Ukulele & Languages

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

Paris Uke Fest. : A great experience! – Part One

06 2009

My very first Ukulele Fest turned out brilliantly. I had a really good time and the whole day unfolded really well. Let me tell you the story :
After a long walk from Gare de Lyon, we cross the cemetery of the Père Lachaise, a blessed place sheltering us from the blazing sun. As we are nearing the Bellevilloise where the Uke Fest will be held, I start looking for signs of people carrying ukuleles. I can’t see any… After 14 months of ukulele playing without meeting one single ukulele player, I had to arrive at the very beginning of the Paris Uke Fest to make sure I wouldn’t miss anything. A few others did just the same. We sit ourselves down at a table, taking it all in and people quickly come to join us. The atmosphere is very relaxed. I meet Clare (Clarification from UkuleleCosmos) and we start chatting about ukulele and travelling… the day is promising !

Père Lachaise Cimetery PUF 2009 Mikael from Sweden PUF 2009 Clare from London PUF 2009 Syl'Ukes ukuleles

Arriving early is great : you get to try all the ukuleles on display and to chat with the different people demonstrating them, Juste Cordes’ team, Sylvain from Syl’Uke and his handmade ukuleles (check out the one with the soundhole on the side on the above picture) and Ken Middleton and his Ohanas.

Time for the workshops arrives. The first one doesn’t really inspire me _ how to play ukulele with a plectrum _ but I decide to attend anyway to see what it’s all about. Tim Sweeney‘s workshop feels more like an improvised chat about playing ukulele with a guitar pick and how to “fill the space” with plectrum effects, but he sure can play… with a guitar pick. The sound is completely different, harshier, more mainstream maybe.

Next workshop is something I was really waiting for : ukulele strumming techniques by Ukulelezaza. The workshop is well structured and it is quite fun to hear muted strings strummed simultaneously by a bunch of people. The heat in the dark room is hardly bearable, the sound of the ukulele strums reminds me of percussions, transporting me to Africa. There was a lot to take in but we’re all going to get a video from ukulezaza summarising everything he taught us so there’s hope yet… practise, practise, practise…

After a short break to get some fresh air, back into the sauna to watch the film Rock that Uke. The film tries to analyse the common traits of personality of a few over the edge ukulele players trying to figure out if there is a ukulele personality. Blame it on the heat of the room or on anything you like but I completely failed to get the point. Maybe I just don’t have a ukulele personality.

Time to go and talk to people. I had brought my 5 year old son’s Makala with me as it sounded really nasty. A nice ukulele player from the Manche introduces me to Sam, the guy in charge of preparing the ukuleles at Juste Cordes. A special mention to him for taking the time to fix the ukulele for me. If you buy your ukulele from Juste Cordes, you can be sure it will be well prepared when you receive it. I bought my first ukulele there and I have never had any problems with it.

PUF 2009, Sam from JusteCordes

Later, I get my share of ukulele and languages as I meet people from Sweden, England, America and of course France.

Paris Uke Fest Part One For some reason, the transition titles produce an awful sound, I don’t have this on my original video so it is most probably an encoding problem. Sorry about this.

Lionel, the organiser of the festival, announces the beginning of the “Open Mic” session. Thumbs up to Clare for having the courage to go on stage and sing Mother Nature’s son at her very first ukulele festival. The Open Mic session showed a kaleidoscope of ukulele styles and some nice original songs.

After so many words, it’s about time to get some sound. Here are some highlights of the pre-concert part of the Uke Fest. Thanks a million to Morten for filming so many things and for coming along even though he didn’t play the ukulele. I have tried to find video sequences which best represented the atmosphere. I need a course in video editing: it really took ages and it’s given me nightmares… and I’ve still got Part Two to do…


  1. Tim on the 8th of July 2009 @ 09:46

    Looks like great fun – and I have to admit, I’m slightly envious ;)

  2. Armelle Europe on the 8th of July 2009 @ 08:29

    try not to miss next year’s :)

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