Welcome to Week 2 of Hispanic Heritage month! This week is all about Latin music - but it may not be what you were expecting. There are a lo...

'Ada's Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay' - Read and Rise October 2020

Welcome to Week 2 of Hispanic Heritage month! This week is all about Latin music - but it may not be what you were expecting. There are a lot of well known types of Latin music like cumbia, merengue, reggaeton, rumba, salsa, samba, and tango. And we could spend months talking about them all! But today I'm going to share an amazing story about an orchestra from Paraguay. 

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The story starts in a little town in Paraguay called Cateura, where people lived alongside a large landfill. Most families spent their days digging through the landfill looking for things they could resell. Children were pulled out of school when they were old enough to help work in the landfill. It was not really much of a life. And then Favio Chavez arrived to work as an environmental engineer. When he saw all the children who lived there, he got the idea to begin teaching them music in his free time. But they ran into 2 problems: they did not have enough instruments for all the children and the children could not bring the instruments home to practice because quality instruments were worth a lot more than anything else in the town and would likely be stolen. So Chavez teamed up with Cola Gomez, a talented carpenter from the neighborhood, to create instruments out of things they found in the landfill. Fast forward and the Recycled Orchestra has grown and performed in other countries - even backing up Metallica and Stevie Wonder! Money the orchestra has earned in touring has gone into building safer homes for orchestra members and, maybe more importantly, children and the value of their education is more respected now in Cateura. 

I was so inspired by this story, the resourcefulness and the perseverance of everyone involved, that I HAD to share it. I hope you all love this story as much as I do!

Featured story: "Ada's Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay" by Susan Hood and Sally Wern Comport

Check out these videos as well!
Favio Chavez at TEDxAmsterdam (watch from 2:20-5:00 to see how they made several of the instruments) 

Activity: Throughout this week we will be making our own recycled instruments! First up, the cowbell! Cowbells are a percussion instrument used in Latin music and you can make one at home very easily! All I did was take a clean empty can and tape a cardboard handle to the top. You do need to find something thicker to tap the cowbell with - pencils are too thin and do not produce a good sound. I used a wooden toddler paintbrush but a drumstick or even thick stick found outside should work as well! 

We will probably paint the can later to make it a little more beautiful.

We found that simply holding the sides of the can while you play produces a nice deep sound. When your hand doesn't touch the can at all and just holds the handle, you get a more tinny echoey sound.

To play, I tapped the brush along the open end of the can. Feel free to experiment holding the bell in different ways and tapping in different spots until you find the sound you like best!

And if you can handle some loud cowbell (or have some earplugs handy), turn on this children's music video called "More Cowbell" by Joanie Leeds and let your kids jam along!