In Paraguay, the most unlikely orchestra in the world has risen out of the slums. Or how recycling once again proves it can perform miracles.
Usually when we think about waste, our minds associate it with the noise of a garbage truck or glass breaking in containers. A Mozart serenade or a Beethoven symphony don’t really spring to mind. But recycling is only limited by our imagination. The proof - a Paraguayan orchestra playing the most beautiful pieces of classical music with instruments made from trash. If we add that the 40 musicians are all under 20 and come from the poorest slums in the country, the story is almost a fairy story...
Once upon a time there was a place called Cateura on the outskirts of Asuncion - a slum housing 25,000 people on a huge landfill site where trucks empty tons and tons of garbage every day. To distract the children starting on a life of crime, a local musician, Favio Chávez, had been giving music lessons in Cateura for several years. Limited by the high cost of instruments, he could have thrown in the towel, but that would have been without taking into account the resourcefulness of Nicolas Gomez nicknamed "Cola", a municipal employee working on the landfill site. Together they came up with the idea of making instruments from waste.
A cello made from an oil can and a gnocchi maker
The people there have always rummaged through the trash looking for things that could improve their lives - but they were far from imagining an entire orchestra could emerge. In the hands of Nicolas and Favio, old oil drums become violins or cellos, pipes and spoons make flutes, and packing cases become guitars. "The instruments make the same sound as professional instruments," says Favio. 19 year old "Bebi’s” cello is made from an oil can, recycled wood and old kitchen utensils – and he uses it to play Bach!
"The world sends us garbage. We send back music!”
Children soon wanted to join the project, and with the support of the whole community the most improbable orchestra in the world was born - the Cateura recycled orchestra. Its slogan is: "The world sends us garbage. We send back music!" Since then, the orchestra has toured throughout Latin America and more recently in Spain. In 2014, it was even invited to open the heavy metal group Metallica’s concerts during its South American tour.
In March 2015, Landfill Harmonic, a documentary retracing the history of the orchestra will be released in cinemas.