13 Jan 2020 Story Education & environment

Building a musical movement from trash

Musician Shady Rabab had an idea: to get kids off the streets through making musical instruments from plastic waste.

Twelve months after winning the Young Champion of the Earth prize for Africa 2018, his project is a reality. He is working with children from vulnerable backgrounds and marginal communities to make beautiful instruments, and a community which comes together to make new melodies.

The Garbage Music project, by Rabab Luxor, uses art and creative expression to counter plastic pollution. It motivates youth to build their knowledge and increase their awareness about the challenges threatening the environment and how that impacts their lives.

It also provides them with tools and skills enabling them to turn waste into musical instruments. The project team designs workshops and classes to help the youth master different instruments, with the ultimate aim of playing music together as a band: the Garbage Music Band.

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“Twelve months ago, the Garbage Music Project was just an idea on a paper. The Young Champions of the Earth journey turned this project idea into a reality,” said Rabab.

“During this journey, I enjoyed being surrounded by experts who helped me develop the idea into a project, followed on every step, introduced me to new networks and increased my knowledge on the dangers facing our planet. More importantly, I felt being surrounded with care and I came out with some true friendships.

“Looking back and reflecting on the last 12 months alone, I can say that I am truly proud of how much was accomplished in such a limited period. Our project team trained more than 36 young girls and boys in Luxor, Egypt on how to repurpose garbage into music instruments in the first phase of the project,” he added.

“In the second phase, the team taught these children how to perform music and to play on these instruments. After months of training, together we have created a music piece which was turned into a filmed a video. It was released in September 2019 and received globally more than half a million views in only one week.”

The girls and boys targeted by the project did not have the opportunity to have a quality education and had no background in music or art. The project created one of the very few art spaces available in Luxor for young people, representing an opportunity for them for co-learn, share, experiment and have fun.

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“This project started off largely as an experiment,” explains Rabab. “Today, it is renowned and celebrated locally, nationally and even internationally for the educational, artistic and environmental messages and achievements.

“The results of the project have gone beyond our expectations. The environmental messages the project carries resonated with tens of thousands of people worldwide.

“The children who have been part of the project have been engaged and get inspiration through this work. Other children and their parents are approaching us asking to be included in future phases. We are receiving invitations to conduct trainings at schools in Egypt and across the Middle East and North Africa region.”

While Rabab says that his team are amazed and very happy with this rising interest in the project, they are currently trying to raise funds to ensure sustainability and ensure the team can respond to these growing demands.

“What was accomplished wouldn’t have been possible without the genuine and generous support of the team working at the UN Environment Programme, the CoalitionWILD and the Do-School. We are truly honored for the opportunity to have met and worked with them. They are for us like a family,” said Rabab.

United Nations Environment Programme’s Sustainable Lifestyles Officer Garrette Clark said: “The amount we consume is increasing exponentially for some. Yet we need to rethink how we meet our needs and live our aspirations in ways that are less impactful on our environment.

“We must consider what we really need, and design and buy products that will last longer, be used multiple times and enhance everyone’s well-being. Young entrepreneurs like Shady Rabab are showing the way. Inspired by available resources, he has created a new business model.”

Do you have what it takes to be a Young Champion of the Earth? Applications open in January. Pressing submit makes you part of our changemaker community – get involved and be part of the conversation on environmental change.

The Young Champions of the Earth Prize, powered by Covestro, is UN Environment Programme’s leading initiative to engage youth in tackling the world's most pressing environmental challenges.