.

It matters little whether you are an artist or a visitor, the love for music is the unifying factor.

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