The band was formed three years ago as a trio of Filipinos — Janel Orbida on guitar and vocals, Mervin Espina on bass and Oji Valencia on percussion or guitar. We settled on the name Ugwae from the name of Master Oogway in Kung Fu Panda. We play reggae, dub, world music and ska covers. In time, our musician friends began jamming with us, adding more layers. Before we knew it, we’d developed this eclectic world music-reggae-dub sound that just keeps evolving.
We now have six core members. From the original three, Baylin Coddington (clarinet/saxophone/synthesizer), Moe Wahid (percussion) and Mariano Agostini (trumpet/percussion/vocals) have added flavour to the Ugwae. However, we still have members who come and go so Alec Schacner (bass/percussion/guitar/vocals) and Julan Masson (bass/guitar/percussion) jams with us. Half of the band has had formal and classical training for their main instruments. The other half are self-taught.
Are there lots of things going on in the music scene?
There are many musicians in the local scene that are struggling to offer something different. But they need the support of the music venues and the general audience. This means there is a variety of things happening in the Saigon music scene but it's moving forward very slowly. I just hope it doesn't stop.
Where can we see you perform?
At the moment, we haven't been playing regular gigs because band members come and go. However, we did have some gigs at RFC, Yoko Bar and the Russian Bar. We also throw the event, DON'T FEED THE MONKEY! so be on the lookout for that.
What are your plans for the future?
The band is at a transition period at the moment with the members so we can't commit to anything regularly until we've finalised the member line-up. But we are planning a few events with other bands and artists for the next few months.
We will be featuring artists that play instruments like, didgeridoo, melodica, saz (Turkish guitar) and more. We will be playing some covers but mostly improv. Part of the aim is to encourage artists to be more creative and original and also to get the Saigon audience to open their minds to all different forms of music.
To be updated on Ugwae’s performances, check out their Facebook page