No matter how far from home you may find yourself, one thing you’ll always have is your music. The group Congo to Akron, a band comprised of resettled Congolese musicians on North Hill, proves this to be true as the band began making music using plastic buckets.
However, just in time for Congo’s Independence Day, Tommy Bruno, general manager of Akron radio station “The Summit FM,” arranged for a full drum kit to be donated during the holiday celebration at Patterson Park’s Community Center. Thanks to the station’s used instrument donation program “Music Alive,” Congo to Akron performed their second live show ever with the help of the brand new drums.
Bruno’s neighbors Gary and Rachael Post donated the drum set to Music Alive. At the same time, Liz Walters, community outreach coordinator of International Institute of Akron, contacted Bruno and told him about the Congolese band that used plastic buckets for drums, Congo to Akron. Gary called it serendipity.
The band formed just four months ago despite their equipment limitations. Ernest Esube, Congo to Akron drummer, said their group came together under the mission to help preserve their culture as the Congolese community grows in the North Hill neighborhood.
Lead guitarist for Congo to Akron, Petro Byamungu, said the band is like a family as they take on their new lives in Akron together. Their hope is that their children will have knowledge of their heritage as they grow up in Akron.
International Institute on Akron case manager Rollin Mukanza works with the band to help connect them to Akron outside of the refugee community. He says the band still needs more guitars and mic stands. Byamungu also expressed the need for a space to practice as the band takes turns hosting practices at their homes. They’re eager to take on more shows as they gain recognition.
North Hill got to celebrate Congo’s independence this year by bonding over food, laughter and music created from new drums. Congo to Akron’s initiative succeeded as children danced together to the music of their roots.
“Right here, this is the reason for America, so we can see cultures coming together,” said Congo to Akron vocalist Wilonja Kipanga.
To donate musical equipment or other resources to the group, email [email protected].