If you close your eyes and listen, the sound of Orquesta Reusónica Trio is pleasantly familiar.
The Barcelona-based group defines their sound as “world jazz”. Rocco Papía plucks the strings, Antonio Sanchez Barranco handles percussion and Xavi Lozano is the master of wind instruments.
But when you open your eyes, the spell is broken. You realise that instead of a guitar, Papía is playing a surfboard fitted with strings. The ‘thump, thump’ emanating from Barranco isn’t made by a drum, but a plastic jug filled with water. And Lozano’s dulcet whistling is actually coming from a metal crutch.
“This is not the strangest instrument I’ve made,” Lozano told Euronews Culture. “But it’s the first one - my grandfather’s crutch. He broke his femur in 1992 and from that moment on, well, I play his crutch”.
Other jaw-dropping instruments include a flute made out of the wheel from a wheelchair, a xylophone made out of plastic soda bottles and a sort of banjo made from a polystyrene box and some elastic bands.
The band’s raison d’être is finding new ways to produce high-quality music, using salvaged objects that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill.
It’s more than a gimmick, says Papía, the group’s founder. For him, the band is taking the age-old practice of instrument-building and adapting it to the modern age.
“I think in reality we’re not really doing anything new,” Papía told Euronews Culture. “Human beings have always built and made instruments using what was around them. What is new is the materials we’re using”.
The first instruments in recorded history were made from discarded animal bones, Papía points out. These days, our discarded objects happen to be made from man-made materials like plastic or metal.
Lozano says that plastic tubing is one of the main materials he uses to make flutes and other wind instruments.
“At least for making instruments, plastic is very good because you take it out of nature and it’s not single use,” he said. “You’re going to play it your whole life. We’re all going to die and this instrument will be just like it is today”.
New sounds for a new world
On top of the musical element of their group, Orquesta Reusónica Trio is also dedicated to raising awareness about living a more sustainable lifestyle through a workshop called “New Sounds for a New World”.
The musicians host a workshop where they show children how to create instruments from rubbish.
“Through this process of transforming an object, the idea is to communicate a vision of the world where objects don’t become rubbish so quickly,” Papía said. “That’s why we call it a new world, because it’s a world made with a more sustainable and ecological vision”.
Papía says his vision for the future has become a bit grey, but that he hopes to make a small difference by exchanging with audiences through “good music that talks about real issues”.
“I don’t think any artist today can afford not to talk about these things,” he said. “The artist, the intellectual, has to take responsibility for the historical moment we’re living in”.
For Lozano and Barranco, the goal is to change audiences’ perspectives on what music can look like.
Lozano says that when he plays one of his peculiar instruments, the object is taken out of its context and it becomes almost invisible as people instead focus on the sound.
“If someone closes their eyes, they stop seeing the object and focus on the music,” Lozano said. “That means the object is important, but at the same time it’s not important. I am still in the process of understanding what that means”.
“Music doesn’t have to be something serious and strict and boring,” Barranco says. “It can be a fun thing you can do with the things that are around you, the objects you have in your house”.
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