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Posts Tagged ‘Paraguay’

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Photo: Landfill Harmonic
Tania Vera Hertz showing off her recycled violin in a documentary about poor kids in Paraguay.

Today’s story is about people in Paraguay who built instruments out of recycled materials and taught the children of impoverished landfill scavengers to play. That is the nugget, and a lovely nugget it is. But as I learned at Wikipedia, fame brought conflict among the adults involved. You can read about both aspects of the story below and see what you think.

Ken Jaworowski writes at the New York Times about the documentary Landfill Harmonic, which “starts in Cateura, Paraguay, an impoverished town outside Asunción, the country’s capital. There, at an enormous landfill, thousands of slum-dwellers support their families by sifting through trash to find things to sell.

“Favio Chávez, an environmental engineer, came to the area to help with a recycling program. That failed, but he stayed to teach music to children. Instruments were so scarce that Mr. Chávez, with help from a resident, Nicolás Gómez, created them from materials found in the garbage heaps. Those include violins made with metal cans, a cello built from an oil container and a drumhead fashioned from discarded X-ray film.

“Mr. Chávez and his students formed the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura and gained fame once video of their playing these scrappy instruments went online. Soon, children who’d never left their town were traveling the world to perform.

“It’s an inspiring tale — if it were fiction you’d dismiss it as unbelievable — and Brad Allgood and Graham Townsley, the directors (Juliana Penaranda-Loftus is listed as co-director), capture some endearing moments. …

“The children of Landfill Harmonic are wonderful to watch. A section in which David Ellefson, bassist for the metal band Megadeth, comes to visit them is downright adorable. (The orchestra later performs with the group at a concert, and it’s excellent.) Here and elsewhere we see barriers disappear — those between genres, cultures and languages become meaningless. For everyone involved, there’s nothing but joyous music.” More at at the Times, here.

Wikipedia adds history and describes an ongoing controversy about who started what when.

“The orchestra originated in the ‘Sonidos de la Tierra (Sounds of the Earth) program (created and directed since 2002 by Luis Szarán) and Procicla a recycling project of the Alter Vida NGO. Szarán founded the Sonidos de Cateura (Sounds of Cateura) music school on July 7, 2006, and its first workshop, sponsored by the geAm NGO to build recycled instruments, was held on May 24, 2007, luthier Carlos Uliambre. …

“The music school began with the recyclers’ children after Szarán donated ten guitars bought with proceeds from a tribute he received at Salemma Mall. A group of children between 8 and 12 years old from the Sounds of Cateura school was presented at the regional seminary of Youth Orchestras of Sounds of the Earth in Acahay [in 2006]. …

“The first group of Sounds of the Earth musicians with recycled instruments made their debut at the former Sheldonian Theater in Oxford, England as part of the Skoll Foundation’s World Forum of Social Entrepreneurs on March 26, 2008. …

“In October 2011, Sounds of the Earth announced on its Facebook page that Orchestra of Recycled Instruments coordinator Favio Chávez had left the program. Chávez announced the formation of the Recycled, with Sounds of the Earth musicians from Carapeguá and Cateura playing recycled instruments, two months later.” Lawsuits were in their future.

Wikipedia may have more information than you want about the ins and outs, but if you are interested. click here.

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