The initiative, called Music for Recycling, involves an inventive orchestra that brings together youths from deprived homes, who play with instruments made from materials that would’ve otherwise ended up in a landfill.
Turning trash into melody
Among the orchestra’s members is Cristina Vazquez, a Roma teen who grew up in a poor neighborhood in Madrid. While Vazquez never imagined herself playing an instrument, today she is the orchestra’s first violinist, playing a violin made from colorful soda cans.
Other instruments in the orchestra include a string bass that has an old skateboard as a body, while the ensemble’s drums are made from plastic barrels. “I am really happy, because it has changed my life a lot,” says 18-year-old Vazquez.
The project was founded by Spanish environmental group Ecoembes, and took inspiration from Paraguay’s Cateura orchestra, which was made up of musicians from a slum who play instruments made from discarded rubbish, reports euronews.
Ecoembes invited the Cateura orchestra to perform in Madrid in 2014, and since then, “the group decided to found its own similar ensemble that same year,” says the director of the project Víctor Gil.
Being part of the orchestra is like “being in a family, and doing what pleases us most,” says 18-year-old Luis Miguel Munoz. The orchestra had a huge impact on Munoz’s life, who says that it helped him stay on the right path in a neighborhood like Vallecas, which has a high school dropout rate. “Instead of meeting up with friends, I preferred to listen to music, play it, and little by little it became a way of life,” says Munoz who sees himself becoming a professional flamenco percussionist.
After having performed in cities across Spain, the orchestra has now helped four of its members get scholarships at music schools and public conservatories, says Víctor Gil. At the same time, more than 100 children are taking music classes from members of the orchestra as part of the Music for Recycling project.
Luthier Fernando Soler is behind the making of the instruments. Using cans, wooden boxes, cutlery and parts of discarded instruments, he tries to make the instruments as close to their “normal” shape as possible, so the children won’t have difficulty playing music on conventional equipment in the future.