Derek Debru
©african crossroads 2019

Derek Debru

Music is ubiquitous and an essential fabric of life. It's rare to find a moment of absolute silence.

A music lover, Derek Debru transported underground culture from Europe to Uganda. He is best known as the co-founder of the Nyege Nyege festival.

Updated on 05/06/2020

2 min

Born in 1981 in Burundi, Derek Debru grew up in Belgium, where he studied political science, film and dance. In 2010 he set his sights on Uganda, where he founded a video production company and taught at the Kampala Film School.


From projects to meetings, he crossed paths with Arlen Dilsizian, a Greco-Armenian ethnomusicologist who would become his future associate. Together, the two Europeans went on to create the Boutiq Electroniq 2013 evenings, a programme for incubating artists in Kampala: they invite artists, students and music producers to watch films while creating space for the underground scene.


In 2014, Derek Debru founded the Nyege Nyege festival with Arlen Dilsizian, followed by the Nyege Nyege Tapes label in 2015. The festival’s growing success has led it to create a new digital label, Hakuna Kulala, in 2019.

Behind the Nyege Nyege festival lies the free expression of the “irrepressible desire to dance and move”. This annual four-day gathering, in the heart of the Ugandan forest near the Nile springs, aims to showcase the various forms of African electronic music, while promoting peace, love and joy.


By creating this festival, Derek Debru aims to shine a spotlight on African talent in underground music. A multicultural vision that is reflected in his open-mindedness and his work.

Between his Belgian influences and the rave culture that came from Europe, Derek Debru succeeded in establishing the Nyege Nyege festival as the most important musical event in East Africa.


Programming from all over the world attracts many Western artists, DJs and performers, from America (the American SHYBOI and Suzi Analogue), Asia (Chinese Kilo-Vee or Japanese DJ Scotch Egg) and Europe (German Bill Kouligas, Portuguese Cuidado and French Bamao Yandé).

  • 2010


    Derek Debru arrives in Uganda where he meets his future partner Arlen Dilsizian.

  • 2013


    He and his partner create the Electroniq Boutiq evenings.

  • 2014


    First edition of the Nyege Nyege festival in Uganda.

  • 2015


    The two partners create their Nyege Nyege Tapes label.

  • 2019


    Derek Debru and Arlen Dilsizian launch a new digital label, Hakuna Kulala.

  • 2019


    5th edition of the Nyege Nyege festival, from 5 to 9 September 2019.

The Institut français and the project

Derek Debru is a partner for the Africa 2020 season. 

Initiated by Emmanuel Macron, the President of the French Republic, the Africa2020 Season will take place throughout France (mainland and overseas territories) from December 2020 to mi-July 2021. It will be dedicated to the 54 states of the African continent. Find out more about the Africa2020 Season


Visit the Africa2020 Season website

L'institut français, LAB