The Congolese music band, Fulu Muziki, shot to the center of public attention in 2019. Their message was simple — they generate music from garbage and that is the literal translation of the name of their music band in the local dialect.
Producing their music from the dumpsite means they crafted their musical instruments, costumes and masks from the garbage they have recycled. According to Song Lines, their journey began in 2003 when Kinshasa music artist Pisko Crane started scavenging on the mountains of Ngwaka street rubbish.
Ngwaka is an urban settlement with a population of 16,000 which generates 10,000 metric tonnes of garbage on daily basis. It was a city that was battling with its growing domestic waste and threatening the health and the very existence of the community.
Together with his wife and his dedicated eco-friendly Afro-Futuristic team, Crane created the project which became known as Fulu Miziki. They began with building art from the trash and documenting its impact on Ngwaka on camera. He was assisted by Belgian filmmaker Renaud Barret to organize a workshop to share their challenges and inability to purchase or rent instruments to amplify their message.
He said they were also at a crossroads regarding how to reinvent themselves in the face of tough competition among traditional musicians in Kinshasa and become relevant globally. The first step they initiated was to create their own rhythm and music style. They had over 30 compositions which they had recorded at the studios. They added a touch of an issue of major worry to them which was in the costumes they used for their performances. They rehashed what they wore on stage from the garbage that was littered on their streets and dumpsites.
Locally, many did not understand the ideology they sought to preach. But, it caught up with the public when they embarked on musical tours in the United Kingdom and the United States. They took it an inch further by manufacturing their own musical instruments from discarded materials they picked from the dumping grounds.
They made drum sets from abandoned oil canisters and built other instruments from PVC tubes they joined to wood and worn-out flip-flops. Their goal was to raise the consciousness of the people of Ngwaka who were literally being submerged in filth.
Fulu Muziki music transcends making people happy with melodious tunes and sounds. It is about activism to rally the people to help maintain the city and keep it clean. The dream is to wage a campaign that will get city authorities to institute proper agencies to undertake recycling to offer inspiration to the people.
This message was embedded in their music and lyrics. At their own level, the group has made recycling garbage a hobby. There is the appetite to make their own instruments from garbage and reinvent their fashion trends from the discarded materials they pick on a daily basis from the streets.
Fulu Miziki believes in the idea of turning waste to the benefit of mankind. They hope to raise consciousness on the significance of waste management throughout Africa.