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Joaquín Sánchez Gil andMiguel Guinea on stage with some of their instruments. Ñito Salas
Making a dustpan handle sound like a flute

Making a dustpan handle sound like a flute

Investigative musicians Joaquín Sánchez Gil and Miguel Guinea transform everyday objects into instruments which perform just like the real thing

Cristina Pinto

Friday, 24 March 2023, 12:43

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Mischievous yes, although above all - just like most kids - curious about the world. That is how Joaquín Sánchez Gil and Miguel Guinea remember their childhoods.

"I made instruments from old detergent bottles to play with my siblings and my cousins," Seville-born Miguel Guinea told SUR.

"I used to love taking things apart. I started playing clarinet in the local village band because of that - I loved all the different keys and the anatomy of it," said Joaquín Sánchez, looking back at his childhood in Almargen, in Malaga province, where he was born.

The two curious little boys did not meet until they both ended up studying at the Faculty of Education Sciences at the University of Granada. There, the pair put their curious minds together, which led to the creation of what is now known as Vibra-Tó: an educational musical project in which new instruments are created from everyday objects and even broken items.

When Sánchez Gil and Guinea met they never imagined that their lives would still be entwined twenty years later thanks to music.

"While studying for our degrees we worked on something that engendered this project, but we never imagined that we'd get so far", said Miguel Guinea.

They began performing live in 2006 and are currently going on national and international tours, showing how these everyday objects can be given a second life, producing a sound that leaves nothing to be desired when compared to the original instruments.

The instruments can range from the long handle of a dustpan made to sound like a flute, to an EQ visualiser made with a tin can, a mirror, and a balloon.

"They're unusual, unconventional instruments that are made out of waste materials. Dustpans that emit ancient melodies, jazzy shower heads, tin cans converted into guitars and tambourines, bottles, funnels, combs, tubes... they all make sounds!" explained the two musical investigators, who performed at SUR's recent Acción Solidaria gala.

Those present for their performance were blown away by Miguel and Joaquín's small but impressive performance, with some audience members commenting that they couldn't believe what they had seen.

One of Vibra-Tó's strengths is the ability to wow their audience. "For a long time, people were fascinated by screens but now that we're surrounded by technology and everything has become digital, a balloon or a piece of rope can be more interesting; it's a sort of return to analogue," said Joaquín Sánchez.

"The foundation of our shows lies in the spectacle that we create not only with music, but also with science experiments that we create by manipulating all the various elements that we work with. These days we're too informed and excessively digitised but there are objects all around us that we can use in so many ways," added Guinea.

Their passion and curiosity remains intact. "For us, this is like bringing together everything that we like into one big idea: ecology, world music, acoustic physics, travel... Put all of these things into a cocktail shaker and you get Vibra-Tó; we're formatting our passions into a way of life. Furthermore, we're working with something real because a stick or an empty tube are simple things; there are no hidden truths or deeper intentions like an internet app might have," explained the Malaga musician and investigator.

Children and teachers

Their love for world music and instruments comes to life in their concerts, workshops for teachers and children, talks, and TV and radio appearances. "The most educational component of our group is our work with schools and music collges. We also work in the world of theatre and on marketing campaigns for some brands," they added.

"We always make it a collaborative experience to be shared with the audience, bringing people on stage to participate in the experiments. We're currently training teachers in the Teatro de la Maestranza in Seville so that they can build instruments at their schools. After that, we organise a show for the children to show off the instruments that they created," they explained.

This is how Sánchez Gil and Guinea make music: giving a second life to everyday objects that people see all the time without thinking of the sound they could make.

Objects like the dustpan handle that can imitate a flute, the funnel that sounds like a trumpet, or the tin can that forms part of a new sort of "guitar".

"All of this is down to curiosity, always wanting to learn more," concluded Sánchez Gil.

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