Amado Espinoza and his ‘Junkyard Orchestra’: Best of KC 2019
Our annual Best of Kansas City 2019 issue is out now. Go grab a copy. Alternatively, you can browse the results of the readers’ poll here. The issue also includes a list, compiled and written by The Pitch’s editorial staff, shouting out some of our current favorite things about KC. We’ll be publishing these items online throughout the month of October.
The Bolivian musician Amado Espinoza moved to Kansas City in 2014, and it didn’t take long for him (or his wife, Karen Lisondra, a theater artist) to make a big dent in the music community here. Espinoza has a seemingly endless supply of sounds and songs both familiar (pop, rock) and foreign (the indigenous traditions of his South American homeland), and he plays over 40 types of instruments, some of which he’s collected along his global journey, others that he’s built himself. (We never really understood what sikas—panpipes—were capable of until we heard what he could do with them.)
In Bolivia, Espinoza had a Museum of Musical Instruments that housed his collection of over 500 items, and here in KC he continues to make high-quality instruments for professionals and collectors. But he also creates recycled instruments informed by workshops he hosted in Bolivia for those too poor to otherwise afford musical equipment. These instruments—his “Junkyard Orchestra,” as he calls it—can range from a single plastic straw, to bagpipes made with PVC pipe and a rubber glove, to a cello made with a trash can, a fork, and some wire. This summer, we caught Espinoza performing alongside Lisondra aboard the KC Streetcar as part of an Art in the Loop show involving songs, dance, and an abuela puppet. The riders were surprised and delighted. So were we. Espinoza’s global perspective and ferocious artistic enthusiasm is the kind of import we want more of.