Czech Ukulele Festival starts today in Únětice

A festival dedicated to the Hawaiian stringed instrument encourages visitors to take a hands-on approach. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 29.07.2022 11:30:00 (updated on 29.07.2022) Reading time: 2 minutes

One of the more unusual events of the summer is the Czech Ukulele Festival. It takes place each year at the end of July in the Únětice brewery just outside Prague. The opening day, July 29, is informal with jam sessions and an open mic. The second day has concerts and workshops.

In terms of the audience, it is smaller than most music festivals, with visitors numbering in the hundreds, while others attract tens of thousands. But it has a broad appeal and attracts musicians and audience members from all over the world who come not only for the music but also for the upbeat atmosphere. In 2018, the British newspaper The Guardian ranked it among the Top 20 European Summer Festivals.

This year’s program includes the Uppsala Ukulikes from Sweden, David Chen from Taiwan, the British band Dead Mans Uke, the British-Canadian duo McShane & Shaw plus several more Czech and foreign guests. Dead Mans Uke was also at the festival in 2015.

Unlike most other music festivals, which as primarily geared toward watching and listening, the Czech Ukulele Festival is more hands-on. The educational element is one of the festival’s most important aspects.

“We present a wide range of workshops from absolute beginners to classic masterclasses. Many people in the audience will bring their ukuleles and play and jam whenever there is a small moment in the busy festival schedule,” festival director Ben Anderson said.

“All visitors encourage each other to play together not only from the ukulele songbook but also have the chance to present themselves as part of Friday's open-mic,” he added.

The picturesque surroundings of the Únětice brewery make a pleasant venue for visitors and performers to meet and share their skills and stories. Únětice is one of the small breweries that helped to launch the craft beer scene in the Czech Republic.

The brewing tradition there dates to the early 1700s and was renewed in 2011 after a gap of 60 years. The town also lends its name to a Bronze Age group, the Únětice culture, which had a settlement nearby.

Over the past decade, the festival has hosted many of the world's most renowned ukulele players, including masters of the instrument from Hawaii. Last year, the festival presented the Czech multi-genre performer Xindl X, who performed acoustically, only with his ukulele. He has released seven albums and has been nominated for multiple awards.

This year is not a comeback for the festival, because it never left.

“The years 2020 and 2021 were difficult for all festivals, luckily, we managed to organize both years in the original term, not online, not virtual festivals, but real festivals with guest performers and a real audience. As far as we know, there is no other music festival in the world that did this,” Anderson said.

More information can be found on the festival's website and Facebook page.

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