The Story so far…
In November 2015, the Facebook Original Ukulele Songs platform was set up to showcase artists playing original ukulele based songs. I posted that if we reached 1000 members, we’d launch phase 2. A few months we did this and launched www.originalukulelesongs.com. This site now has dozens of artists from all around the world all showcasing original songs. I never expected the project to attract so many artists from all over the globe. The range of styles is extraordinary, with solo artists, groups, instrumentals and terrific songs all now gathered in one location for everyone to see and hear.
The original FB page now has 2350 members and is growing each week. I always stated that OUS is a BIG project and the phase 3 is launch at GNUF in 2017. Phase 4 is also being planned.
Choosing the right partner for OUS
Even back in 2015 I had the idea of the third phase of OUS being about live performances and collaborations. I looked around in the UK at various initiatives described as “ukulele festivals” and was especially interested in the ones that had some pedigree in that they had been running year on year. There were two obvious choices and out of these GNUF was by far the perfect partner. GNUF has multiple different stages over a whole weekend as opposed to a few artists on a single day and a mass strum along in a pub forecourt.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a mass strum with friends, but that’s not something I want to shell out forty plus quid for! GNUF is of course extremely respected by artists from all over the world a fact borne out by the early bird tickets selling out 100% in just a few hours this year.
The sheer number of artists that can be seen and heard at GNUF is vastly greater than anywhere else I have come across. The 2017 festival has dozens of artists performing, many for the very first time. The phase to describe GNUF from many fellow performers and the public is “inclusive” and I totally agree. There is literally something for everyone which is why I suspect it’s now in it’s fifth successful year. As a very well known artist commented “People trust the brand” and that’s down to Mary Agnes Krell and the longstanding GNUF team. The whole weekend is indoors in the heart of a city so the classic English weather means you can be sat down in comfort rather than standing in a muddy field for hours on end and/or being in some remote location miles away from amenities! I approached Mary Agnes Krell with the idea of showcasing artists playing original ukulele based music. This will be the first live stage for OUS and it’s going to be great.
Artists pushing the ukulele sonic boundaries
Interesting many of artists I initially approached for OUS a year ago all commented on the fact that the ukulele community needed an energetic shot in the arm. Many performers wanted to develop new musical expression in creating new material, rather than simply playing covers of existing material. As I have often said “classic covers” are great, but where’s the great music that will create the covers of the future. It would be like all movies being remakes of previous “classics” which would be creatively extremely limiting. I have always had the total belief that the ukulele can be used in a wide range of imaginative ways and when I interviewed Martin Simpson, he made this exact point in this clip
Interestingly, when I interviewed Jake Shimabukuro he also displayed a huge musical awareness extending into all many of musical genres and its clear to me that he is also somebody seeking to push the sonic boundaries in what he is doing, beyond the fabulous cover versions that initially got him global attention.
What you can expect with phase 3 OUS at GNUF
OUS artists playing at GNUF on May 7th will be showcasing original songs and/or teaching practical skills essential for learning how to create your own original material. This phase 3 of OUS is of course not the final phase of OUS, (phase 4 is planned late 2017) simply part of the bigger OUS initiative, but a crucial one. It’s going to be a lot of fun and a great learning opportunity for artist and public alike.
By its very nature this weekend is an opportunity to discover something new, that you have never seen or heard before. There are also a lot of surprises planned which will make this a quite magical and memorable unique event.
BOOK YOUR PLACE HERE
All photographs ©Karen Turner