From 21st of June until 23rd of June Oslo Ukulele Festival took place in the lovely Nydalen neighboorhood. As you’ve probably seen, I was there as an artist (my first performance on main stage). But I also want to blog about the festival in general.
Compared to the other ukulele festivals I’ve been so far, Oslo Ukulele Festival is small but that also makes it very intimate and more like a community affair than a big production. You could tell that most people there were either involved in the ukulele community in Oslo or locals who dropped by and wanted to see what’s going on. This gave the festival a really nice flair and I absolutely enjoyed that. The festival was advertised with „Uke to the People“ and this was the spirit of the weekend.
As for the location – for someone who has studied urban and spatial planning, this was an absolute dream location. Nydalen used to be an industrial area that was redeveloped (I’m guessing in the last 10-15 years). They reused lots of the industrial buildings and built new housing and office buildings with some very nice public spaces in between. So this for me was a very good start into the festival.
Friday Concerts and Jam
The festival opened on Friday with Oslo Ukuleleklubb. They are a big group of awesome people playing a very varied range of music. They totally set the tone for the rest of the night with lots of songs to sing along, clap along and have fun with.
Since the crowd was already warmed up real good and had their ukes ready, it was time for a big strum- and sing-along. Some people from the Ukuleleklubb and Oslo Ukuleleorkester were leading the jam. They had the lyrics and chords projected on a big screen for everyone to see. And even though it started to rain pretty heavily during the jam, everyone just kept on strumming and singing. I was also really impressed, that the jam was over an hour long (still, everyone kept going) and that they started with really easy songs with simple chords and then progressed into more difficult songs with some tricky chords as well.
After the Jam September Harvest was up. It was one of my favorite performances this weekend. I really like their melancholic sound and it was a pleasure to watch them. Unfortunately there’s not much of them to find online – hope that will change. But you can listen to some songs on their youtube channel.
Last act on Friday was UkuleleStine. Now before I say something about her performance there’s something you need to know about her. Stine is not only the organizer of this amazing festival, she’s also the Shero of the ukulele community in Oslo. She leads Oslo Ukuleleklubb and Oslo Ukuleleorkester and it seems as if most people who play ukulele in Oslo have learned it from her. Everyone adores her and she deserves all the love she’s getting and more. So when she stepped on stage together with Ellen Brekken on Bass, the crowd was going crazy – and tbh I’ve never seen this much enthusiasm for someone who plays mostly instrumental and does not sing (maybe for Jake Shimabukuro, but also, not really). Her set was great with lots of famous ukulele arrangements played very well. She even surpised everyone with some special effects on stage. So another highlight on Friday already.
Saturday started out with a concert of some young ukulele players from the Oslo area. First up were Mina and Lilja who played „Let me drive my van into my heart“ from Steven Universe. As one of the biggest Steven Universe fans this made me so happy. Next up was Marte Lindseth with a cover of „Ex’s and Oh’s“ by Elle King. Very lovely voice. Last up was Leslie Berre with two original songs. She is a very talented young woman. Unfortunaltely I couldn’t find a social media account of hers – if anyone knows how to find her, please let me know. I’d love to hear more from her.
Thomas Allander brought one of the funniest ukulele shows I’ve seen so far. His nickname is “The Ukulele Man” – which totally fits. He has all kinds of weird custom ukuleles with additional props on them. Whether you’re looking for three ukuleles joined into one, a ukulele with a propeller on it or a ukulele that can stick to your stage – he is the man for you.
Plata Diesen is a singer/songwriter from Norway. She is most famous for her song about giving Donald Trump a ukulele (to make him more happy). Her songs are in Norwegian, so it was hard for me to understand, but she was able to spread the feeling of the songs, so it wasn’t even necessary to understand everything. When she’s not with her ukulele she spends time with her sewing machine doing amazing upcycling work. Please go check her out.
Tritonus are playing and singing nordic ballads and medieval music. It was a very nice change of pace in the line-up and I enjoyed it a lot. Their lead singer has a lovely voice and was accompanied with a ukulele and subtle drums. It might not be everyones cup of tea but I liked it a lot.
Oslo Ukuleleorkester is led by Stine and many people who play in the Ukuleleklubb are also in the Orkester. They have some very nice vocalists among them and they offer quite a range of music. Again, they are the local heroes and were able to gather a nice crowd. It was such a pleasure to see this tight-knit community come together. Their last song was “Stairway to heaven” and led me to my personal highlight…
Nikky and the Ukulele
A highlight so great, that it deserved its own blog entry.
After I was done with my set, Carsten Knudsen was already waiting for his soundcheck. He is a ukulele entertainer from Denmark – partly comedic but also with very serious tones. Unfortunately I only saw the last half of his performance because I was calming down from my own stage time backstage.
DAnny is a singer-songwriter from the UK who is living in Oslo now. I’ve met him at Austrian Ukulele Festival last year and we’ve been hanging out when he visited Vienna a couple of weeks ago. I was really looking forward to hear a whole set of his songs and he did not let me down. You can tell that all his songs come from the heart and it’s a pleasure listening to him. At the festival this was actually his third performance since he is also part of Oslo Ukuleleklubb and Oslo Ukuleleorkester. If you ever meet Danny at a festival say Hi – he is one of the nicest guys around and so much fun to hang out with.
TUUR was a the big surprise of the evening. They are five people with some lovely voices (I love harmonies), uke bass, piano and ukuleles. They played covers and some originals. I don’t speak Norwegian, but if I understood them correctly they are teachers in their daily lifes and they recently changed their name, so you might know them under a different band name. Anyway, go check them out, it’s worth it.
Okay, I know that I said that my own performance was my highlight of the weekend, but actually Zoe Bestel and Tobias Elof were my highlight. I’ve never seen them play before – only online – and I was looking forward to finally see them live. They are a match made in heaven and everyone should go and check them out (if you don’t know them already). Zoe has the voice of an angel and writes beautiful songs. Tobias is one of the best ukulele players out there and together they brought a magical performance.
Open Mic, Workshops and Kids programme
Since this post is already super long – thanks for reading it anyway – I want to keep it short now. The festival also had an open-mic opportunity on main stage. I always feel like it’s really neat when people get to play on main stage instead of a separate stage. They also offered a nice workshop programme with beginner and advanced courses. I missed the workshops on Sunday though, because I was meeting up with a lovely friend from Oslo for some ukulele shenanigans (will blog about that soon).And since the whole festival was a community affair, they offered a pretty extensive kids programme throughout the weekend.
All in all it was a really great festival with a very well selected line-up. I loved the intimate community approach and all the lovely people I met there. If you ever plan on visiting Oslo, schedule your stay to go to the festival, you will not regret it.
PS: If you want to see more pictures and short clips from the different performances you can check out the story highlights on my Instagram.