If you`re on the hunt for some fresh entertainment, TRUE TALK NO LIE is an event you should consider. The event showcases some of the most talented and explosive singers, rappers, poets and spoken word artists in Trinidad and Tobago. Launched in 2013 by Yvan Mendoza and a co-founder, each event has a feature performer, an open mic segment, and a special activity which requires audience participation. All of these combine to make show a memorable one. Now in its third year and growing from strength to strength we spoke with Yvan Mendoza to find out more about the show. True Talk, this is what he said:

HOW IT ALL STARTED

Why did you start True Talk No Lie?

In 2006 the spoken word scene was just starting in Trinidad and I used to perform at these events. Subsequent to that I went away to study and based on what I saw on the open mic scene when I was abroad, I always thought when I came back home I would do my own thing utilizing that experience.

Yvan Mendoza-Founder of True Talk No Lie
Yvan Mendoza-Founder of True Talk No Lie

When I got back home in 2009 the open mic scene had died down a lot. I was just surveying what was going on still with the idea of doing it one day and the opportunity came to me when Martin Baptiste of Martin`s Piano bar. (now Kaiso Blues Café) hosted a book launch at his place. He was a bit overwhelmed to see so many people had come out to this book reading. He said if anybody wanted to do something at the space they could talk to him about it. My friend`s mom was there, so my friend`s mom told my friend, who told me. So we were like “Let`s do it”.

In a month`s time we started. That was May 2013. At the time when “True Talk No Lie” started there was no open mic in Port of Spain, there was one in South and one in UWI (University of The West Indies). It was a great opportunity to do something and I had already conceptualized what kind of event I wanted to do.

How did you come up with the name True Talk No Lie? 

SPEAKING WITH THE FOUNDER OF “TRUE TALK NO LIE”: YVAN MENDOZAThat`s a name I was playing with beforehand so when the opportunity came I already had a name. The meaning behind it is twofold. “True talk no lie” is as the saying goes is usually followed by “You go live long”. It`s what you say when you see somebody you were just talking about. So you say “True talk no lie, I was just talking about you, you will live long.” The premise behind the name being that if we continue talking about poetry and art and live performance, it will live long. The second take on it is “True Talk No Lie” being a forum for the expression of truth. Whatever truth means to that person. So that`s the concept of the name.

SOMETHING DIFFERENT

When I started a couple of things were happening with open mics in Trinidad that I found unique. One was that people didn`t charge covers for open mics. It was free entry and at the end of the show there would be a hat where people could contribute whatever they wanted to. I was like “That cah work”. People need to understand that there`s a value that they are paying for. There was no concept of paying for art.

The second thing was that there were no feature artists at open mics. Open mics in the States, there`s always a feature. Even if it`s a poet. Some features are only poets. We don`t have enough poets to do only poets here and that didn`t exist at the time. So I decided we had to do a feature. By the time I left New York I was starting to feature in events, and charging is a way for poets to make money; poets on the circuit in the States make money as being features. They get a cut of the door. So I wanted to structure mine similar to that.

Have any of the shows really stood out for you?

We`ve had quite a few amazing shows to be honest. Freetown Collective. They packed Martin`s out in January 2014. We had to close the door, it was overflowing people, sure fire hazard. That was a great show. Marge Blackman had an excellent show at Martin`s as well in March, 2014. Solman had a really awesome show as well. Also Kaskadoux, full music, the band was huge, all kinds of instruments, pan, guitar etc. The last show was awesome- Mark Hardy and Young Rudd did an acoustic set for us. You`re accustomed to the whole trap set with them and they toned it down to acoustic with the guitars and just the two of them, it was…different.

Nikolai Salcedo had a great show last year as well. We also had Keevo- the comedian, he was amazing

Mark Hardy and Young Rudd performing at True Talk No Lie

BIGGER AND BETTER

How has the event grown over the years?

It started off really small. But the funny thing is even with the first show which was really small and intimate, I was impressed with the number of people that came out. I think it was close to 60 people.

And it was a lot of very young people. Clearly there was a market for it. Even now, we`re going on three years next month and people are now showing up for the first time. So that is pretty amazing.

We outgrew the space at Martin`s so the event has grown in terms of audience and the brand I think is a pretty solid brand. I think people know what to expect when they come to “True Talk No Lie”. They expect not to just come and sit down and hear somebody perform. Everybody gets involved. I think it was still at Martin`s when we invented this “Word of the Night” challenge. It`s where we pick a word and actually ask the audience to write a piece during the night and at the end of the night they come up and perform. After all the performers we do a vote.

So let us know about attending the event, where it happens, when etc. 

“True Talk No Lie” is held every fourth Wednesday, NOT the last Wednesday because some months have five Wednesdays and if you come on the last Wednesday you would have missed the show a week ago. So it`s the fourth Wednesday of the month.

Where- Big Black Box.

Cost – $60 dollars.- $15 dollars If you are performing during the open mic segment of the night.

To find out more check out “True Talk No Lie” on Facebook