Ukulele & Languages

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

Ukulele & Languages Posts

Let me start this post by wishing you all the very best for 2014 ! What better way to start this new year than with something fresh, say songwriting ?

When you’ve been playing covers of songs for a while you will eventually reach a stage where you’d like to try writing your own. The whole process is great fun but not without hurdles. Patience and persistence are your best friends…

One day, an event triggers a creative process in some obscure area of your brain : suddenly, you have a melody in your head, a few words pop out and there you have it, the skeleton of a song… You can choose to ignore it because, when you think of it, turning it into a real song is going to cost you hours and hours unless you’re a real pro. But, if you feel slightly adventurous you will decide to move ahead and try to make something out of it, no matter what.

That’s exactly what Ganymede Gwilym and I did. It all started with a walk in the hillsides that didn’t turn out to be as pleasant as we would have hoped. This inspired me a few words and a melody which I sang to Gwilym. He enjoyed the melody and decided to pick his guitar and try to make out the chords by ear. We used a trial-and-error approach until we were happy with the chords. From there on Gwilym polished up his guitar playing, adding transitions and a nice rhythm to the song. In the meantime I worked on the lyrics and the singing and eventually added the ukulele solo part.

Here is the result, our song Countryside Walk on guitar and ukulele. We hope you’ll enjoy it too !

We have discovered that there are many steps in songwriting, each of them representing a new milestone. Once you are finally happy with the song itself, once you think you have a stable version, it takes quite a few sessions to learn to play and sing it off by heart.

Then you think you’re all fine when you have a nice MP3 version of your song but what about making a video ? Arrrggghh, why is it that when you press the ‘record’ button you feel so stressed that you mess up things that you usually play fine ? Trying to say to yourself “let’s forget about the recorder, it’s not there” hasn’t worked at all. All in all, you have to accept that stress makes you lose some of your potential and learn to accept the fact that, well, you won’t be perfect anyway. You have such a clear picture of how it should sound, how your fingers should play, how your voice should manage the changes, the result is always below what you’ve imagined. No matter what…

Coming out with a song of your own is definitely an achievement, an important step in your music learning process. And who knows, once you’ve written a few, it may become easier… But does it really ???

And now for something completely different… Today it is time to reveal what my big project was all about…

My friend Guillaume and I started a discussion one day on how broad and eclectic our subjects of interest were and how difficult it was to find a thread to make sense of them all. We both enjoyed writing, were captivated by nineteenth century litterature and beautiful books with engravings from this period. Besides, I was fascinated by Iceland and the Icelandic language while Guillaume would spend hours copying Olaus MagnusCarta Marina.

One day we  decided to board a brig heading towards northern latitudes and see where it would lead us. The journey was a long and perilous one, the outcome uncertain… After more than a year of brain turmoil, writing whirlwinds, and drawing maelströms, a book was born : Les Fumerolles de Thulé.

Les Fumerolles de Thulé

Guillaume, who has co-written Les Fumerolles de Thulé with me, has also richly illustrated our book with beautiful ink drawings.  The book is written in our native language, French, and not yet translated, but here is a synopsis :

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, a young couple set for Iceland to try and escape life in a city where rules and social conventions constrain them. In Islandia, they discover a country with dramatic landscapes where Nature is at the forefront, a country where myths and legends abound, a place where their imaginations can spurt freely.  A series of events and encounters will incite them to head even further North…

If you don’t read French, you can still take a look at some of the drawings of the book on our site : Les Fumerolles de Thulé

If you read French and are curious about the book, you can find it here :

on Amazon.fr : Les Fumerolles de Thulé

on Amazon.com : Les Fumerolles de Thulé (French Edition)

on Amazon.co.uk : Les Fumerolles de Thulé (French Edition)

Some of you may be wondering why I am posting much less than I did before and may even conclude that I have fallen out of love with the ukulele. That’s certainly not the case. I play the uke as much as ever, if not more. I keep on learning and trying to improve. So what’s going on then ?

Last November I have started working on a project that means incredibly much to me, on many counts. The kind of project that swallows you up and which requires that you put all your energy and efforts in. A project that asks of you to face your own daemons. A type of project that cannot be finished overnight. All this means no more time for hunting for ukulele videos from around the world…

So at this time I’d like to thank my fellow ukulele bloggers for carrying on writing posts and keeping me up to date with the ukulele world. Special thanks to Al from Uke Hunt, to Lou, to Jeff from Humble Uker Ramblings. Many thanks to those of you still contacting me despite my silence, with a special mention to Valérie from Les Poupées Gonflées.

Music is a great help to keep going when things seem to go slower, when you feel drained and worthless. The ukulele and its cheerful sound is a reassuring presence. I have also taken up the guitar, not to replace the ukulele, but to add another means of expression, with a different feel. I converted my best friend Ganymede Gwilym to the ukulele back in 2010 _ he now plays way better than me _ and he in turn is now teaching me how to play the guitar.

Here is our guitars-only cover of the day,  The Pirate’s Gospel by Alela Diane.

For our last ukulele and guitar video, check this post.

And for our ukuleles-only original video, this one.

 

My friend Ganymede Gwilym and I have been experimenting playing the blues on the ukulele. After trying many different things, we’ve created a quick and easy song with improvised lyrics called I Ain’t Got The Blues !

We played the song on a concert Kala KA-CEM and Concert Fluke.

If you’d like to learn some ukulele blues techniques, we strongly recommend Al‘s ebook How To Play Blues Ukulele in which we learnt many things we use in the video.

 

The last weekend of October has been a very memorable weekend where Flamby1er from the COULE came to visit and joined my friend Guillaume and I for an intensive 2-day-ukulele and guitar session.

The three of us hadn’t played together for over a year and it was great to find out and share what we had learnt in that time frame.

We focused on a handful of songs, trying to get them to sound as right as possible with different combinations of ukes (Fluke, Flea, Koaloha Concert Pikake, Pono Baritone) and guitar (Lâg 4 Seasons).

Here is a recording of our cover of the Pirate’ Gospel by Alela Diane on guitar, Flea and Koaloha concert Pikake. This was a fun song to cover as all three of us could sing the chorus together while playing.

Pirate's Gospel cover

And here is our take on Paint It Black by the Rolling Stones on a Pono baritone and Fluke with handclaps and backing vocals by Flamby1er. For the anecdote, Flamby1er had to clap from another room because of his deafening claps and to come back to the room where Guillaume and I were playing to do the backing vocals. This caused a great many laughs and it took us quite a few takes to manage to sing the song without bursting out laughing each time Flamby1er appeared out of the blue in the middle of the song.

Paint It Black cover

Flamby1er and his Flea, Guillaume with my Pono Baritone and the unavoidable metronome!

This excellent weekend, filled with music and sense of humour leaves us waiting for Flamby1er‘s next visit!

Monthly Archives