Pablo and Efrain—identical, though differentiated by their distinctly aggressive haircuts—are the ringleaders of this controlled madness. The duo, now 26, cut their teeth as high-schoolers back in Puerto Rico. While they’re not trained musicians themselves, they had peers who were. They formed a band, instructing the members (including an opera singer) as to their overall vision. “We’d put salsa, punk, and reggae in one song—we wanted to clash everything together,” explains Pablo when I meet up with him and Efrain in Berlin.
That band—which featured the brothers rapping over the postmodern muddle of styles, dressed in cardboard costumes—led to an equally boundary-less project in 2012. The seeds of what would become Poncili Creación were planted in a weekly performance series held at El Local, an art space and concert venue in the Santurce neighborhood of Puerto Rico’s San Juan. “We started as a decentralized collective,” Pablo says. “Anyone who wanted to could join and form part of the experience: Bring your own puppets, bring anything you had, and we would incorporate you into our play. At that point we were basically anarchy, this Frankenstein of art.”
“It was a collective that didn’t exist anywhere else other than at this bar, on Wednesdays,” Efrain says. After each performance, they’d solicit the audience for future concepts and participation. “This 16-year-old kid brought us a an amazing, super confusing play he had written, that took place inside a guy’s body,” he recalls. “It was a week-long project: We built the puppets, and we did his play.”
Despite how inclusive these weekly performances were, “at some point, the word ‘aesthetic’ or ‘artistic language’ was mentioned,” Pablo recalls, “and we started saying: ‘Okay, we have a specific thing that is ours.’”