The Cateura Orchestra of Recycled Instruments is made up of children and young people from Cateura, the biggest garbage dump in Asuncion, Paraguay. They play instruments made from recycled materials by collectors from the dump in the group’s music workshop. The group is directed by Favio Chávez, musician and sound engineer, who has worked in the area since 2004. The instruments mimic the sounds of the violin, viola, cello, double bass, guitar, flute, saxophone, and percussion instruments of an orchestra. The group’s repertoire includes classic, folk, Paraguayan and Latin-American music and even pieces by Frank Sinatra and the Beatles, among others.
The orchestra, whose members range in age from 12 to 20 years old will play a concert at the Forum on Social Entrepreneurship and the New Economy at 3pm on June 15. In addition to their normal repertoire they will perform Brazilian tunes, including Aquarela do Brasil, the Girl from Ipanema and Tico-tico no Fubá. “Our orchestra has performed in many countries but rarely have we had the opportunity to show our work at an event of discussion and analysis like the Forum on Social Entrepreneurship and Rio+20, in Rio de Janeiro”, said Chávez.
European and Latin-American Tours
Between 2006 and 2008, Chávez was involved in the Inter-American Development Bank’s Procicla Program, where he worked with several associations of collectors of recyclable materials. He began teaching music to the children of the collectors in his free time. He was the first music teacher for the children and young people in the area, who now make up the Cateura Orchestra of Recycled Instruments. Since 2008, the group has been on a number of tours through Europe and South America, some of which at the invitation of maestro Luis Szarán. Mr. Szarán has been developing music education programs for the children in underserved communities in Paraguay since 2002.
The orchestra has performed in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, England, Portugal, Spain, Costa Rica, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. In Brazil the group played at Iguaçu Falls (Paraná) in an event organized by Itaipu Binacional, also held in Asuncion. The orchestra’s creator explained, “We don’t want our orchestra to be seen as a gimmick, but rather a vehicle to present a new vision for sustainable development. We believe development should be a process that enables all people to reach their potential, develop their abilities, exercise their rights, improve quality of life (not only materially), and to be entrepreneurial.”
Instrument of Awareness
According to the maestro, access to culture is a human right that should not be available only to the elite. Through the orchestra he is able to demonstrate that it is possible to play classical music without instruments that cost ten million dollars and without studying at expensive universities and conservatories. “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”.
Chávez believes that participating in the Forum is also an opportunity to show, through music, that art can play an important role in sustainable development. “Changing people’s attitude, which is part of creating a sustainable economy, won’t happen simply by providing information, but also by affecting people’s sensibilities. It is not enough to know, things have to really make sense. In recent years I have discovered that music played on an instrument made of recycled materials has more impact than the best environmental theory. I hope to show this in Rio de Janeiro”, says the musician/environmental educator.