Shuffle: A Refugee-Run Akron Music School Introduces Its Sound To The Community

May 18, 2017

The Himalayan Music Academy in Akron's North Hill Neighborhood hosts a cultural event this weekend
Credit The Himalayan Music Academy

A music school founded by Bhutanese refugees in Akron’s North Hill neighborhood is introducing its sound to the greater community.

In this week’s Shuffle, Akron Beacon Journal music writer Malcolm Abram introduces us to The Himalayan Music Academy:

The Himalayan Music Academy started last year as a way for Northeast Ohio’s thousands of refugees to stay connected to their culture.

The school, located in a North Main Street building in Akron’s North Hill neighborhood, was founded by refugee Puspa Gajmer, 32. Born in Nepal, he spent 20 years at a refugee camp in Nepal beginning at age 5.

“The way he puts it, ‘My memories of Nepal are like a dream’ because he was so young. He went on to school and university and learned music. And he started teaching music at the refugee camp,” Abram says. 

Eventually, Gajmer and his wife settled in Akron and he began teaching music to other refugees in his home.

“He started gathering students and they said he should get more professional, so he did. And he got a building.”

The Himalayan Music Academy also has some American students and teachers. Abram says there’s a man who travels to Akron from Erie, Pa., every Saturday for tabla lessons.

Star power
The school also has a bit of Nepalese star power. One of the teachers is Sushil Bishwakarma, who is a professional bansuri player (bamboo flute).

"He’s got records. He’s toured Europe and Asia and he’s got famous Nepalese artists who have recorded his tunes," Abram says. 

In Akron, Bishwakarma and a few other musicians formed a band called Druk Fusion. “They play some traditional Nepalese and Bhutanese music. They play some more contemporary music and occasionally the theme to Titanic (“My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion).”

This weekend, The Himalayan Music Academy is having a coming-out party of sorts at Akron’s North Hill High School. The cultural event will feature live Nepali music, dances, bamboo ensemble, classical guitar ensemble and other shows. Druk Fusion will also be performing.