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Paraguayan Children Make Music with Trash


Last week, musicians from around the world gathered in Texas for the South by Southwest film and music festival. Perhaps the most unusual performers at the event were a group of teenagers from Paraguay. Their musical instruments were made of trash – objects that had been thrown away. The body of a cello, for example, is made from an old oil can. The neck of the cello is a piece of old wood. In fact, every instrument these young musicians use comes from recycled trash.

The performers come from a poor neighborhood in Cateura, Paraguay. The neighborhood is near a garbage dump, or landfill.

Sixteen-year-old Ada Rios has been playing violin for four years.

“When I entered the music school, the instrument that I liked the most was the violin and I have never been sorry for choosing it.”

Music teacher Favio Chavez thought of the idea for the group several years ago. With help from the community and money from outsiders, he started the Recycled Instrument Orchestra of Cateura.

The orchestra plays many kinds of music. But Mr. Chavez says classical music is the most important because it requires musicians to work hard and follow rules.

“It is a value that is fundamental. Without discipline it is very difficult to play classical music.”

Alejandra Amarilla is a Paraguayan who lives in the United States. She made a documentary film about the orchestra. The film, called “Landfill Harmonic,” played at the South by Southwest festival.

“Unfortunately, these children live in a community near the landfill. That is their reality. But through music they are transcending their own environment. They are traveling, they are getting education.”

To get the money to finish the film, producers put a short video or “teaser” of the orchestra on the Internet. The online teaser helped raise money for the film and the orchestra.

“After the teaser came out, a lot of people came through and donated from all over the world…donated instruments for them. So now they do have some formal instruments, but they keep playing with the recycled instruments because it is sort of their message to the world.”

She says the film and the young musicians show the power of human determination to get past difficulties.

“Out of a need, they created something beautiful.”

The “Landfill Orchestra" won an audience response award at the South by Southwest festival.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

VOA Correspondent Greg Flakus prepared this story. Adam Brock wrote it for Learning English. The editor was George Grow.

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Words in the Story

landfill n. an area where waste is buried under the ground

fundamentaln. forming or relating to the most important part of something

discipline n. control that is gained by requiring that rules or orders be obeyed and punishing bad behavior

donate v. to give (money, food or clothes) in order to help a person or organization

determination – n. a quality that makes you continue trying to do or achieve something that is difficult

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