Bach to the Future

An extraordinary music school inside Nairobi’s largest slum

Music, wrote Claude Levi-Strauss, is “a machine to suppress time”. In Korogocho, one of Nairobi’s largest slums, since some time ago music has also helped 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 is the symbol of the slum, wasn’t even possible to dream of.

Before 2008, in Korogocho no one had ever heard play a piece by Bach or Beethoven. That was the year when a young Kenyan decided to found a school of classical music for children and adolescents in the heart of the shantytown, right next to the dump site. Some of those children have now reached a place whose existence they didn’t even suspect – the Nairobi conservatory – and have before them a future as musicians. But even for the less talented, music is the only opportunity to suppress the time and space in which, in Korogocho, it is often too painful to live.