#511 Glorious music from recycled-trash instruments

Landfill Harmonic

Photo clip from the teaser for Landfill Harmonic

The biggest garbage dump in Asuncion, Paraguay, is more than a place where recyclers sift through other people’s trash. It is also the home of one of the most inspiring young orchestras on the planet.

The musicians who play with the Cateura Orchestra of Recycled Instruments have breached the gate that could bar them from orchestral music: money. These young people cannot afford to buy instruments, but some clever and proud workers at the dump have learned out how to make them.

In the teaser for the documentary, “Landfill Harmonic”, we meet 19-year-old cellist Juan Manuel Chavez. The materials for his instrument came from an oil barrel and bits of wood, a beef tenderizer and a piece of a wooden gnocchi maker. It looks like what it is, an oddball musical instrument, but it has the resonance of a cello made from traditional materials.

Musician and sound engineer Favio Chávez says in the film that in a community like Cateura a violin would cost more than a house. So the trash collectors salvage usable bits and pieces and form them into the instruments of an orchestra: violin, viola, cello, double bass, guitar, flute, saxophone, percussion instruments.

The Cateura Orchestra of Recycled Instruments has toured in Europe and South America. In 2012 the group participated in the Forum on Social Entrepreneurship and Rio+20 in Rio de Janeiro. Chávez told the forum:

We want to prove that dreaming is not only for wealthy people from the upper classes. A poor child can dream too. Traveling to Rio is a dream come true for these kids. Having their voices heard at such an important event is a challenge that will help their self-esteem and confidence.

Close your eyes. Listen. Prepare to be astonished. Under the tutelage of Favio Chávez, these young people make music that opens a vision of a world in which all dreams are honoured, all children given the opportunity to explore their talents.

As Chávez says in the film’s teaser (translated from Spanish), “People realize that we shouldn’t throw away trash carelessly. Well, we shouldn’t throw away people either.”

Learn more about the orchestra and the film:


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Burton - December 12, 2012

Thank you for this Cathryn. I have no words. It brought tears to my eyes…

    admin - December 12, 2012

    I confess I’ve watched it half a dozen times – with tears in my eyes each time. Glad it had the same effect on you, Burton.

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