Close your eyes and listen to Juan Manuel Chavez launch into the Prelude of Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1, and you would never guess that, instead of spruce and maple, his instrument is crafted from an old oil can, a beef tenderizing tool, and a discarded pasta making device—all of it scavenged from the landfill that surrounds his home in Paraguay.
Chavez is a cellist in the Landfill Harmonic Orchestra in Cateura, an Asunción slum where bottle caps, door keys, and paint cans have been given new purpose. Under the supervision of local musician Favio Chávez, these utterly impoverished kids make beautiful music on instruments constructed almost entirely out of materials reclaimed from the dump.
Filmmaker and Asunción native Alejandra Nash first heard about the phenomenon back in 2009, and decided to produce a documentary about the kids—she and her co-producers are aiming for a 2014 release. She’ll have plenty of support. The teaser she posted online last November quickly went viral, with 2 million views on Vimeo, and nearly 1 million on Youtube. It’s inspiring. Check it out…
Now her project’s Facebook page has more than 125,000 likes. And a Kickstarter campaign Nash launched in April to help fund the film’s completion has raised almost $200,000, well over the $175,000 she’d asked for. Beyond funding post-production work, the additional money will help finance a world tour for the orchestra, and an expansion of what has come to be known as the Landfill Harmonic Movement.