The “Music of Recycling”: in Madrid, changing the lives of disadvantaged young people

(AFP) – “It has completely changed my life”. Cristina had never imagined playing the violin. In Madrid, disadvantaged young people, threatened like her with social exclusion, have found a “family” in an orchestra that plays with instruments made from recycled waste.

They sound and create a perfect harmony, this multicolored violin made of cans, this skateboard transformed into a bass and this timpani made of plastic cans.

It is the “Music of Recycling”, a project that wants to give “a second chance” to both waste and underprivileged children in the Spanish capital.

“I lived in a slum” and “when I got to know the orchestra, it opened me up to the world (…) I had never left my neighborhood, I had never been to the center de Madrid, “Cristina Vázquez, of gypsy origin, who, at 18, is first violin and second in order of importance after the conductor, told AFP.

“I am very happy because it completely changed my life”, assures this young girl with long black hair and light eyes who joined the ensemble without much conviction at the age of 12, when it was imposed on her by her school in the modest district of Vallecas. From now on, there is no question of leaving the orchestra.

“I don’t know if I’m going to become a professional musician (…) but I’m sure I want to continue giving lessons to the smaller children” of the orchestra, she confides. “It makes you really proud when a little girl comes to see you and says: + when I grow up, I want to be like you +”.

– “An escape” in the face of problems –

The orchestra allowed Luis Miguel, known as “Luismi”, Muñoz to escape the risks of school absenteeism and running away, which are very present in a district like Vallecas.

“Instead of meeting friends, I felt that I preferred to listen to music, to play it, and little by little I took that as a way of life”, explains this tall young man of 18 years with short and bleached hair. , for whom belonging to an orchestra is like “being with your family and doing what you like the most”.

Music “allowed me to escape from the problems of life”, explains “Luismi”, who already sees himself in a few years as a teacher of the “little ones” of the orchestra and a professional “flamenco percussionist”.

– Springboard for a career –

This social project set up by the environmental NGO Ecoembes is inspired by the Cateura orchestra in Paraguay, in which poor children make instruments using garbage collected from the landfill next to which they live. They have given concerts all over the world, including Madrid.

In 2014, Ecoembes invited the Cateura orchestra to Madrid and wondered: “Why not here? Social and economic problems, we have them even closer”, remembers Víctor Gil, director of the Music of Recycling, created this year. that year.

The first concert took place just four months later and “the kids couldn’t play more than four notes in a row,” he recalls.

Now, after having played in several cities in Spain, “we have four young people who have obtained scholarships in official music schools and in public conservatories”, he rejoices.

After a shutdown caused by the pandemic, the orchestra was scheduled to give a concert Thursday evening in Madrid, but had to postpone it until next year due to the explosion in Covid cases.

In addition, more than 100 children from Vallecas and from the shelters of the NGO “Aldeas Infantiles” follow music lessons within the framework of the project.

Fernando Soler, the luthier, third generation of a family of musical instrument makers, applies himself to transforming cans, cutlery, wooden cases and pieces of abandoned instruments into violins, guitars and cellos, with the concern of make it as real as possible, so that they do not “slow down” the children in their musical learning.

Soler now hopes to be able to take over the instrument-making workshops he used to give to children, which have been suspended by the pandemic. His dream is that “the future recycling luthier is one of these young people”.