The rise and rise of Nep DJs

Nep DJs’ Habz, and Berto (right). / Courtesy

Formed in March last year, Nep DJs is arguably the most visible professional DJ unit on the Kigali corporate events scene today.

The unit is made up of 25-year-old Bertrand Kaysan Iyarwema, aka DJ Berto, and 22-year-old Habib Kamugisha, also known as DJ Habz.

The two may not be blood brothers, but thanks to their close professional collaboration, their growing legion of fans has christened them ‘twin DJs’.

You will frequently spot the duo donning matching outfits like caps, T-shirts, and jumpers, usually with the words ‘Nep DJs’ emblazoned on them.

Nep DJs is the latest offshoot of the ‘Nep Family’, a handful of sister companies that are all under the umbrella of RG Consult, a local creative, production, experiential marketing and events company that is behind the popular Kigali Jazz Junction music series. The other companies are; Neptunez Band, Nep Records, and Nep Films.

In just over a year of operations, Nep DJs has established its own footprint on the local DJ/music scene. There is a sense of professionalism, humility, and discipline that almost screams out at you from watching the two on set.

This particular factor has endeared the unit to the corporate events sector, making Nep DJs the premiere go-to choice for corporate product launches, activations, and promotions.

Their other strength is the ability to stage a flawless live DJ performance alongside a band, in much the same way as DJ Marnaud.

DJs Habz (left) and Berto behind the decks at the Heineken Pool Party at Cocobean Bar and Restaurant, last weekend. / Courtesy 

As Nep DJs, their first gig was playing at the launch of the Feel Mag at the Galaxy Hotel in Kiyovu in March last year. They have since graced several editions of the Kigali Jazz Junction, played at Seka Fest comedy show, DJ Pius’s Iwacu album launch, and product launches for Amstel Malt, Heineken, and Mutzig Class. Recently, they have been playing at New Car Wash in Kimihurura between Thursdays and Saturdays.

Earlier, the two had pursued separate but similar musical journeys before their paths crossed at Royal FM in 2016.

Born in Bujumbura, Burundi, Berto grew up in Rwanda in a family that loved music which offered him early inspiration. In 2011, while a student at the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village in Rwamagana District, in the Eastern Province, the opportunity to practice what he loved presented itself.

“They gave me a platform because they had all the music equipment. I started learning basic DJ software like Virtual DJ. In 2014, I met DJ Fla and asked him to teach me more, and he accepted. I started learning more advanced software and big machines until DJ Fla started finding me small gigs because he had a lot of work at that time. Towards 2015 he introduced me to the bosses at Rosty Club, and that’s when I started growing professionally,” he says.

In early 2016, Berto joined Royal TV as a DJ, but later on, started doing different live shows.

When the station closed down, he moved to Royal FM, and it is here that he met DJ Habz.

“I found that we had the same vision and we started discussing. We became very close friends and later brothers.”

2018, Nep DJs is born

“In early 2018 our radio contract ended, and that marked the rise of NEP DJs,” Berto recalls.

Through a contact at Royal FM, they met Remmy Lubega, Chief Executive of RG Consult with a view to discussing business.

“Before Nep DJs, we used to work together as DJ Habz and DJ Berto, but we were looking for good management,” Berto reminisces, adding, “He (Remmy) told us to write down a proposal stating how we would like to work with him. When we did, he appreciated everything.”

Born and bred in Kigali, DJ Habz attended Kigali Parents School for primary, Kagarama S.S for O’ level, and Lycee de Kigali for A’ level.

L-R:  DJ Habz and DJ Berto. / Courtesy

In 2013, while in S.3, he attended an event dubbed Unplugged Party, organised by KFM.

“I went with friends and we had a good time together. When the MC introduced the DJ, it was DJ Danches and he gave us music and I was really inspired. Back in school, I used to use my desk and my mouth to do some scratches and in 2014 started playing at some events, especially high school events.”

In 2015, he was approached by two friends and classmates to join their radio show, Royal Teens Time on Royal TV:

“They knew I wanted to be a DJ, so they invited me to join their show. They introduced me to Skizzy, formerly of KGB, and asked him to teach me more. He was down to earth and started inviting me to the studio during his show.”

In 2016 he met Berto, and the rest is history.

“We kept our brotherhood with the aim of one day working as a professional DJ unit. At first, we thought of calling ourselves Royal DJs, but later the TV was closed and Berto joined me on the radio. Then the contract expired and that is when we thought of professional management.”

DJ Berto’s parting words

“We stand for simply good music. Of course, hit music is good, but it doesn’t mean you need only hit music to play. There are many good artistes that people don’t know, but they have good music and people need to know it.”

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