For the members of Latin Latas, there’s no trash, just treasures. This Bogota-based band makes instruments out of recycled rubbish. The band members use concerts and workshops to raise awareness about environmental issues, especially amongst young people.

In 2011, Andrea Defrancisco and her three bandmates, who were all passionate about music and the environment, launched the band Latin Latas, which roughly translates to “Latin tin cans”.

Defrancisco has remained at the centre of the band, but, in the years since, the other members have changed. The band has also tackled a variety of musical styles, from rock to jazz to cumbia to reggae, to name a few.

Lately, Latin Latas has been doing a lot of folk and electro. Defrancisco writes the majority of their songs (about diverse environmental themes including water, bicycling, and seeds). The three other bandmates specialise in guitar, percussion, and wind instruments, respectively.

"Sé" ("I know") was one of the band’s first songs. (Video posted on the Latin Latas YouTube page.)

Photo posted on the Latin Latas page Facebook.


"Even without money, we can do a lot of things”

We created the band to raise awareness about environmental issues, not just through our words – like most musicians do – but through our actions. Our commitment to making instruments out of recycled rubbish shows that there are solutions right at our fingertips to address problems linked to over-consumption like the vast amounts of rubbish produced by society.

Actually, we believe that rubbish doesn’t exist; for us, other people’s trash is actually just a resources for creating things. The other message that we want to share is that it is possible to create things even without money. Not everyone has the means to buy a regular musical instrument, but it is possible to make one out of practically nothing.

From plastic to scrap metal to wood, Latin Latas uses all different kinds of rubbish to make instruments (along with musical material.)

"Estrato Trasher II" : an electric guitar made out of an old wooden bookshelf, a dialysis machine found at a scrap merchant’s, recycled springs and plastic bags. The microphone comes from the Colombian parliament building.

"Hoponoponófono" : a ukulele made out of wood from old furniture and the flooring of an old house, a old box of Swiss chocolates and crisp packets.

"Marimbotella" (a play on the words "marimba", a kind of xylophone, and "botella", which means "bottle"): an instrument made out of old soda bottles and bicycle valves.

SécafonoFX" (a play on the word "secador", which means hairdryer): a microphone made from a hairdryer.

"TeleControlpad": a controler (a device used by a DJ to manipulate his or her software) made out of computer keyboards, buttons from various machines and a 1970s television set.

“Tubotellas" (a play on the words "tube" and "botellas", which means bottles): Drums made from cloth-covered cardboard tubes and bottles. 

"We invent musical instruments"

Defrancisco says that the group doesn’t just imitate, they invent.

We make instruments that resemble existing instruments, but we also invent instruments depending on the kind of music that we want to produce. That said, even if we try to imitate existing instruments, playing them is always going to be a different experience for our musicians. Our instruments are usually heavier, the strings aren’t always located in the same place and the sound is always different.

Latin Latas puts on concerts several times a month. Most are held in different locations in Bogotá (in festivals, schools, universities, and the offices of NGOs and businesses). The band usually charges a small fee so as to keep developing its workshops and other activities.

We often hold workshops to teach people how to make musical instruments. We like working with young people. Currently, we are running a project called "Sinfonia Reciclada – Paz con la naturaleza" ("Recycled symphony – Peace with nature") with children who are victims of armed conflict.

The "Sinfonia Reciclada – Paz con la naturaleza" project. Video posted on the Latin Latas Youtube page.

“Because we hold workshops in different places, we don’t always have very much material available, except for soda bottles. That’s why soda bottles have become a pillar of our work. They are the main component of "marimbotellas".

During our workshops, I always ask children where water comes from. Very often, they say “the faucet!” They don’t really have much awareness of the environment.


The "marimbotellas" are a Latin Latas favorite. (Video posted on the Latin Latas Facebook page).

Last year, we were extremely lucky because a construction company gave us a house, located in a central neighbourhood in Bogotá. We named it the "Casa cultural". Before, we didn’t have our own space. Now it is much easier to organise workshops and record our songs. In the future, we’d like to make our space available to organisations or individuals who want to organise workshops on the themes that we are so passionate about.

The band holds regular concerts, most often in Bogotá. (Video posted on the Latin Latas Facebook page.)
Latin Latas is not the only band that uses instruments made out of rubbish. There are similar initiatives in both Paraguay and Italy.
Article written with
Chloé Lauvergnier

Chloé Lauvergnier , Journaliste francophone