Ukulele & Languages

Different countries,
Different cultures
one common language... the ukulele.

Ukulele Albums & Ebooks Posts

Ouille aïe aïe!

Voici la version française (et originale) de l’interview de Valérie Charlot, l’ukuléliste des Poupées Gonflées. To read the English version of the interview, click here.

U&L: Comment est né le groupe Les Poupées Gonflées et peux-tu présenter les différentes membres du groupe et les instruments dont chacune joue?

Valérie: Les Poupées Gonflées existent depuis un an et demi, mais j’ai commencé à écrire dans ‘l’esprit  Poupées’ il y a deux ans. Quand j’ai eu les premières compos, j’ai cherché des complices !

Bebop s’est imposée très vite, parce que nous chantions ensemble dans un précédent groupe (de swing) et que nous sommes amies de longue date. Bebop joue de l’accordéon, de la guitare et des percussions « improbables »( des objets du quotidien détournés en instruments de musique : des clés, un collier, un arrosoir…).

La rencontre avec Titi est due à un hasard bienheureux ! Titi joue de la basse acoustique.

Je joue personnellement de l’ukulélé et du concertina chromatique. Mon ukulélé est un Kapono soprano en koa, from New Zealand que j’adore (qui dira les délices du koa ? moi !) et il m’arrive de voler le Hamano de mon fils, pour son son plus feutré. Mais je rêve d’un Koaloha (comme toi Armelle !), ou d’un Lo Prinzi (en koa aussi), je suis enfin tentée par un soprano Chevalier, pour finir, je vais d’abord investir dans un uke électro-acoustique pour les besoins de la scène, et je pense que mon choix va se porter sur un Risa électro-acoustique, comme me l’a conseillé un excellent ami.

Comme j’avais déjà écrit des chansons pour le répertoire personnel de BeBop et Titi, qu’elles aimaient bien, elles m’ont donc fait confiance pour partir dans l’aventure Poupées Gonflées, et pour l’écriture des chansons.

Nous avons commencé à répéter (de façon intensive !) il y a un an et demi, nous avons fait notre premier concert en octobre 2009 (une 1ère partie) et notre premier disque en octobre 2010, autant dire que nous n’avons pas perdu de temps !

Les Poupées Gonflées : Où est-il ?

U&L: Comment définis-tu le style de musique et les caractéristiques de votre groupe Les Poupées Gonflées ?

Valérie: de l’humour un peu coquin…qui parle aux femmes et fait rire les hommes ! Des harmonies de voix très travaillées, des instruments « modestes » mais efficaces ! Aucun tabou musical !

U&L: Vous êtes en train de travailler à la sortie d’un album, sortie prévue pour janvier. Que trouvera t-on sur l’album et quelle sera la place de l’ukulélé ?

Valérie: nous venons d’enregistrer 14 titres dont 11 compositions originales, une adaptation de Django Reinhardt (chantée), un vieux standard français complètement détourné (je vous laisse la surprise !) avec le coup de main de maître d’un ami arrangeur (seul homme de l’entreprise avec Mathieu, notre ingénieur du son) et une chanson de Ricet Barrier (vieille canaille de la chanson française et… joueur d’ukulélé !).

L’uke est prépondérant dans notre répertoire _ à l’exception de quatre titres (dont un a cappella)_  et il assure toutes les rythmiques. J’ajoute que je compose toutes les chansons à l’ukulélé, je vérifie ensuite l’harmonie des voix au piano, parce que je n’ai que deux cordes vocales !

Les Poupées Gonflées : Les Copines de La Femme de Mon Mari

U&L: Il y a beaucoup de travail vocal dans vos chansons, comment travaillez-vous vos lignes de voix dans vos compositions ? Commencez-vous par écrire les paroles de vos chansons puis ajoutez-vous les instruments ou bien travaillez-vous à partir d’une mélodie trouvée sur un instrument ?

Valérie: C’est très variable. Pour la chanson Badoum par exemple, je suis partie d’un enchaînement d’accords, la mélodie s’est imposée, le texte a suivi. Mais souvent, c’est l’idée d’un texte qui me guide. Il y a aussi une chanson dont la mélodie m’est venue en voiture ! Très variable donc.

U&L: Travaillez-vous vos chansons A Cappella pour ajuster vos lignes de voix ?

Valérie: j’écris les lignes de voix, que j’édite en belles partitions grâce au logiciel Finale, puis je les soumets à ces demoiselles, j’essaie de tenir compte des tessitures de chacune, que je connais bien. Nous modifions ce qui doit l’être à l’issue de la 1ère répétition, je retravaille ma copie et il nous faut ensuite à peu près 6 semaines pour avoir une chanson qui ‘sonne’ vraiment ! Surtout quand il y a un chorus de voix harmonisées !

U&L: Valérie, tu as joué récemment en 1ère partie de Bob Brozman, quel effet cela fait-il ?

Valérie: ça fait un effet tel que j’ai commencé par refuser ! Nous étions en plein studio et je voulais rester en possession de mes moyens…Mais comme c’est Mathieu Pesqué, notre excellent ami (et musicien inspiré) qui me l’a proposé, j’ai changé d’avis deux heures avant le concert (du coup, pas de stress !) Nous avons donc joué Stand by me, ukulélé et lap steel, pour la première fois à la balance, devant M. Brozman himself ! Autant dire qu’outre l’excellente soirée que j’ai passée en sa compagnie (parce qu’il est délicieux et parce que son concert était génial) ça restera un bon souvenir, d’autant que je suis une honnête rythmicienne et pas du tout une  ‘ukulele heroe’ !

Les Poupées Gonflées : Carlito

Les Poupées Gonflées sur MySpace

La chaîne YouTube des Poupées Gonflées

Pour aider les Poupées Gonflées à financer leur album, pensez à commander l’album dès maintenant (sortie prévue en Janvier 2010) en envoyant vos coordonnées à Valérie Charlot ainsi qu’un chèque de 12 Euros à l’adresse suivante :

Valérie Charlot
8 avenue du Loup
64000 – PAU

I really liked Craig Robertson‘s song Undead so I was therefore very pleased when he kindly sent me a copy of his latest CD, Better Liar.

The CD consists of  eleven of Craig‘s original songs, including Undead,  and of a cover of The Scorpion Queen, a song by ukulelezo Zoe Janzen.

Craig Robertson describes the style of Better Liar as Gothic Pop Noir. The ukulele is not the instrument that naturally springs to mind in association with Gothic Pop Noir but it does fit perfectly well with the songs, and creates a special atmosphere quite unique to Craig Robertson. A perfect demonstration that the ukulele is much more than a happy-go-lucky instrument.

Here is a review of the songs I liked best in the album.

Craig wrote Only a Bird, the first song of the album, after listening to a 1900 song by Harold von Tilzer, A Bird in a Gilded Cage, a song telling the classical story of a young and beautiful woman married to an old man just for his wealth. Despite her riches, she remains unhappy, a bird in a gilded cage.

Only a Bird develops on the same theme with a much modernised metaphor, a catchy song with lovely lyrics. Chords and lyrics to the song are available on Craig‘s website  here.

The second song, Broken’s Spoken Here is one of my favourite of the album. Imagine yourself in a bar, close your eyes and listen carefully to the lyrics.  You’ll feel as if you were transported to the scene, the lyrics painting such a vivid portrait of a breakup. The rhythm of the song and Craig’s voice emphasize the drama and the slide guitar solo towards the end of the song adds to the atmosphere.

Listen to Broken’s Spoken Here by Craig Robertson

Broken's Spoken Here

Lyrics to Broken’s Spoken here are available here.

Rosa’s Song is another interesting song, starting with muted strings as percussions and building up with the ukulele and bass. The rhythm is slightly haunting, a perfect match to the lyrics. I really love the ukulele in the song.

Craig’s cover of The Scorpion Queen, is also about creating an atmosphere. The Syntar gives an oriental feel to the song.

Undead is the kind of song that you will be humming before you know it, it’s a really nice pop song.

One thing I find really remarkable in Better Liar is Craig‘s storytelling abilities. You start listening to a song, your mind fills with pictures created from the lyrics along with the atmosphere conveyed by the music, and pretty soon you find yourself escaping from the real world.

Pigeons and Hawks and Conjure Box are typical examples. After the first verses you are hooked and you really feel like knowing what’s going to happen next. And then there are the catchy choruses for you to sing along.

The song Conjure Box is especially compelling and the ukulele hammering contributes to creating some kind of suspense and a slightly uneasy atmosphere. A really great song.

Lyrics can be found here.

Better Liar, the closing song of the CD has a completely different style. Ukulele fingerpicking emphasizes a nostalgic and reflective feel to the song.

Craig playing Better Liar on his 50’s Gibson tenor uke.

In conclusion, I really recommend the CD Better Liar. Creative lyrics, ukulele, great voice and songs with melodies that stick in your head make it a very enjoyable CD.

Order the CD here.

Check out Craig Robertson’s website : Ukulele Noir

Subscribe to Craig Robertson’s YouTube

Follow him on Twitter

As it often happens when it comes to discovering new ukulele music, I heard Galapaghost on one of Ukulele Hunt‘s Saturday Uke Tube and really enjoyed his songs. I was therefore very glad when Al did an interview of Casey Chandler, the young and talented one-man-band behind Galapaghost.

Following a comment I left on Al’s post, Galapaghost-Casey contacted me and very kindly sent me his EP. As I am really enjoying Our Lost Generation, I’ve decided to review it in the hope that more people will be smitten.

But first, by means of an introduction, I asked Casey for more information on how Our Lost Generation came about and this is his story :

Basically, I recorded the entire EP in 2 days in early November, except for the track “Virginia”, which I recorded back in December 2008 and decided to keep for the EP. There’s honestly no way the EP would’ve come about had it not been for my parents buying me a ukulele for my 22nd birthday in June. Up to that point I never thought that the ukulele could ever be taken seriously as a songwriting instrument.

I always thought it was like the neglected child of the guitar family that was dismissed by everyone except from those in the Hawaiian Islands. But after I started playing it, I realized that it was just the neglected child searching for some attention. And I was happy to give it! It became the focus of my songwriting for the most part, but I didn’t want it to just become some kind of gimmick instrument. I really wanted to apply it as I deemed it necessary to building the song’s structure.

I am somewhat of a one man arsenal : I wrote, played, produced, recorded, and mixed the EP myself. I just graduated from SUNY Purchase for music production in 2009, so I’m pretty well trained in this. The crazy part is that I recorded the ENTIRE EP with just one mic! Which is the cheap, but brilliant Shure SM57.

Our Lost Generation

When I listen to a new song, there are 3 main aspects that will determine whether I’ll like it or not, namely :

– The melody and structure of the tune.

– The voice of the singer.

– The ability of the song to “speak” to or reflect my emotions.

The songs on Our Lost Generation have succeeded on all 3 accounts. Here is  my review of the different songs :

Lost Generation : don’t be fooled by the slow start of the song, it is quickly brightening up as more instruments are being added with each new sentence, together with backing vocal harmonies and Beatles-like hand-clapping hammering the rhythm. The mix between all instruments (drums, bass, 3 guitars, and a ukulele) is cleverly done in that the ukulele still rings clearly among the rest. A really nice song.

Listen to : Lost Generation - Galapaghost

Goodnight Moon : a lovely lullaby-like song starting delicately with just a ukulele. This song highlights Casey’s vocals skills, his voice switching from deep to high with amazing ease. Very soothing. One of my favourite songs of the EP.

Listen to : Goodnight Moon - Galapaghost

You’re All I Need : a lively song where ukulele and guitar blend successfully with Casey’s melodious vocals.

Listen to : You're All I Need - Galapaghost

Virginia : no ukulele in this song which is more reflective, more somber in mood in comparison to the previous songs on the EP. I love the build up towards the end which livens up the song and intensifies the lyrics.

Listen to : Virginia - Galapaghost

Summer Daze : The other song of the EP that is not featuring a uke, this one is more subdued.

Listen to : Summer Daze - Galapaghost

Smile : Perfect way to start your day and wake you up. What starts as a quiet ukulele song suddendly explodes to loud guitar sound softened by Casey‘s clear and bright vocals. A brilliant combination of ukulele and electric guitar in this catchy song.

Listen to : Smile - Galapaghost

Conclusion :

With his first EP, Galapaghost displays his musical style which he describes as Ukel-indie-rock/folk. He reveals a great sense for melodies, proves his ability to write songs for different moods with amazing vocal skills.

The ukulele suits his songs perfectly and it is great to see how Casey has made the uke a part of his musical signature in just a few months.  I strongly recommend Our Lost Generation, and hope there will be many more EP’s to come.

Our Lost Generation can be purchased from this link on Amazon.com for a mere $5.34, so don’t hesitate and buy it !

Befriend Galapaghost on MySpace.

Subscribe to his YouTube channel.

Galapaghost is also on Facebook.

If you live in New York City, please note that Galapaghost will be performing solo at the Sidewalk Cafe at 9pm on the 23rd of December.

I discovered Patti Plinko and her Boy at the Paris Uke Fest. this year and liked her performance so much I bought her new EP, Bohemian Suicide.

The EP consists of 6 tracks (mostly on ukulele and guitar but also featuring a violin) amounting to a playing time of about 30 minutes. The highlights of the EP are some of the titles that were performed at the Paris Uke Fest., “Hey Ho! Deepest of the Darkest” and “Whisky Six“.

Hey Ho ! Deepest of the Darkest, the first track of the EP and probably my favourite,  sets the tone in an exhilarating  performance where Patti’s voice playfully switches from slow and languorous to roaring with an impressive display of energy.

Here she is with her Boy, performing the song at the Paris Uke Fest, on the 4th of July 2009.

Tapestry Stitches, track number two is much quieter in contrast, with a strong emphasis on Patti Plinko’s throaty voice, a violin in the background evoking music from Eastern Europe.

No Love Lost is more lively with a rhythm perfectly suited to Patti’s voice.

Next track on the EP is Italien Vogue, where Patti Plinko displays some Italian language skills. A lovely song emphasing Patti’s sensuous voice, quite haunting.

Whisky six, track number five, is another catchy song I saw performed at the Paris Uke Fest, a really brilliant performance.

The EP ends with a lullaby aptly named Chante moi une berceuse.

As a conclusion, I definitely recommend buying this EP, thoroughly enjoyable, which you can do on their website. If you are luckier than me, you will avoid UK postal strikes and receive your presigned copy of the EP faster than I did.

If you ever get a chance to see Patti Plinko and her Boy live, don’t miss the opportunity as they are amazing performers. A Ukulele & Languages favourite.

Listen to more tracks from Patti Plinko and her Boy on their MySpace.

39 languages down the line and I still haven’t got a post about English US ukulele songs
Although the language challenge is not very high, as US ukulele videos abound on the net, I have chosen a great band to represent the US Ukulele world.

I’ve discovered Tripping Lily in this post on Uke Hunt and after checking their other videos on YouTube I bought their album Ukulily.
And I am glad I did. It is a real treat to my ears and I’ve been humming their songs for the past 3 weeks.
Tripping Lily, from Cape Cod, are now working on their next CD which is going to be sent out for mastering on July the 18th. I can’t wait to hear their new songs.

40. English (US)
Here are a few videos of Tripping Lily. Enjoy their lovely vocal harmonies!

First, Tripping Lily at the NY Ukulele Festival (May 2009) performing “It’s alright“, with Hawaiian Mihana dancing.

Next another song from the album Ukulily played at the Passim Campfire Festival : Guilty

And part of a another song from the Ukulily album performed at the Passim Club with Victoria Vox doing the voice trumpet. The video unfortunately stops before the end of the song called Love Life . Don’t hesitate to purchase the album to get the full version !

Finally, if you wish to learn how to play It’s Alright, you can watch this video of Demitrius playing a slower (really??) version of the song with close ups of his playing to help you out. It didn’t work for me, it’s far too difficult but I am no reference in the ukulele playing field so give it a try !

For more information on Tripping Lily you can :
– check out their MySpace
– befriend them on Facebook
– follow them on Twitter

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