Music, wrote Claude Lévi-Strauss, is “a machine to suppress time.” In Korogocho, one of Nairobi’s largest slums, music often helps to suppress space, to make people forget the squalor and violence, to heal the wounds of the soul, and in some cases to open a door toward a future which, for those born on the edge of the huge open dump that has become the symbol of the slum, wasn’t even possible to dream of.
Until 2008, few people in Korogocho had ever heard a piece by Bach or Beethoven played live. That was the year a young Kenyan decided to found a classical music program for children and adolescents in the heart of the shantytown, right next to the dump site. Some of those children have now gone on to something else they had never heard of — attending the Nairobi Conservatory — and are on a path to becoming professional musicians. Even for those who don’t dream of such a future, music is an opportunity to escape the intensity of life in Korogocho.