Archive | February, 2017

Jon Rissik

I am singer songwriter from Kent in the UK. I started playing the ukulele back in 2014, having sung in rock and indie bands since I was 14 years-old. Like most people I began my ukulele journey by playing covers (with Eddie Vedder’s Ukulele Songs album a particular inspiration), but soon came to appreciate the joy – and challenge – of writing and performing original material. It doesn’t take great technical proficiency (some of the greatest songs in popular music have blissfully simple chord structures), but it does take thought, patience and a level of self-belief. People have described my style as being quite intense and although I don’t set out to write songs that fit that description, I don’t really go for light, jokey material. I enjoy the juxtaposition of serious lyrics and impassioned vocals set against the inherently light, playful and uplifting tone of the ukulele.

You can find me on Facebook at:
https://www.facebook.com/jrissik/?fref=ts

I am also on YouTube at:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJaEa4LcFi_9zuYRjhJHyFw

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Abby Lyons

Abby Lyons is a singer-songwriter and composer in Los Angeles who writes heartful songs for thoughtful audiences. She recently graduated from CalArts with a degree in music composition and is now working as a ukulele teacher, pianist, music store employee, and singer-songwriter. You will probably enjoy her music if you are into insightful lyrics, engaging stories, and feelings.

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Liz Panton aka “Ukulele Allsorts”

All of my songs are “true stories” in one way or another. Some are about events or people, some about feelings; some are memories and some are stories being lived right now. Some stories tell something about my life. Some stories are adventures lived by others.

Each song tells a truth of one sort or another: about people, feelings, wishes or dreams. Some are “true stories”, like “Dunkirk”, or are “calls to arms”. Some are funny, some are bold, some are pure pop candy floss. Some soothe. Others are are shot with the silver of sadness or a mystery that touches the heart more deeply.

The idea for a song might come from something quite random, like an overheard phrase or a fleeting observation. This might be something seemingly obvious in meaning or it might be a something that is ambiguous and full of mystery. Sometimes it is only after it is written, or after I have performed a song for a while, that I recognise the hidden story or truth in the song for me. A bit like suddenly grasping the meaning of a dream.

Other songs are much more focussed from the outset; I have a clear idea of the story that I want to tell, the feelings that I hope to evoke or the message that I want to be heard.

I like crossword puzzles and there are little “word games” hidden in some of my songs. Setting myself a little challenge, like one of these word games, helps me to be more creative in finding expression for ideas and feelings.

Other times, imagining a “film of the song” releases emotions and scenarios that I can identify with. This even more than “word games” helps me to find the sounds to go with the lyrics because, for me, the lyrics are the starting point.

It intrigues and pleases me when someone tells me what one of my songs has conjured up for them, so much more so when “their meaning” is something unexpected. That means that the song has done something much more than give pleasure or amusement, much more than carrying and sharing my intended message: it has gained a life of its own. That is some very satisfying ju-ju!

Lately, I have been collaborating in songwriting and have found this fascinating. I imagined that collaboration would result in songs where I would always be able to “see the joins” and I would know exactly what I had contributed. It has not been like that at all.

I thought it would be like weaving a cloth, with separate threads identifiable. Instead, it has been more like the waters of streams joining to form one river and it is impossible to separate the flow back into its parts. Perhaps this is because the collaborations cover both lyrics and music?

Yet each collaboration still results in something that feels very much like it is “my song”, rather than “our song”. I think this might be because I have only collaborated so far with someone who does not perform in public. Also perhaps because I perform these songs solo. So the process is similar to taking a cover song and “making it your own”, rather than seeking to emulate someone else’s interpretation.

I am still inspired to write songs on my own. However, I have learned so much from collaborating with someone who has a deeper and broader understanding of music theory. My playing has also improved. I have been pushed to tackle unfamiliar techniques. I have practiced long and hard in order to play arrangements beyond my immediate skill level, arrangements that I would never have dreamt up just by myself. My main contributions to this work and play are: bringing the original idea towards the light; suggesting simpler or easier ways to make an arrangement work; taking the song out into the world and sharing it with others.

It therefore pleases me immensely is that some of my songs have been included in Jim Carey’s Ukulele Songbook. The idea that someone, somewhere might be so taken with one of my songs that they would want to give it some life of their own is the best one could wish for. That is what “releasing” a song really means. First, you release something of yourself into its creation. Then you let it loose in the wild to take flight. You hope that someone else will find it and will nurture it with their own breath and blood, that it will release something of their creativity and that they will send it on its way out into the world again. Perhaps even one of the “silly songs” might tickle someone’s fancy enough for them to have a go at it.

The video I have chosen is a song that is all my own work. It was a difficult choice! Suddenly they are all my favourites . . . but all so different.

Given what I have said about hoping that others might like to have a go at playing my songs, I decided to pick one that is very easy to play.

If you would like to hear some of my other songs, there is a playlist on my blog here:
Songs Written

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Natasha Ghosh Music

My original song Staying In:

Desciptive Band Text
From not wanting to eat as a toddler unless there was music playing, to actually picking up instruments when she was a teenager; music has always been a huge part of Natasha’s life. She has never taken any ukulele classes, because she relied on the skills she obtained by studying the techniques of Jake Shimabukuro and Sungha Jung. At the age of eighteen, she started to sing. Natasha would love to visit Hawaii and to be able to get the chance to play at ukulele festivals, to spread the good vibes of the instrument. Going through life like an enthusiastic young soul, Natasha writes original songs, acapella, composes instrumentals, arrangements and covers existing songs, making sure that they all get an original twist that fit her musical style.

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Fragile Lucy

Hi I’m Fragile Lucy from Southampton I’ve been playing ukulele for about 8 years this is one of my own songs I hope you like it 🙂

Much love
Fragile Lucy

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Why creating original material is so important

In recent months I have had lots of discussions with a variety of different artists in “the music business” Some are essentially playing and creating music as a hobby while others are working in a professional capacity. I generally lament the standard of a lot of the music I hear these days. I don’t want to sound like some ranting old guy, but I grew up listening to many of the classic singer songwriters including Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits among many others. Most of these stem from 1970s of course. In recent years Nick Cave, Ani Difranco and Jason Isbell have become firm favorites.

What all these artists have in common is that they are creating original music with great consideration to well considered lyrics and great melody. I created the OUS platform to bring a greater awareness to artists creating original material based around the ukulele as an instrument. I find the ukulele to be a terrific writing instrument and have written over three dozen tracks for my own band “The Small Change Diaries” and we are now in the middle of recording our second album with a number of international guests.

In 2016 the world lost a number of great artists including David Bowie and Leonard Cohen, both of which were brilliant songwriters and performers. Imagine a world without “Hallelujah” and “Heroes” Both these and other classic songwriters took risks in creating new material. Often such artists were ahead of their time and it took time for the public to catch up with their latest offerings. When Bowie released “Low” an album that contained a substantial instrumental music, many people thought “What is this?”

Without creating new original material, we simply recycle what has gone before. There’s nothing wrong with cover versions of course, BUT these wouldn’t even exist without somebody writing them in days gone by. Writing original songs requires an immense amount of skill and a willingness to take what is for many a tough route. Often audiences want what is familiar, and many artists will happily fulfill that need. Writing and performing original music is in many ways a brave initiative and I applaud all artists who go down this route. My hope is that the OUS platform will continue to be a focus for people wanting to create original material and remain an oasis of inspiration for others, wanting to create something that will stand the test of time.

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