VIDEO: Children In Paraguay Create Music Out Of Trash


Life in Cateura, Paraguay, is tough. The neighborhood is built on a landfill and the people there make their living rummaging through the garbage for things to sell or reuse.

Now they’re using their skills to turn trash into beauty. They’ve started the Recycled Orchestra, in which local children play instruments made from trash. As this video shows, it’s not just a cute pastime. The instruments sounds like proper ones and the kids show real musical talent.

Now their efforts have caught the eye of some independent filmmakers who are working on a documentary about them called Landfill Harmonic. Check out their Facebook page and Twitter feed, for more information.

These kids are growing up in the depths of poverty and yet have made something out of their bleak surroundings. One of the girls in this video says she’d have nothing without her music. As their teacher says, “People realize that we shouldn’t throw away trash carelessly. Well, we shouldn’t throw away people either.”

Video: kalimba player in Malawi

One thing that consistently amazes me while traveling in Africa is how the people are able to create musical instruments out of just about anything. Take the kora, for example. This West African stringed instrument is made from a gourd and fishing line.

Another popular instrument is the thumb piano, or “lamellophone” for all you musicologists out there. It’s a small wooden plate or box with strips of metal of different lengths on it. These are plucked with the thumb to make different notes. A bit of scrounging in any African town can get you the parts for a thumb piano in less than an hour. Because they’re light and easy to make, they are popular with the griots, Africa’s wandering troubadours. They’re also popular with kids because it’s easy to learn the basics.

The thumb piano is called different names by different people, like kalimba or mbira. In Ethiopia, where I saw them being played, the instrument is called a tom. I bought one for my kid when he was five and he loves it. In fact, it was the first instrument he learned how to play. Unlike the recorder, which he’s learning now in school, nobody taught him how to play the tom, he simply figured it out for himself, and that’s much more fun.

Check out this video of a kalimba player in Malawi, who’s so good a bird starts singing along with him! I’d love to know the words to his song.

Musical instrument museum promotes global theme, locally

Musical Instrument MuseumThe Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona offers a look at the history of musical instruments from over 200 countries around the world. The interactive collection of instruments tells a story of musicians, instrument makers, recording studios, and musical traditions significant to our shared past, present, and future.

In 2012, the museum has a special focus on American Music. Specifically: music tagged to Arizona. A new exhibit includes artifacts, photographs, and audiovisual content designed to bring the subjects to life and ignite interest in the global, binding nature of music.

Some noteworthy objects in the I Am AZ Music exhibition include the gold dress worn by singer Jordin Sparks during the American Idol finale, instruments played by the Gin Blossoms and a double-neck guitar played by Duane Eddy on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” in 1960.

Typical of the past/present/future focus of the exhibit is an exact replica of a stage suit worn by rocker Alice Cooper in the 1970s, then also worn during the filming of Dark Shadows, a film slated to be released this year.

Also part of I Am AZ Music is an exhibit on Canyon Records, founded more than 60 years ago by Phoenix media pioneers Ray and Mary Boley, that highlights the production and distribution of Native American music. Another exhibit is dedicated to Floyd Ramsey, whose music studio hosted sessions in the 1950s by Duane Eddy, Waylon Jennings, Wayne Newton, and Alice Cooper.”Country fans will enjoy our tributes to Buck Owens and Waylon Jennings, while jazz enthusiasts are sure to love the exhibit centered on Russell ‘Big Chief’ Moore, a member of the Gila River Indian Community who played trombone with Louis Armstrong” said MIM curator Cullen Strawn.

Musical instrument
manufacturers of today that make Arizona their home are also featured, such as the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery, Navajo-Ute flute maker Aaron White, Yaqui drum and rattle maker Alex Maldonado, White Mountain Banjo Works, Phoenix Guitar Company, classical guitar maker Brian Dunn, and Apache fiddle maker Anthony Belvado.

To make the exhibit interactive, visitors are given wireless headsets to wear throughout the museum. Approaching each display, they can hear the instruments being played, either solo or as an ensemble. Audio and video clips familiarize guests with the unique sounds of each musical culture, allowing them to “share a common experience”, very much the global theme of the Musical Instrument Museum, brought down to local, street level.

“Somewhere, out there, on the farthest rim of the earth, a sound wails into the night” begins this short video from the museum proposing that “from our first breath music is the instrument of the soul”.


The museum is also opening an African Piano exhibit in February that will examine the sanza and its musical tradition among Central and East African story tellers, historians and ceremonial or ritual experts.

Photos courtesy Musical Instrument Museum