Over 100 ukulele players perform at Marianas festival

MORE foreign musicians joined this year’s Marianas Ukulele Festival, according to Marianas Ukulele Association chairman Larry Lee.

He said a total of 100 ukulele players performed at the Garapan Fishing Base on Saturday, Oct. 21.

The festival started with a two-hour workshop with musicians giving free lessons to children and adults interested in playing ukulele.

The jamming started at 2 p.m. and continued until 9 p.m. Almost 50 students from Saipan Community School opened the show, and they were followed by foreign and local musicians.

“We have some special guests,” Lee said, “five people from Japan, 12 people from Korea, one from Taiwan.”

He said this year’s event was bigger than the previous two festivals. “The first year, we only had one guest performer from Japan. Our second year, we had performers from Japan and Korea, but this year we have Japan, Korea and Taiwan. We are getting bigger and we are getting more support from the community.”

Amanda Dunn, Saipan Community School principal, said she was glad that her students performed at the festival.

“Our students start learning ukulele in the third grade. It is part of our music curriculum,” Dunn added.

“When you learn music and strengthen that part of your brain, it makes learning easier. It opens up your mind to balancing music with your academics. Students are more focused after music class. It wakes up different parts of their brain,” she said.

Leo Pangelinan of the Marianas Music Association said this was the first time he joined the festival.

“It is really good for our community. A lot of our local people learn music through the ukulele,” he added.

“We have more ukulele players now but some of them have not been on stage to perform. My job is to encourage individuals to play the ukulele in public so they can perform next year,” he said.

“I want to encourage them to come and see this so they can be inspired and be more comfortable on stage. I think a lot of our youth are talented but they shy away from stage performance,” Pangelinan said.

The music association, he added, aims to promote and preserve the Chamorro and Carolinian languages and cultures though music.

One of the guest performers, Mariko Uchiumi, has been playing ukulele since he was 15 years old.

An instructor of ukulele in Japan, Uchiumi said there are now famous ukulele musicians in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. “Ukulele is not just famous in the islands. It has reached Asian countries, too.”

Taiwanese Vanessa Ding said it was her first time to perform on Saipan, but she has been playing the ukulele for five years now.

“I got interested in ukulele because the instrument is small and very convenient to carry anywhere,” she said. She used to play a 21-string Chinese harp and never had a hard time switching to the ukulele.

Ding produced her own album, “Uketap,” which features her original compositions.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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