Mexico City has always been a very musical city to me. People peddle their wares and services in the street through song—the man who will sharpen your knives has a very particular whistle he blows, and the prerecorded tape loop of the vendor selling Oaxacan tamales is unmistakable. I began learning the violin when I was six years old but had not played much after high school. However, Mexico City had a way of waking up my musical soul and I played in several groups while living there—a mariachi, a balkan-inspired band, and a mexican folk troupe. Sonidos Desechables (Disposable Sounds) was a project that united my interests in music and visual art.
I had first arrived at the FARO (Fábrica de Artes y Oficios) de Oriente, located in the marginalized municipality of Iztapalapa, the year before as an artist-in-residence to paint a mural. I fell in love with the atmosphere and the people who frequent this incredible arts center—literally, as the name of the place in Spanish implies, a cultural lighthouse in the middle of a seemingly unending urban sprawl.
For Disposable Sounds (Sonidos Desechables), I teamed up with my friend David Escobar from the collective Reciclarte to lead a workshop on the creation of musical instruments made from recycled materials. We had all the materials we needed at hand because on Wednesdays, the FARO is surrounded by a blocks-long outdoor flea market where people sell objects mostly pulled out of the garbage. (Mexico City’s gargantuan open air dump is nearby, so many people in the neighborhood make money by finding things of worth within the mess.) I taught the children to play simple rhythms on their instruments, and several students were inspired to rewrite classic songs with a recycling theme. Dressed to impress in their garbage costumes, we performed in the FARO’s blackbox theater to a standing ovation of proud parents.