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Sounds of the world : Mr. Klaje, the Colombian path towards reconciliation through recycling

Mr Klaje was not just foun­ded in Cali, Colom­bia, by chance but as an over­lap of dif­ferent recur­ring issues affec­ting the coun­try and its towns. Colom­bia as a whole is on a fra­gile peace pro­cess which star­ted in 2016 after the violent inter­nal conflict the coun­try suf­fe­red, the Conflic­to arma­do inter­no de Colom­bia, which had, since its begin­ning in the 1960s, not only killed more civi­lians than figh­ters, but also dis­pla­ced indi­vi­duals, making the conflict the world’s second-lar­gest flow of inter­nal­ly dis­pla­ced per­sons. In the mid­st of the power vacuum left behind by the start of the tran­si­tion towards peace, Colom­bian towns have been affec­ted by orga­ni­zed crime, whe­ther it be gue­rilla, drug car­tels, armed gangs or other under­world acti­vi­ties, threa­te­ning once more the safe­ty of the popu­la­tion, alrea­dy poor and suf­fe­ring from under­nou­rish­ment, defi­cient food and defi­cient hou­sing. These fac­tors make music lear­ning and playing nei­ther affor­dable nor the prio­ri­ty. Added to these weights, Cali is overw­hel­med with its own ever gro­wing waste pro­duc­tion, main­ly recy­cled by the infor­mal sec­tor, or laid down in land­fills. Still, in the middle of Cali, a music band saw the situa­tion as an oppor­tu­ni­ty both to posi­ti­ve­ly use waste and to fight for peace. 

The band Mr. Klaje was for­med in 2010 by stu­dents of the Ins­ti­tute of Popu­lar Culture of San­tia­go de Cali. This group of stu­dents could not afford ins­tru­ments and thus star­ted to reuse trash cans as drums. Rai­sing awa­re­ness on the reu­sa­bi­li­ty of trash to create music ins­tru­ments came from their ambi­tion to asso­ciate their know­ledge and love for music with envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion. Their enga­ge­ment was roo­ted in the belief that any nega­tive situa­tion could be tur­ned into a posi­tive one.


Envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion was not the only side to their mis­sion. Dee­ply aware of the social unrest within their neigh­bo­rhoods, the band gra­dual­ly rea­li­zed that they had in their hands the power to pro­mote peace. Brin­ging music and art to the youn­gest was, as they hoped, the best means to ins­pire them and keep them off the streets.

Mr. Klaje thus desi­gned a work­shop for young­sters that teaches them how to recycle used mate­rials  and convert them into music ins­tru­ments. The work­shop first took place in 2018 in Quibdó, a place signi­fi­cant­ly struck by vio­lence, where Mr Klaje’s ini­tia­tive brought people from dif­ferent back­grounds toge­ther to create and make music. Brin­ging recon­ci­lia­tion through sha­red artis­tic acti­vi­ties stood as the pre­mise on which the group hoped to offer oppor­tu­ni­ties for chil­dren to stay away from gang violence. 

Since the ini­tial suc­cess of this work­shop, the band conti­nues to lead ini­tia­tives pro­mo­ting envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and social peace remai­ning very vocal, espe­cial­ly on social media. The head of the pro­ject Juan Manuel Gomez consi­ders Mr Klaje’s work cru­cial because it helps « trans­for­ming ima­gi­na­tions, bad prac­tices, and violent conduct » and thus hope­ful­ly can contri­bute to lea­ding com­mu­ni­ties towards « a more inte­gra­ted idea of peace and social equa­li­ty ».


These wills are expres­sed in their music as well, both through their lyrics and through their style. Their lyrics are com­mit­ted, with an intent to make lis­te­ners reflect on dif­ferent social but also envi­ron­men­tal issues. The range of issues is wide, so is their style, as it is open and fluid, a “Cha­tar­ra Groove” (Scrap Groove) as the mem­bers of the band define it. Their music can be seen as a mix of rap, funk, rock, sal­sa, reg­gae and many other Colom­bian musi­cal genres. All in all, their music is an explo­ra­tion of all sty­lis­tic pos­si­bi­li­ties with a single remai­ning cha­rac­te­ris­tic : the scrap, name­ly the recy­cled ins­tru­ments. Their pecu­liar sounds add fla­vor to Mr Kaje’s com­mit­ted music pieces pro­mo­ting a bet­ter future. 



The authors : Juliette Dhul­st & Lil­ly Fairier

Both second year stu­dents at Sciences Po Paris, the two authors have their own jour­ney with music. 

Explo­red more aca­de­mi­cal­ly on Juliette’s side with the lear­ning of the cla­ri­net from age 7, Lil­ly on the other hand remains an auto­di­dact for the pia­no and the ukulele. 

Pas­sio­nate stu­dents and dee­ply concer­ned with envi­ron­men­tal issues, their sha­red love for music reso­nates even more when music becomes a social tool to shape a bet­ter future.


This article is a result of a col­la­bo­ra­tive pro­ject bet­ween #Aux­Sons and Ale­jan­dro Abbud Torres Tori­ja, lec­tu­rer at Sciences Po Paris Cam­pus Reims, and regu­lar contri­bu­tor to #Aux­Sons. As part of the class “Sounds of the world : Music as mir­ror of the inti­mate and the col­lec­tive”, inter­na­tio­nal stu­dents from Sciences Po Paris Cam­pus Reims pre­pa­red articles pre­sen­ting contem­po­ra­ry music from dif­ferent parts of the world in connec­tion with recent socio-poli­ti­cal events.

Cet article en anglais est le résul­tat d’un pro­jet col­la­bo­ra­tif entre #Aux­Sons et Ale­jan­dro Abbud Torres Tori­ja, pro­fes­seur à Sciences Po Paris Cam­pus Reims, et contri­bu­teur régu­lier d’#AuxSons. Dans le cadre du cours “Sons du monde : la musique comme miroir de l’intime et du col­lec­tif” des étu­diants inter­na­tio­naux de Sciences Po Paris Cam­pus Reims se sont pen­chés sur les liens entre musiques des quatre coins du monde et enjeux sociopolitiques. 


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