Instruments from Dustbins to Concerts

Turkish Groups Makes Music & Toys with Trash to Save Environment

Fungistanbul’s band encourages recycling through music.
Fungistanbul’s band encourages recycling through music.

Instruments from Dustbins to Concerts

In the Turkish city of Istanbul, three musicians collect what they can from the waste dumped in the city, which is one of the largest cities in the country, to use what they can to make musical instruments. Their effort aims to encourage recycling in a country suffering from a severe economic crisis coinciding with the continuous decline of the Turkish lira against foreign currencies.

The members of the music band “Fungistanbul” mainly collect empty cans, old lamps and some ropes, to be used later to make musical instruments after being recycled, something the group has been working on for years to urge residents to take advantage of things that are thrown in the trash and can be reproduced manually, one of the band members told Majalla.

The idea of ​​reproducing materials that were thrown into the trash came to the band more than two years ago, and they have already started recycling disposables in 2019. The team has since been aiming to “get string instruments that make sounds by recycling some wood, plastic and iron materials as well.”

The main band includes only 3 members, but their idea of recycling and making musical instruments spread to other places in Turkey, where other groups started making toys for children through recycling and offering them to children of families with limited income across Turkey.

Other groups also make models and materials used in decoration, such as "Al-Islah" club, which comprises different teams who try to provide a civilized product, as Onaranlar Kulübü, one of the founders of the Turkish club, describes.

Kulübü explains to Majalla about his project, saying: “It is basically a volunteer community that aims to do urban-oriented creative projects related to repairing, producing, and sharing. We motivate people to produce something good for their environment.”

“We launched an open call and gather motivated people around a problem that we want to solve by using their skills and tools, and share our experiences with society,” he added.

The owners of this project designed a cat house in 2020, and placed it in a garden in Kadıköy district in Istanbul. Al-Islah also has dozens of other collective initiatives, most of which took place in Istanbul.

The members of the first musical band called "Fungistanbul" also have a studio in Istanbul, where they use multiple instruments. Turkish media quoted another member as saying that they were surprised by the sound produced by an instrument made from materials that had been dumped in the dustbin.

A cat house designed by Al-Islah Club, and placed in a garden in Kadıköy district in Istanbul. (Photo courtesy of Onaranlar Kulübü)

"Fungistanbul" defines its music as a mixture of traditional music and funk, also known as "Trash Oriental".

The group’s activities coincide with the growing environmental concerns among the Turkish population, especially the youth, in addition to some "civil society" organizations, over Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's insistence on implementing the "Istanbul Canal" project. Opposition parties, civil society activists and Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu see the Canal as “a threat to environment and nature."

Turkish society's awareness of environmental issues has increased this year due to deadly floods and wild fires that turned 200,000 hectares of forests into ashes. The Turkish government, led by the Justice and Development Party, in alliance with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party, was unable to control the fires that broke out in the forests in the southwest and east of the country, in addition to other areas to the center and the north.

The members of the musical band are professionals who want, through their music and performance, to promote recycling and give a second chance to mostly plastic materials as well as clothes that have been thrown into landfills.

Up-cycling these materials and turning them into musical instruments takes a lot of time and imagination, Turkish media quoted one of the group's members as saying.

The trio's focus on recycling trash has resonated especially in Istanbul, a city of 16 million people which is bordered on the south by the Sea of ​​Marmara, of which large areas were covered by a thick layer of marine mucilage or what is known as "sea snot" during last spring.

This pollution, in addition to the wildfires and floods that hit the country during summer and which caused the loss of nearly 100 lives, prompted Erdogan’s government to impose the implementation of the Paris climate agreement that Turkey signed in early October 2016. The Turkish parliament ratified that agreement last October, after rejecting it for more than four years.

Since then, the Turkish opposition parties have warned against keeping this agreement as "a dead letter" and called on the government to adhere to and fully implement all of its provisions. This call was repeatedly emphasized by the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP).

The music band released two video clips, and is currently working on a third video clip in which they will use only scrap metal. A source in the band revealed to Majalla that they intend to create a video clip in which the musicians will use instruments made of metal only, just like those which they made from plastic and wood earlier this year.

The band holds periodic concerts and musical evenings in which newly made instruments made from consumable materials are played, but these instruments sometimes lose their musical balance during the concert as a result of playing on them for extended hours, one of the band players revealed.

These resulting discordant sounds indicate that more efforts are still required to develop these instruments and make the up-cycling process more professional.

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