I met Maro Alberte of Átiko13 in a meetup aimed at non-profit associations. We were sitting in a circle, telling everyone what we did, as in an Anonymous Alcoholics meeting. All of us were giving support to young, short path projects, but most were well focused and had made great strides in a short time.
Maro amazed me with her energy, which overwhelmed her eyes, her voice, and the way she moved her hands. At some point during her speech, as she explained her project, I thought she was very angry. But she was not: She was just excited telling us all about it. In little over a year, in Átiko13 they had managed to launch the “Batukátika” project, a percussion and batucada group with and for people with disabilities in the District of Puente de Vallecas (Madrid, Spain).
Her vision of music as a means of inclusive learning captivated me from the beginning. I approached her to ask for an interview for LearningLovers.org and she answered cautiously that she would have to consult with the assembly. After a few days, she gave me the nod and I embarked in the depths of Line 1 of the Madrid Underground, to reach the Pilar Miró Cultural Center, in the district of Vallecas, where they conduct their trials. Maro was there waiting for me, with Alejandro and Elena to let me listen.
The Birth Of The Idea
Alejandro: “All this began in the neighborhood of Portazgo Nueva Numancia at Vallecas Village with the idea of launching a project. Once I started, I realized that it was better if I shared this with more people. I started to tell everyone to come with their projects, those they believed it might work, to see if we could do something. At first, they wanted to establish this as a cooperative, but we saw that it was very complicated and then we decided to create an association.”
Elena: “I met them; then, they told me about the association. I wanted to participate because I have always been involved in associations and then I was told ‘Well, tell us a proposal with a goal that you have, in order to develop a project’. From a subject of Psychology about special education and other subjects in Neuropsychology, I had treated the subject of music therapy: How we enhance our intellectual, cognitive, sensory-motor, memory, attention, and social capacities through music … Music is very complete when it works on the nervous system. It comes in handy when connecting the synapses and to establish neuronal tissues.
“Before coming here, I had an idea with a foundation where I was working to do a day of leisure, which is what we do now, batucada with functional diversity, and the truth is that it went very well. Then I met them, I told them that the project, in the beginning, was to do the batucada with intellectual disabilities and intergenerational heterogeneous groups. But then Maro said ‘Why we do not also do this with reduced mobility?’, and then another girl said with deaf and blind people… So it was extended. I had the idea of functional diversity and intellectual disabilities, but it was left open and each of them were contributing.”
Elena: “We decided to organize two solidarity festivals in the Hebe room, where we had met the contact person. We talked to various groups who were friends or batucadas in which I played, a group where Maro is playing, and friends from other groups to do so voluntarily, because no one earned money. All money was intended to buy instruments, because they are quite expensive, even though we bought them from an online store which is quite economical; but the prices were 100, 180, 200 euros, plus the covers… They were quite expensive.
“So we made a schedule of how we wanted the sessions to be structured. This was a pilot. And then we also created a triptych to be sent to the various associations and foundations in the neighborhood to see how that was percolating.
“We made our first workshop at the Inclusive Association through a contact of Alejandro. That was for intellectual disabilities. The truth is that it was fine. There was a guy who played the box that was very good, and actually they want us to return there and play several sessions a month.
“Then the Foundation of spinal cord injury came with the project we are carrying out now; for this, a friend of Maro who is aeronautical engineer had to buy materials to make structures in order to make adjustments, and this was a mess… Pvc boxes were purchased, all structures were made… The chocalhos, which are instruments that are moved like this, came out that one of them was too big, and then the peal should also be adapted… It is an adaptation after adaptation.
Then we did another project with Acaya. Acaya is a company where I work for leisure time; there we are working through percussion too. They said ‘Why don’t you come to do a workshop?’. They also liked it so much that it was repeated.”
Effort By Vocation
Elena: “What happens, a handicap of all this, is that people really are not paying much for what it is. All this is a lot of effort with cars coming from one place to another and transporting us people (six people are few, because their features require much attention); it is a lot of effort and high cost for what it is.
“We have many debates on whether we go on or not… In the end, vocation wins, because we are here because we like it and we want the project to go ahead and we do it, but with much effort in scheduling (this was in Fuenlabrada, Madrid).
“Similarly, even if we need to go to Vallecas, even being close by, the simple fact of coming from the north of Madrid, taking the instruments which are already very heavy, carrying them down the stairs, putting them in order, tuning them…
“It is a project that is expensive, but it is also very rewarding on a personal level. Although it is a leisure project, some kid told us: ‘Ah, yes, this serves as therapy’.”
Needs To Move Forward
Alejandro: “For the association, we need a van and to be co-financed by the municipality or any public entity, or any private entity that decides to contribute to this beautiful project.”
Elena: “Yes, funding is needed, because now, after all, we are doing it altruistically. Everything goes to the association, to replenish instruments. It must be a party, so our profession is valued. We are not mere monitors; we are psychologists, social workers, we have experience, there are also musicians… So it is the fusion of great professionalism. It is a pilot, this is true, but we must go for it because the benefits it brings to this group are enormous.”
Alejandro: “It has been proposed to open another path of this project, which is basically the group of children at risk, although not only Gypsies will participate. We will participate with the Foundation of the Gypsy Secretariat in the summer camp in July as a testing experience.
“It is a real experience, not a sham; children in camps are accustomed to hearing ‘Well, let’s make percussion with pots’, in which they will put a plastic. They live it, but the experience is not the same as if they have a real instrument in front of them and they can pummel it as much as they want. It looks different. They take it more seriously, and above all, the feeling that they are playing real music, is what really engages them.”
Elena: “I think it will be fine. In camps, always recycled instruments are made, but as Alexander says, those are already professional instruments. Kids can also find a way to their leisure different than being on the street doing something, or seeing what life holds for them. The origin of this project comes from Carlinhos Brown, from one of his groups, from the favelas of Candeal.
“Through drums, percussion, kids who were on the street, with drugs, eking out their lives as best as they could, they get engaged and it comes out of music and percussion. And it is a good space for socialization. Surely, with this group of children at risk it will also work, because it will be useful from them to learn to listen, to respect the rhythms, for empowerment, leadership skills, empathy with the other…”.
Átiko13 Memory, An Annual Dossier
Maro: “At the moment we are preparing a dossier, the dossier throughout the year with all our projects, so we will propose it for the next academic year as a proof that this project is viable, feasible, and it motivates.
“It will be a dossier with all the information about the structures, all information about the self-financing that has been done, the whole issue of repertoire, audiovisual material of all workshops, photos, videos… to continue proposing it for physical functional diversity and to see the results, because it has worked and it is a pioneer with the disabled.
“What we offer is that a group has already been assembled, and also autonomous batucadas can be created; you can create multiple groups of batucada and entertainment and music in general. The investment is also with all those instruments and with all this shooting surrounding batucada, and it can be expanded so that it is not just a project of inclusive batucada, but a whole project of inclusive music: That there will also be other instruments of harmony, other percussion instruments, instruments that people collectivize somehow, and where all it takes is a space and people willing to participate, and according to music preferences or tastes, they can conform bands and groups of all styles, including merger or whatever it takes. The thing is that, then, it can be opened not only to the group of functional diversity, but to groups at risk of exclusion, because in the end the music is created by everyone.
“We have come to our target audience, which was the specific group on which we would focus the project, or even to social services. We have come more to the social intervention that the music industry itself. With foundations of musical entities we can focus on looking for spaces, look for tools that they could be donated, repairs, recycling…”.
Innovation In Social Intervention
Alejandro: “A little, what this does have is exclusivity: There is no other batucada adapted for people with reduced mobility. At least, I have no record of it.”
Maro: “In Spain at least, we are the first to do it.”
Alejandro: “The structures are posted on the Facebook page of the association.”
Maro: “I think that’s the point: Harnessing the exclusivity on the disabled collectivity, which is where we have to focus, also give out all the adjustments to the instruments, all the innovations that we are introducing both for batucada and for social intervention.
“When we reached the injured spinal cord Foundation and told them ‘You’re going to play batucada’, at first no one believed it. And when things have come how they did on the second day, and millions of things have cost us months, we somehow have exceeded their expectations and ours.
“To me, what I like about this partnership is just the creativity there, because I have made many leisure projects with kids with functional diversity, with women, with immigration, but I’ve never seen projects starting from scratch with the ambition and creativity that we have had, which has also been very difficult.”
A Project With Big Goals
Maro: “Precisely; being so ambitious, what it does is that we have a huge goal, but breaking it down into tiny goals is very complicated. Knowing where you have to take steps to reach that goal is complicated. There are huge goals: One is to continue and may become a cooperative.
“For now, we want to go on by adding people, creating our own groups, having our own space for people to come to, and then having our own resources which gradually will open to all neighborhood, to the community. We also want to truly become empowered, to be self-managed and self-supported… in order to keep a community in a participatory manner. But that is a very long end.
“Another goal is to get more funding to move to more places, get more foundations to be interested, have this space used by more people, have our own group and, from there, to create new ones. For now, we should go based on the micro project we had, which is now becoming a little bigger. I think what we basically need now is funding and people interested in this. People are easy to find, because this project is very interesting, very flashy, but very expensive, too.”
The Opinion Of The Beneficiary
Maro: “From the kid who was doing therapy, until last week, for example, when another percussionist came to help with a workshop, to give a lecture himself, he told us: ‘Let’s make not a trial, but two’, ‘let’s to the naval battle, lets go to parties’… A lot of excitement is perceived. The answer is a lot of excitement and surprise by saying ‘How cool is this and I had never tried’, or ‘I never thought I could do it’, and that practically is the answer. We have not had much contact with families, but the participants are highly motivated.”
How To Participate
Maro: “To join us, you just have to call us, send an email to email@example.com, or get into the page and find our contact numbers. Our page is on Facebook, Átiko13 Association, and there are the contact data. If not, you can go to The Villana, because we are one of the groups involved there. We also have a blog and we are in social networks. All we request from people is that they are looking forward to a common goal, that they will not take this as any volunteer where you will enjoy a couple of days and say ciao, or practices where you come, you do your thing, and then leave.
“We need people willing to get involved, have initiative, who are willing to move forward with a common project. To me, this has been worth it, but I have dedicated more hours than are contained in a week. My days have 30 hours, sometimes. But, of course, I understand that everyone can be involved to the extent they can or want. There is no requirement journey of 8 hours per day from 10 to 6. The point is that: If you have a common goal, you have a future project, you want to see things and the project growing, then you have to water a lot, to dedicate many hours, and to gig a lot.”
Most Wanted Profiles
Maro: “A computer programmer will be fine…”
Alejandro: “A computer programmer and a lawyer.”
Maro: “Even an accountant would not be wrong. Well, that we have solved, but hey, it would not hurt.”
Maro: “We have not published our banking account on the web. Normally, we are not asking for such donations. We request for more donations at the solidarity parties we organize, or materials to be donated. We do not usually ask for monetary donations.”
Alejandro: “Of course, the problem with donating money, that we already though about it, through microloans or especially crowdfunding etc., is that it is not for a product, not for a project that takes ‘X’, because that is already achieved. Now, money is needed so that people will take the time this project needs. Although there is a recurring crowdfunding, I do not see it as feasible as the other one, the target crowdfunding. Besides, this is a very personal opinion; I think crowdfunding is made to pay your projects with your friends and family. This I think is a nice project that is striking and that any private entity will end up loving it.”
Maro: “I think Alejandro’s concerns in terms of economic resources are what also Elena mentioned: We do not need a specific economic resource to buy; we need permanent financial resources with which to not only cover costs but also pay wages, pay somehow everything that each of us is doing; it is an economic recognition of our qualifications, our work, and all that.
“As for the finance, we are not saying ‘we must buy this and this’; no. Maybe if we had an ‘X’ funding from a banking institution or a company or a subsidy or whatever, maybe with that we might already cover the cost of vans, gasoline, salaries… I think the crowdfunding is more intended to material needs, to have a material result, but not to have the result of maintaining a social project, and that is just the funding we need now.”
Alejandro: “Besides, I already talked to a girl who is dedicated to crowdfunding and she said ‘Nobody will be paying for that. You will obtain money for the instruments if needed, but the salary is not going to be paid by anyone, you will have to look for it’. ”
Maro: “The point is also that, right? If we want this to progress, to last and have a continuity, this is not a question of a macro-donation of 10,000 euros; really, as we are self-funding, the material costs of the project itself are met. The issue is wages. Wages, even with a macro donation would be very complicated, because it would cover 10 years from now and when that money runs out, you would have to look for another macro-financial agreement. Or the point would be to be able to sign agreements, grants, and concessions of any type of entity that requires a continuity or a four, five contract of renewable years. So in a way you have everything covered.”
Elena: “What I think also is happening is that before there was another girl who now is gone, and she did a great work directing the group. She has found a job and she left, not because she did not like this; she was delighted. Then, if for example I have a paid job and we are all in this every afternoon, every day in a foundation, a disabled association, an intellectual disability association, a blind or deaf association, etc., every day, both morning and afternoon, including making the musical project not only for percussion, but with other instruments, and we are fully dedicated to it, we have to get an economic report, because we have to live from something. In addition, at some point we can do a scientific research and that can have an impact, but what we are doing must also be recognized by other people, because if not, what happens? There comes a time when you get another job and eventually you leave this.”
Alejandro: “Financing is to provide stability. Each one of us has the same situation with this girl. I’m unemployed right now. If I find something to work tomorrow, I’ll have to go. And I’m not the worst, because you like it or not, I’m support. But for example, if Elena leaves, she is directing the band, so then what can we do? Or Maro, for example, who is driving the car.”
Elena: “And the person that sharpens the instruments, because I have no idea to do it. I’ve thought for the next trials we have to teach the others how to direct the band and generally all I know, so when I leave, the others can do what I do.”
Maro: “The issue is that being a self-funded project, is very difficult for us to exclusively hire a person to direct. It’s very nice to say that we are all interdependent and how we want and how we care, but it is shitty, because the day I fail, or when my car gets a flat tire, everything goes to hell. Elena, the day she quits or she gets sick or has to go out or to a trip or something, everything goes to hell. On the day that Alejandro does not come, we lose support and we notice it a lot. Let’s say that by doing all so interdependently, each of us is responsible for a section and performs a task; and if that leg fails, we get all lame.
“Me, for example, I get my section changed and with the surdos I do not know what to do, I do not know how to support. If you remove Alejandro from the section of the boxand you put him in the surdos may be ok, because the surdos are easier, but we would become lame. Or, with only two people you cannot take a group of 12 or 13 people with disabilities. The matter is that we all are essential, but it is very easy for some of us to leave, because we need a job.”
Elena: “Here, what is needed, and I talked about it with a girl, are occupational therapists, because they specifically work all motor skills, or psychotherapists too. It happens to me; my profession is to work mentally and through there to work physically, but I do not work physically, and I’m learning with them, they are teaching me to say ‘No, hook here, put it this way’. I love to learn, but if there was someone professional with us, it would be great.”
Maro: “I read the other day that only in Vallecas, in the district of Vallecas bridge, there is the 6.3% of people with physical functional diversity of Madrid. Hence, considering all you have in every district of Madrid, adding that this is a project of inclusive batucada in which anyone can participate, some without functional diversity, another with any type of functional diversity, with any kind of problems, or not, a priori, that this is inclusive counting, the group of beneficiaries could be the 5 million inhabitants of the Community of Madrid.”
Elena: “I will also clarify that functional diversity has also included disability and mental disorders; functional diversity it encompassing. Mental health we have not tried, but everything will come: People with schizophrenia, bulimia… a person that all she wants is throwing up, and that emptiness you replace with all the energy you give by beating a drum or music. It will happen; a person who has depression, through the music they will come out of depression. There are studies that say this. What we have done is to know about these studies and carry them out with the batucada; there was nothing with percussion, but we want to expand it by creating a community with the rest of instruments.”
Everyone To The Baturock
Elena: “To me, what I would like is to organize a festival, the Baturock, here in Vallecas, with all groups of batucada and rock there, with people with mental disorders, social exclusion, functional diversity… everyone involved in the festival to bring those people together; that gives a capacity of brutal empowerment. They can say: ‘We are able to organize a festival’! It is a highly stigmatized group; disability not so much, but mental disorders are, and if through the music they can come to light and see that they also can do things, it could be very rewarding and have very positive results.”
Maro: “As the objective of this is that it slowly would become global, comprehensive, and fully inclusive. Then at the end there would be batucada, rock… you would see any style of music, just that there would be a space in which people can go either in group or one by one, little by little. The point is that this would be done to create a real community and to involve all sectors with various social problems or not.”
In Search Of A Registered Office
Elena: “Those people can also be community agents; a feedback to others. Then we also said that the batucada could receive professionals and families to share these moments of leisure, or therapy, or whatever, with these people, not with what is already established by the standard. I’m going out of the norm, I’ll do other things that are also to be inclusive to me. We got here together in this space just for two hours, may be less, between one thing and another. What we really need is a space to do real intervention, where having some documents, some instruments that are soundproofed, where you can do dynamic, lectures, presentations…”
Maro: “Above all is also having a reference point. Somehow, we are all moving from our point of origin to this service or this resource that is in Fuenlabrada, in Chamberi, in Vallecas, whereever; we are somehow relocating the service. What we need is a proper space. I do not know your association because you’re in Vallecas, or in Chamberí, or in Fuenlabrada; I know you for what you do and what we need is to have this place to come if you want, and that will also generate the idea that we want the batucada to be autonomous, self-sufficient, and I want to ride my own journeys with these people, interact with them, and somehow to weave social networks through music. I think that the institutions and the administration here in Spain, and in general I think that in Europe too are losing sight of the community subject.”
Maro: “We are a very young institution, and one of the requirements in most public calls to level is to be recognized as a public utility. And the essential requirement is two years of existence. Then all the reports… There are grants from the Community of Madrid who ask 5 years of story, whether or not you are of public utility.”
Alejandro: “We have been officially discharged since January 23, 2015.”
Maro: “We have come a long way, we have walked a lot. I have many references, but comparatively, many associations in their first year have not moved much. Because already in the first year this project is viable, demanding, opening up to many more resources… in one year we have come out with two other projects a little more isolated, though those are workshops… In this same project, two months after it started with the Foundation of spinal cord injury, we were told: ‘In September you come back’. I think that few projects have that reach.
“In all social services, they already know my name. They just have to ask me about my family. I think we already know each other; with respect to functional diversity, I think most of the resources available in the neighborhood, or what appear in the resource guide, all have record of this project.”
Defending The Right To Express
Alejandro: “Also, being batucada, think about it; what I think is really cool, frankly, is the idea of giving an opportunity to people who have the right, but not the support to do so. I mean, a person in a wheelchair that would like to play in a park with a batucada as anyone can do it, he or she lacks that something that is what we are giving.”
Maro: “Somehow, we are being the fulcrum for people who would not have ever imagined playing a drum in the same place where they play ping-pong, or the foundation where they go to only receive therapy or physio or where their leisure projects have been the same for 10 years, and suddenly they see that we have put all the facilities, all adaptations, and that it works for them, so that they can go to parades, to participate in celebrations… somehow is the fulcrum for them to say: ‘I’m in a batucada!'”
Alejandro: “From a technical point of view, the goal here would be to give those people the opportunity or the support, the means to participate in public life, which is a fundamental right, and so far no one thought about it”.
Maro: “Yes, that’s the point: I want a leisure project, but we’ll give it a few laps because there are so many leisure projects. ‘I want a music project’; well, let’s take a couple of laps, because there are many music projects as well. ‘I want a music project that comes up there’; then, for that, it takes a lot of work, it takes a lot of people interested, it takes a lot of movement… Then, we will look for alternatives so that it will not be more of the same thing.”
Breaking With The Provisions
Elena: “What I also believe is that people take a Bachelor’s degree and remain in limbo. We must try to seize opportunities. When I was told about this, I already had the idea for a year. I was told that there was an association that I could visit, and suddenly were them, whom I had met before in a bar, by friends of friends.”
“That, and starting something from scratch, is very beautiful: Not finding it done, without getting to the provisions, because it is already established and others are already doing it. You can evaluate it, to improve it, or change it, but sometimes it involves much more effort to change the provisions, which means going against what it is already there and being told ‘no’. To do something creative with other people like you with hope, starting from scratch, and see it slowly grow: I see it much more enriching and especially if you are young. If you are young, you do not need to undertake what is established, you can be self-managed.”
Maro: “This also started as:’I have an idea, let’s do it’; from night today, we were a bunch of social workers, psychologists, educators, monitors, anthropologists, musicians, designers… Suddenly, we looked around and we were one hundred and we were all super trained all we had some amazing ideas, and suddenly I looked and said ‘Okay, let’s go all for the same, let’s go for a future project, because we also do things our way, not the way it is established’.”
“If not, I would take a competition and I would work as an official, as a social worker at any social services center, but I do not believe in that. I think things can be done differently, I think you have to follow other models, I think we should also create. That’s the thing: We have gathered people eager to do things differently, because we were fed up with what we were getting on the outside, and decided to do it from within. From within means to be self-managed, self-financed, to move a lot, to hit much against the walls and against the government, and fight what does not leave you neither in, nor out. It is to create from scratch other ways of labor, social intervention, other resources…”.
The Átiko13 Team
Maro: “Átiko13 are five social workers, and there are also community organizers; there are monitors of leisure time; a recent addition of a degree in geography has also long been living in Mexico and has many ideas in music; there are musicians; we have psychologists; a social educator, designer, and artist … Apart from that, everyone then has a master’s degree in Journalism, a master’s degree in Human Rights, a more or less promising career in music and art in general… Right now, we are 11, with two recent additions. We have always been oscillating between 10 or 15.”