Brewery near Prague to host ukulele festival
Únětice will have top strummers from around the world to play and lead workshops
Posted: August 21, 2013
The village of Únětice, just a kilometer outside of Prague, is getting known for its brewery, which supplies a growing number of trendy but down-to-earth pubs. If you need an excuse to actually go to the brewery - as if beer itself is not enough - then your time has come. The grounds around the brewery and other venues in the village will be hosting the first known Czech Ukulele Festival.
Musicians from across Europe and the United States will play concerts in a variety of genres, from uke classics to jazz and rock 'n' roll. Foreign names on the roster include Ken Middleton, Ukulelezaza, Paul Moore, the D'Ukes and the Spirit Runners. Czech bands include Ukulele Orchestra jako Brno, Ukulele swing band, Prague Ukulele Band and several solo musicians.
The festival is Aug. 31, but there are warm-up concerts in Prague with visiting acts starting Aug. 29 at Malostranská Beseda and Klub Újezd, and Aug. 30 at U Výstřeleného oka. "The [preview] concerts are partly so that the performers can play more than just once [at the festival], and also to try and attract a slightly wider audience and to emphasize the accessibility of the genre." Ben Anderson, the organizer of the event, told The Prague Post.
At the festival, it isn't all about sitting and listening. There will be lots of chances for audience participation. "Visitors will also have their own ukuleles with them. There will be places in the village where anyone can just play; also there will be at least one mass strum where all the musicians and festival goers will play the same song," Anderson said.
When: Aug. 31, starting at 10 a.m.
Where: Únětický Pivovar, Rýznerova 19, Únětice
Tickets: 300 Kč, workshops extra; contact email@example.com
In the morning, there are several workshops led by professional ukulele players.
"The workshops are for complete beginners who have never held any instrument before to advanced levels of playing. Some of the performers are world-class players. It should be noted that the uke is reportedly the easiest instrument to learn," Anderson said. Lessons will be in Czech and English.
He has also organized starter lessons for people in the village to get them enthused about the festival. "There will also be the possibility to buy, try and even win all sorts of ukuleles in all shapes and colors," he said.
Anderson, became interested in the ukulele two years ago. "Some friends and I went to London for a friend's birthday. By chance a ukulele band called the D'Ukes were playing in the pub, and I went and asked them if they would like to play in Prague," he said, adding that the band played at Masopust, the Czech version of Carnival, in 2012 in Únětice.
Anderson became inspired. "I could play that," he said. "I ordered a uke from the United Kingdom. It arrived, and I started to play, very badly," he said. But he persevered and joined his musician friends. "Our band is P.U.B, Prague Ukulele Band."
He began to take his new interest seriously. "Being an enthusiast, I started to look at uke life over the world and saw how popular festivals are and how the international uke community is incredibly varied and supportive," he said. Another case of "I could do that" led to him organizing a festival.
And people do take the instrument seriously. "Paul Moore will also be introducing his program Ukuleles for Peace, www.ukulelesforpeace.com, where he teaches Arab and Israeli kids to play together; we should be teaming up with a Czech orphanage for this part," he said.
The festival is held under the auspices of the Society for the Renewal of Únětice Culture. The town has undergone a bit of a revival since the brewery opened up two years ago, according to Anderson, who is also deputy mayor of the village. Space at the festival is limited, so getting tickets in advance from the festival website or via e-mail is encouraged.
Raymond Johnston can be reached at