Kids these days, with their iPods and their Xboxes and their Angry Birds. As modern technology evolves, what will become of its predecessors? Where's the nostalgia for, say, the clacking and clicking of a typewriter?
Turns out, it's alive and well. Omni Zona Franca, a performance group from Havana, mash up music, poetry, spoken word, rap, video, graffiti, and other art, using all available objects at hand for their acts. Yes, particularly typewriters.
Growing up in one of the world's largest housing projects, a soviet-style block filled with lettered buildings and no basic amenities, the collective of poets didn't always have formal instruments with which to embrace their talents. So they dug up old drums and typewriters and made something that not only worked, but kind of rocked.
Now, the University of Wynwood welcomes two of the leading members of Omni, Luis Eligio and Amaury Pacheco, who'll bring their non-traditional set of musical gizmos to the stage on their first ever tour of the United States.
"What's really exciting is that they plan to explore the hyphen between Cuban and American life," said José A. Villar-Portela, the University of Wynwood's Dean of Spanish Translation, who was introduced to the collective on a trip to Cuba last fall. "A main goal of their traveling to America is investigating how poetry can bridge linguistic, political, and cultural differences."
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It's an understatement to say that climbing out of the projects and into the spotlight is no easy feat. "Most artists that aren't well-recognized by Cuban establishment," said Villar-Portela. "But they've managed to be internationally recognized despite pushback by the revolution's cultural arm."
Upon arranging the performance, the University of Wynwood's founder and director P. Scott Cunningham asked Omni what should be done to prepare for the event. "They said 'tell us the venue and the materials there and we'll make it happen,'" said Cunningham. "That's what's kind of amazing about them. With their improvisation and versatility, they make it happen."