Transforming Trash into Music and Hope: the 2014 Landfill Harmonic Tour
"People realize that we shouldn't throw away trash carelessly. Well, we shouldn't throw away people either."
The world generates about a billion tons of garbage a year. The people most impacted by this seemingly endless mass of waste are the poor– like the people of Cateura, Paraguay, who live on an enormous landfill.
Cateura, just outside Paraguay’s capital of Asuncion, rests on a sea of garbage, and the people who reside there eke out their living from it. Every day tons of trash is dumped in the city, and members of the community sustain themselves by picking out pieces of trash to recycle and to sell. In this area more than 40% of children do not finish school because their parents need them to work in the landfill.
A few years ago one of the trash pickers, an untutored genius who goes by the name “Cola,” got together with local musician Favio Chavez to make instruments for the children of the slum. There was no money for real instruments, so together they made instruments from trash. Violins and cellos were created from oil drums. Flutes were created from water pipes. Spoons and guitars were created from packing crates.
The goal for providing this musical outlet was to keep the children of Cateura out of the landfill. And because the instruments were made from recycled materials, the kids could safely carry them and not be concerned about being robbed.
Together, with support from the community, Favio and Cola slowly put together an orchestra entirely made of garage. This group of musicians came to be known as “The Recycled Orchestra” and "Landfill Harmonic." Filmmakers Alejandra Nash, Juliana Penaranda-Loftus, and Rodolfo Madero decided to make a documentary about the group, and after launching this short, inspiring preview on the internet, the Landfill Harmonic gained a huge following on social media networks:
After the preview's popular release, the orchestra was invited to play events around the world. The feature-length documentary, which wrapped up filming in October of this year, follows the Landfill Harmonic on its world tour as it inspires and uplifs audiences through the transformative power of music, while bearing witness to the impact of extreme poverty, combined with a growing global waste problem .
The orchestra’s recent fame has even more families and children in the community eager to join, and more children are now enrolling for music classes. The social media success of the Landfill Harmonic trailer has created a great deal of demand for screenings of the full-length documentary, as well as new invitations for the orchestra to perform. As a result, the orchestra is planning a 2014 tour of Recycled Orchestra Performances, accompanied by a screening of the documentary. Proceeds from the orchestra’s performances will go to a fund that provides small no-interest loans to Cateura families to repair homes or build extra rooms. Health and environmental organizations in Kenya, Mexico, and Haiti, have expressed interest in launching similar projects in their countries.
What You Can Do
Support the Recycled Orchestra directly and help pay for music lessons, instruments, and other costs. 100% of your donation goes to the project.
Ask about a documentary screening in your community.
Support the Creative Visions Foundation, the organization that helped fund the story about the Landfill Harmonic, as well as provide production and outreach services, pro-bono legal, public relations, and strategic partnerships.
Volunteer for the project.
Share the story of the Recycled Orchestra and help to inspire more people to get involved.