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The sound of garbage


The sound of garbage


Bogota | Colombia


The Latin Latas play all kinds of music, including traditional Colombian cumbia, and they play all kinds of things - their instruments are made completely from… rubbish.

Everything started when I was working in favelas with children with a lot of problems – says Andrea Latas, founder of Latin Latas -. I was teaching them music in a project about human rights and we didn’t have money for instruments. Instead, I found a lot of rubbish. I was always connected to nature, to Earth, to life. I worried about the environment and I matched this with my love of music: we started to make music caring about the environment at the same time. It was Christmas time. So we collected and “recycled” all Christmas songs, using the same words to sing something different. We went to various places in Bogota with our performance, it was very good. That was how the idea started. Then, with some more experienced friends, we started to create more things, guitars, but also some traditional Colombian instruments.

From the very beginning their project had two main focuses: education and environment.

We teach people, children and adults, to do instruments from their own rubbish, that’s the educational part. From the environmental point of view, people learn more about consumption and how to reuse things. In this country, with drug sellers, we have a culture of easy money. We are showing young people that money is not the only way. You don’t need money to create a rock band.

And they did it. Inspired by others and learning from the Internet.

There is a global cultural movement of groups playing on rubbish. There are many bands, but they don’t have other values behind. We started to experiment ourselves, searching things on the Internet and learning from our own mistakes. It is already eight years of cutting, putting things together… We reached the point of having very good sounds. Technicians at concerts at the beginning laugh at us, but then they come to apologize – they couldn’t believe a cardboard or a box after chocolates can sound this way.

Our interview was actually half speaking and half listening to her music. Andrea showed us all instruments around, being able to master them all. She sang from a microphone made with a hairdryer and a sound system which they also recycled from different electric cables. Even the cultural house where they seat and her private house are made according to the zero-waste philosophy.

My house is made from recycled things, rubbish. I have a solar panel, dry bath, organic garden and animals which I took from the street, 12 dogs. I live outside Bogota, I can't breathe the air of the city and I wanted to learn to produce food. We depend all the time on buying, on governments. We have to create our own way.

Andrea manages to be almost completely zero-waste, the only things she uses are her car (there is no public transport between her place and Bogota and for bicycle it’s too far), a bit of packaging (not always it’s possible to avoid it) and she consumes meat (after many years of being vegetarian, doctor told her she has to come back to meat if she wants to avoid her migraine). On the other hand, she produces her own cosmetics, clothes, jewels, furniture, and the house itself. But even a zero-waste life requires money.

As we work with rubbish and do social activities, people want us to do things for free. They invite us for festivals, they pay to everybody but to us they ask if we can volunteer. We have to fight so people value our work. We have to explain them: we also eat.

Fortunately, they got quite famous, both in Colombia and abroad. With concerts they are able to sustain themselves and the social work they do.

Next year we have a project with youth, they come from districts with low chances and we will teach them everything we know. To continue financially, besides concerts, we will do crowdfunding, young people will prepare instruments to sell. We will put guitars, marimbas, also instruments for Colombian folklore, flutes, everything with beautiful design. Young people come because they want, it’s an opportunity for them to learn something. We help them only with transport, giving them money for it. The rest belongs to them. It’s also a way to build peace, that’s an important part of our work. It’s not easy to work in such a divided country and I’m happy we manage to collaborate with both sides of the conflict. We worked with guerillas, partisans, we gave concerts during their meetings, they know our project and they like it. On the other hand, we worked for the president and government. We enter both worlds, being part of the change. There are no borders in our project and we also play different kinds of music, so different people can listen and find themselves. I don’t want labels. We played in native communities, in luxury hotels, poor neighborhoods. We have a different way.

A different way is usually quite a challenging choice.

Colombia is a huge country; I lived in a family with a lot of money, but I didn’t have access to them as my brother had, we are from different fathers. I didn’t belong to either of the worlds, I didn’t have money to belong to the world of the rich, but people from outside thought I had them so I couldn’t join them either. I was in between. I was observing the country we live in, with a lot of injustice and since I was a very small kid I wanted to help people. The rest of my family isn’t really that way. I’m an artist, the only one in my family. I listened to a lot of music, also rebel music. I wanted to send a message through music, change something. Those children I started to work with… it was terrible. One of the most difficult places, violence, aggression, social cleaning, militaries were killing them… We have to protect life, help other people to understand that we are all connected.

And the lack of connection is what makes people passive.

People are disconnected. We speak about the environment as something outside of us, but we are the environment! In which moment our brain lost the connection with life? With the planet? Everybody has it, animals are connected, they don’t think about it, they are part of the cycle.

Connect, then. And look inside.

Look inside, look at the emotions. I believe emotions are the driving force of life. Without them people cannot do anything. They cannot connect with life, they are like on autopilot. TV, politics bombard us with information, we are disturbed by them, too focused on what’s outside. Life is something more. The moment you look inside instead of outside everything starts.


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