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True Talk, No Lie…with a bang

Monday, April 2, 2018
The tenacious Yvan Mendoza. PICTURES WESLEY GIBBINGS

The 2018 season of True Talk, No Lie, the open-mic spoken word/musical series, opened at the Big Black Box in Woodbrook last Wednesday with far more of a bang than a whimper and no shortage of great fun.

On show was an uneven exposition of amateur talent ranging from one rambling and amusingly pointless monologue to an outstanding standup comedic routine by Anil Kumar to a traditional poetic offering from Marli Creese to Shamika Rafael’s angelic rendition of Skankin’ Sweet by Chronixx and a range of spoken word treatments.

If there were a modern-day version of the old-fashioned “variety show” this would have been it—a delightful one at that. That’s what open-mic shows are about and True Talk delivered true to form.

At the helm is tenacious 30-year-old impresario/promoter, Yvan Mendoza, who has held the fort with these productions since 2013 when the venue of choice was Martin’s Piano Bar in Port-of-Spain.

“I used to be involved in the spoken-word scene, around 2005/2006, went away to study, came back and found that there were little to no opportunities for artists that I had when I was around,” Mendoza told T&T Guardian. “We used to hop around to three or four open-mics a month.”

“I always wanted to do my own show,” he said, “and because of the dearth of open-mic spaces like that, I thought I should do one myself.”

There appear to have been few regrets—whatever the business risks. Last Wednesday, there was reason for hope in the face of an overflowing Woodbrook venue and an even more intense gush of talent spanning a wide variety of poetic and musical genres.

There were prospective performers who had to be turned away, having arrived too late to register, but they all, good-naturedly, appeared to linger on to witness a show that is going to be hard to beat when the series continues next month.

However expert the stage management, there will always be entertainers who prefer not to stick to the rules. Seasoned campaigner, Brendan O’Brien did in fact perform two instead of one spoken word piece, including a provocative examination of the sexual consent debate from the standpoint of victimised women.

O’Brien’s expert rendition earned him censure from Mendoza who served as MC but also an accompanying reprieve. No such luck for perennial favourite, Kwame Boatswain, who did not have his best evening out. Just Liz took a risk with self-accompaniment on the guitar and forgot her chords more than once. That’s showbiz. She has enough talent to go back and try again.

Split Mind came on stage with a rap track accompanying a rhythmic invitation to vigorous sex that raised a few pores and generated nervous laughter across the audience. More disturbingly x-rated stuff from him on SoundCloud— venture there at your own risk.

Singer/guitarist Chad Affonso brought some balance back to the proceedings with Secondary Stress—a well-composed song on “non-physical forms of violence,” as he explained.

Marcus Abraham was amusing with his tribute to doubles and Rae’s new offering, Speak to me Softer, deserved an initial listen from an appreciative crowd.

Anil Kumar’s expert standup performance was followed by an almost equally amusing performance by kaiso old-stager, Bunny Bynoe. He came equipped with dark sunglasses, a shiny, blue outfit, fluffy cap, single white glove, wooden bead chain, a T&T flag draped tambourine and a towel hanging from his back pocket. His song was Love and the audience loved it.

By the time headline act, Jimmy October, came on stage the young crowd was primed for action. Accompanied by an animated band comprising Joshua Salcedo (drums), Reuel Williams (keyboards), Isaac Cozier (guitar), Antonio Achee working the samples and bassist Mikhail Gibbings, the popular young artiste set the venue alight.

October’s Vacation and other selections brought new life to the proceedings and closed off the evening with the bang everyone expected, and deserved.

Take a bow, Mendoza and crew.


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