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.

Stephen Kamau, fifteen, a student at the music program practices on his cello. In the background is the huge open-air dumpsite.

Stephen Kamau, fifteen, a student at the music program practices on his cello. In the background is the huge open-air dumpsite.
Stephen, a cello student at the music program at his home in Korogocho.

Stephen, a cello student at the music program at his home in Korogocho.
Erick Ochieg, 22, gives a basic flute lesson to kids at St. John's, the school where the music program is hosted.

Erick Ochieg, 22, gives a basic flute lesson to kids at St. John’s, the school where the music program is hosted.
The huge open-air dumpsite in Korogocho.

The huge open-air dumpsite in Korogocho.
Celine Akuamu, eighteen and a clarinet student at the music program, at her home in Korogocho.

Celine Akuamu, eighteen and a clarinet student at the music program, at her home in Korogocho.
Celine practices on her clarinet.

Celine practices on her clarinet.
David Otieno, eighteen (right), and Lameck Otieno, fifteen, practice on their violins at school.

David Otieno, eighteen (right), and Lameck Otieno, fifteen, practice on their violins at school.
The "Ghetto Classic" orchestra, whose players are all students of the Korogocho program, during a concert rehearsal. Every now and then, the orchestra plays for the public here.

The “Ghetto Classic” orchestra, whose players are all students of the Korogocho program, during a concert rehearsal. Every now and then, the orchestra plays for the public here.
David Otieno, eighteen and a violin student at the music program, at home in Korogocho.

David Otieno, eighteen and a violin student at the music program, at home in Korogocho.
David rehearses before a music class in the SafariCom Foundation building. SafariCom is a cellphone service provider whose foundation sponsors the Korogocho music program.

David rehearses before a music class in the SafariCom Foundation building. SafariCom is a cellphone service provider whose foundation sponsors the Korogocho music program.
A student of the music program rehearses before a concert at the SafariCom Foundation building.

A student of the music program rehearses before a concert at the SafariCom Foundation building.
A basic music lesson for kids at St. John's, the school where the music program is hosted.

A basic music lesson for kids at St. John’s, the school where the music program is hosted.
Students of the music program rehearse.

Students of the music program rehearse.
A flute left on a bench between classes.

A flute left on a bench between classes.

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Sergio Ramazzotti is a Milan-born photographer and a founding member of the Parallelozero Agency.