All about bringing catchy lyrics and cinema-like music videosSajish Shrestha, known as VZN, has been making hit after hit, garnering himself an audience growing larger by the day.
If you’ve been on TikTok in the past couple weeks, you’ll definitely be familiar with ‘Hik Hikki’ and ‘Bhunte Ki Aama’. With thousands of Tik Tok videos having been made with the songs in recent times, VZN has certainly created a huge following for himself.
Before the artist became popular as VZN, he was known by friends and family as Sajish Shrestha. He was 15 and living in a hostel at Sainik Awasiya Mahavidyalaya in Bhaktapur when he first became interested in making music. Living and studying in a military school with strict rules and regulations, he tried to make something of his newfound interest by joining a punk rock band, composed of his friends. But to his dismay, the band already had a lead singer, leaving him to find other means of expression. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before he took up rapping and formed a band of his own —Back In Vogue—with his hostel friends, embarking on a musical journey that has now stretched to a decade.
Even from the confines of a hostel compound with the added restriction of not being able to perform on-stage due to Sainik’s strict Code of Conduct, the band of friends managed to create music together and even released a song called Bichara Jindagi, to the public. However, as the bands created with secondary school friends often do, Back In Vogue only lasted a few years until Shrestha and his friends studied at the same institution. Fortunately for Shrestha, Back In Vogue proved to be just a stepping stone in what has now become a profitable career in music with an upward graph of followers.
Post schooling, Shrestha took up a Bachelor’s Degree in IT at The British College to study Graphic Design and Media. Around that time, a Nepali label called The Explicit Records also reached out to him, promising that they would make him big. Shrestha took up the offer, oblivious to all that awaited him there.
Shrestha spent multiple days a week at the label making songs, but only a few saw the light of day. He quickly realised the extent of the toxicity and backstabbing that went on at the label— “The label had a lot of distractions and the only time music that I had worked on came out was when I'd worked on it with the main guy at the label,” said Shrestha.
Despite that, with all the lemons the label had thrown at him, Shrestha managed to squeeze out a lemonade from the label. For Lisa, an album with four tracks that he created with his Producer, Francis became successful. Francis is now a producer for Shrestha and Lemon Stand Boys, their independent band. The four tracks on For Lisa were his first uploads to YouTube, now preceded by dozens of singles from Lemon Stand Boys and his own.
The listeners might have caught up on a trend in most of his releases where he talks about his personal experiences and writes about individuals from his past. Hik Hikki, one of his hits, came about after he had a sudden realisation while watching a fan-edit of his ex: “No one knew that we’d dated and I felt like I should just write it down in the comments. Hence the line ‘Kasai lai thachaina, hamro bare charcha ko muni ma mero naam lekhdyun ki?’ (Nobody knows about us, should I mention my name in discussion about you?). Similarly, the lyrics on Timle Garda Ho and Bhunte Ki Aama refer to different stages in his relationships.
Through his discography, not just the lyrics but the cinema-like music videos that accompany them, also bring up a story of their own. While the 3:4 crop and the grainy filter with Indie-like saturation lend to viewers being immersed in his videos like they’re watching a CRT TV at home, what goes on in the video itself also gives viewers something to dwell on.
Keen viewers might’ve picked up on what’s going on: with each music video taking more than three months to produce, Shretha has had it all planned out and he’s made it so that his music videos interconnect and make for a sort of short film, when watched one after another. Where Timle Garda Ho ends, Hik Hikki picks, and so on. Commenting on how he comes up with the ideas for his videos, Shrestah said, “I write concepts I want to include in music videos on my notes and refer to them for shots.”
With a foresight like that, an argument definitely sits to be made about his proficiency as an artist and a storyteller; one that he’s only making stronger with every passing release.
Of course, public art exists to be critiqued and with the advent of the internet, feedback is more accessible than ever. But for Shrestha, it has been a double- edged sword, especially since the recent hype around him brought to light not just his art, but also his sexuality.
As an openly bisexual musician, Shrestha has received a huge amount of support from the LGBTIQ community. “The LGBTIQ community has always hyped me up and helped to reach breakthroughs with my music,” said Shrestha. Indeed, the reception of Timle Garda Ho at the Nepal Pride Parade 2022 was a sight to behold. But despite all the support, homophobic hate comments managed to rise to the top, calling his sexuality “a disease”, and forcing him to leave TikTok, for months.
While Shrestha welcomes negative feedback on his music saying, “if you don’t like my music then fine, I don’t mind”, comments directed at him as a person have forced the artist to be less open about his self identity through his sexuality.
After a decade of ups and downs in his career, Shrestha has now reached a point where he is gaining recognition as an artist and moving beyond being what he calls “a neighbourhood level artist” and becoming “a city level artist”. With a number of releases across platforms, the statement couldn’t be closer to the truth.
Shrestha is now working on remastering his first album For Lisa, with music videos to add more spice. Fans, old and new, should now be on the lookout for announcements and a bunch of funny Tik Toks from the artist.