Almost exactly two years ago I had the idea to set up the Original Ukulele Songs platform. In November 2015 in a conversation with my dear friend and band mate Jessica Bowie I lamented the lack of original ukulele music online and at “ukulele festivals” There were occasional glimpses of some original work, but there was an ocean of cover versions that flooded the internet. I remember saying “I simply cannot bear hearing yet another version of “You are my sunshine” To clarify, I don’t hate cover versions of classic songs BUT, those classics were once original songs and without artists taking the time to craft original material all we are left with is endless recycling of original material.
I started OUS by setting up the FB platform that I described as “Phase 1” of OUS. I was surprised at the amount of attention we received even in the first few months. Even though I clearly stated that all material needed to be ORIGINAL, in the first nine months we had endless posts from uke artists that would posts the same cover versions to every single uke FB group. This meant a certain amount of polite culling and after a while it settled down and we started to build some momentum. I commented “When we hit 1000 subscribers, we’ll start phase two” Inevitably folks would say “What’s phase 2?” I replied “When we hit 1000 members, you will find out”
I’m acutely aware that FB is a useful medium for discussion, but its a company in its own right and its better to own your own platform. With this in mind with my tech guy Alun Richards we set up www.originalukulelesongs.com. The purpose of this central site was to create a platform that would showcase the best artists that originally posted on the FB page. Each artist would have their own page and at that time I had no idea about how this site would grow, The emphasis was on gathering together many skilled artists from all over the globe. One of the first videos that really caught my attention was Alan Thornton’s “Mary’s moving on” I thought “wow, this is really great!” The FB page became and remains a daily inspiration and Alan has become central to the OUS platform.
I have been blown away by the terrific quality of music that is now on this site and the daily postings on the FB page.
At the start of 2017 I wanted to start exploring creating better live opportunities for original artists. With this in mind OUS sponsored a stage at the GNUF ukulele festival in Huddersfield. The stage had a four hour 20 min slot on the Sunday of the festival and we had seven artists to play in that period. I chose four of the artists and the material was very well received.
This response inspired further thinking for developing bigger opportunities for live playing and I’m running some beta tests which allow for better artist exposure. Prior to the festival I offered an open house to artists and we had an excellent attendance highlighted with the superb Victoria Vox and Jack Maher playing in my kitchen. These folks are the OUS artists for 2017, smart well delivered music at its very best.
Special thanks to all those who have supported the platform to date and all those who have contributed articles to the site. We are a small but mighty growing group. We now have 100 artists on the main site and over 3000 members on the FB page. As I always say “Its our site, I simply direct traffic” I’m now looking at expanding the platform in 2018 with live showcases in the UK and overseas where the wider public can experience the power and inspiration that stems from the mighty uke.