Arts » Written + Spoken Word

Vocab comes home to The Casba

Indy spoken word staple returns with diversity and focus


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Tatjana Byrd
  • Tatjana Byrd

It's easy to surround yourself with yourself — to listen to the kind of music that you already like, and take in the artwork you know will move you. Tatjana Byrd has been trying to get you to break that habit for the last 10 years.

Byrd is the founder of Vocab, a spoken word, music and art event that occurs monthly in Indy. After a three year hiatus, Vocab will be returning to The Casba where it first began. Now, more than ever, Byrd is hoping to host events where it's guaranteed that attendees will experience something outside of their comfort zone, or at least an experience that they can't get anywhere else.

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"One of the things I have always been really adamant about is trying to get different groups of people together, and I think music helps with that," says Byrd. "There is always a musical feature and a poet. Because sometimes poetry can get super heavy, it's nice to have that break-up. I enjoy getting different groups of people together.

Spoken word performer Mariah Ivey who will be featured at the next Vocab event.
  • Spoken word performer Mariah Ivey who will be featured at the next Vocab event.

"People can see that there is actually a lot of really phenomenal talent in the city," says Byrd. "People don't know it because we are so boxed into what we like that we forget that there are several other scenes of things going on in the city. That's why it's really important to me to mix it all together as much as possible."

She gave the example of a metal fan coming and hearing poetry that they didn't know they liked, or a hip-hop or spoken word artist realizing they like metal after one of the shows.

Byrd tries to make sure to have a spoken word artist, a musician and a visual artist at each show. The visual artist is a newer component. For that she hopes to bring in artists who don't have a set studio space or don't show regularly on First Fridays.

"I enjoy setting up environments where nothing like that can happen in any other moment in the world," says Byrd.

Visual artist Christo. The visual component will be new to Vocab.
  • Visual artist Christo. The visual component will be new to Vocab.

Vocab has been helping build the spoken word scene in Indy since its creation. When Byrd first started to perform, she knew that she wanted to see consistent spaces around town dedicated to writing, music and art.

"I stared out — like a lot writers in the city — just because I couldn't afford therapy," says Byrd. "I needed to get my story out so I could move on ..."

Two local spoken word artists — Januarie York and Gabrielle Peterson, who are both very vocal about physical abuse, child abuse or sexual assault that has happened to them — inspired Byrd to push her writing to a more visceral level.

"I have always tried to express the things that have happened in my life, but sometimes I wouldn't be as open," says Byrd. "I would speak in metaphors, both of them inspired me to be more up front about my own experiences. Januarie was definitely one of the people who inspired me to write my rape poem — it's the hardest thing I have ever done, and it's the hardest topic I have ever spoken about. It's become my most important piece. Every time I perform it, there is a moment where I end up talking to someone after who is going through the same thing. It has helped make it a part of my story instead of part of my secrets I guess."

Visual artist Rae Parker
  • Visual artist Rae Parker

To Byrd that connection and storytelling is what makes spoken word so vital to collective conscious of Indianapolis.

"What's interesting about art, music and poetry is that we all generally have the same story," says Byrd. "We might have different variations of it .... Sometimes you don't want to talk about certain things from your past because you think you are alone in that aspect. But you go to a show and you see someone perform a piece and it sparks something in you to want to tell that part of your story that you have either chosen to forget or did forget. That's the most inspiring part about it — the connection between all different people."

VOCAB returns to it's roots
April 13, 8 p.m.
The Casba, 6319 Guilford Ave


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