Paris Ukulele Festival

Today I can put my feet up and relax because we have a guest post by Armelle of Ukulele Languages discussing her visit to the Paris Ukulele Festival.

Veuillez installer Flash Player pour lire la vidéo

Great day, lovely people, excellent ukulele acts : a day to remember !

This post would be without end if I were to tell the 11-hour-long story of the Paris Uke Fest. But here are some highlights which I’d like to share.

Early arrival :
I wouldn’t miss a minute of the Paris Ukulele Fest after waiting 14 months to meet other ukulele players !

At 1:00 pm there was still plenty of room in the Bellevilloise. It made it easy to meet people, test all the ukuleles on display, chat with the Juste Cordes Team, with Ken Middleton and his Ohanas, and admire Sylvain‘s unusual handmade ukuleles.

Juste Cordes Sylvain from Syl'Uke Ken Middleton
I then got to put faces on pseudos seen on forums. The room was diffusing a soft ukulele chatter, people trying out each other’s ukes. The atmosphere was very laid back and international so I felt immediately at home.

Workshops :
In a room which had a temperature close to a sauna’s, a first workshop was led by Tim Sweeney who tried to convince our group that playing with a guitar pick had more impact on listeners than standard playing using fingers.
This was followed by a great strumming course by Ukulelezaza. Great feel to hear a group of people strumming ukuleles with muted strings. It felt like a percussion band. Combining all the techniques ukulelezaza explained was rather challenging and my Fluke didn’t really wish to remain silent and persisted making itself heard every now and then  …

The Film : Rock that Uke
Weird is what best summarizes it. A portrait of over the edge American ukulele players.  I’m not sure if the heat is to blame but I missed the point entirely. But here is what clever people such as writer, director and producer Ethan Coen  said about it :  “A rollicking anagnorisis of Ukulele Truth“. Sure… whatever…

The Open Mic session :
In a very casual atmosphere, courageous people went up on stage and displayed their talents in many different styles.

Clarification Hawaiian American

The concerts :
Since a lot of people were about to doze off because of the heat,  it was time for a lively ukulele act. The Ukulele Boyz from the South West of  France stormed the room in their cliché Hawaiian outfits and played covers of well-known French and Spanish songs, slightly altering original lyrics.

The Ukulele Boyz

Tricity Vogue and the Sugarsnap Sisters then made sure we kept the energy gathered after the performance of the Ukulele Boyz with a brilliant set of songs and lovely vocal harmonies which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Tricity Vogue and the Sugarsnap sisters

To prevent us from being over cheerful after the previous performances, Kelli Rae Powell reminded us that “There’s nothing bad that can’ t get worse”…
Fortunately, Ukulelezaza and the Red Cats followed to display all the techniques he had showed us earlier on and distract us from our dark thoughts.

Kelli Rae Powell Ukulelezaza and the Red Cats

Time then for the raffle with Lionel drawing the lucky tickets. The first Prize, a Pete Howlett tenor uke,  caused complete amazement to its winner who couldn’t believe his luck.

Lionel and the Prizes The Winner

If there was a background chatter in the room, it ceased when Patti Plinko and her Boy started playing.
This was a really raw and excellent performance which left many of us enthralled. From whispers to roars Patti really looked like a playful lioness with her lion Boy at her side. There was such a complicity between the two of them, intense stares defying each other to play faster… I had heard a few of her songs on her MySpace but it was nothing like seeing her live.
My absolute favourite act of the evening.

Patti Plinko Patti and her BoyPatti Plinko and her Boy

The last concert was Swedish Elvira Bira
The concept of punk ukulele with a yellow Makala and a tuba is quite original (she was without her band so her father played the tuba to give her a bass sound) and Elvira certainly had a voice.

Elvira Bira

This brings us to the end of the Paris Uke Fest and I am already looking forward to next year’s.  You should be too.

End of Fest - All artists

End of Paris Uke Fest - All artists

This post wouldn’t be complete without a video of the concerts, so here it is.

Paris Uke Fest 2009 – The concerts

Thanks a lot to Al for inviting me to write on Uke Hunt. It’s been an honour to write here. It was very intimidating at first.

View Comments


  1. todd July 8th, 2009 6:34 pm

    Nice work Armelle!….

    looked like a blast….

    had a giggle at your take on “rock that uke” :)



  2. Woodshed July 8th, 2009 6:49 pm

    Wow! Patti Plinko sounds great.

    And Ethan Coen is allowed to make as little sense as he likes.

  3. Armelle July 8th, 2009 7:03 pm

    Todd : glad you enjoyed it. ;)

    Al : Patti Plinko was amazing ! If you get the chance to see her in England, don’t miss it !

  4. Ken Middleton July 8th, 2009 7:43 pm

    It was a really friendly, if low-key, festival. Met many friends there. Everyone of importance was attending, although the audience numbers were low. The acts were terrific (mostly). Remco (UkuleleZaza) was superb as always. And I really enjoyed Kelli Rae Powell’s set. the open-mic session was really encouraging too. All in all I think everyone enjoyed it.

  5. todd July 8th, 2009 9:23 pm

    forgot to add that I want one of Sylvain’s banjo uke thingys

    (image 4 of 12) on his creations link…..

    nice…. :)

  6. Armelle July 8th, 2009 9:46 pm

    Todd : I might actually visit the place where he’s making them very soon.

  7. ronhale July 8th, 2009 11:03 pm

    Never seen (Patti Plinko’s) Boy without his trademark
    gas mask; must have been hot (kept the no shoes look, though).
    Recommend their Dada Noir
    videos from last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival (with mask).

    What Ethan Coen said makes infinitely more sense than Pineapple Princess.

  8. ronhale July 8th, 2009 11:18 pm

    Look before you leap. The videos I recommended above
    have been removed (I can’t find them, anyway).

  9. Armelle July 9th, 2009 5:10 pm

    ronhale : I don’t think Patti Plinko’s Boy would have survived the heat with a gas mask… Shame the videos you’re talking about have been removed.

  10. Mikael Anjou July 17th, 2009 3:52 pm

    Nice to meet you there. Thanks for sharing your enthisiasm!
    Mikael in Sweden

  11. Armelle July 17th, 2009 4:16 pm

    Thanks Mikael, it was great meeting you and your wife at the uke fest !
    If you’d like to see a video of the afternoon of the fest, I have a post here too :

  12. Tim Sweeney July 27th, 2009 1:25 pm

    Unfortunately, the one sentence review here completely misrepresented the nature of my workshop. I made it very clear at the outset that playing ukulele with a pick is not for everyone, but a tool to be experimented with for the creation of different strumming styles and lead playing.
    I did, by the way, perform in the concert, which was entirely overlooked in the review. I admit that because it was a rare solo performance for me, I was missing the on stage interaction between musicians to which I am accustomed. Still, it was great fun and I’m happy I was there.
    Tim Sweeney

  13. Woodshed July 27th, 2009 3:21 pm

    Tim: If your audience are misinterpreting what you’re trying to say, you should probably look at how you’re putting it across.

    There were many exciting and interesting acts on the bill. In contrast, I find your music very dull and uninspiring. Perhaps Armelle was too polite to say and thought it better not to say anything.

    If I’d have written this post you’d have had something to complain about.

  14. Bill Robertson November 17th, 2009 4:48 am

    I’m a little late in responding to the comment here about my documentary, “Rock That Uke,” since I’ve only just now stumbled across this post. But I must take issue with your characterization of this groundbreaking movie as “weird.” Indeed, I feel strongly that… that… well… um… actually…. Now that I read your comment again, it seems like a pretty fair assessment of the film.

    Never mind.

  15. Woodshed November 18th, 2009 9:38 pm

    Armelle: I let you do one guest post and you cause more fury than I managed in two years. Congratulations ;)

  16. Armelle November 18th, 2009 10:11 pm

    @ Bill Robertson : Seeing a uke being destroyed between each section of the film was too much for me to bear, I’m afraid.

    @ Al : I wonder, do you have a policy for guest posts? This one should apparently have been censored :) Sorry to have caused such a stir ;)

  17. Bill Robertson November 18th, 2009 11:02 pm

    @ Armelle: I do hope you could tell I was just kidding. My movie is an acquired taste, I know. It connects with some. Others…not so much. I do wish I could’ve been there, though. Would love to have seen Patti Plinko and Ukulelezaza, both of whom I’ve admired from afar for a few years. Nice reporting job.

  18. Ken Middleton November 19th, 2009 7:51 am

    Now that Lionel has announced that he is not going to be organising a festival in Paris in 2010, I hope that someone takes up the challenge and puts one on. Paris needs a festival, and it needs to be every year.

    As for the 2009 festival? I really enjoyed it. But it did need more people. Some Parisians turned up but there were very few people from other countries. No disrespect to Lionel. He worked very hard. But it needs to be a more prestigious event.

    Some people seem to be complaining about little criticisms made of them. I think they are being overly defensive. Armelle’s reviews are always more than fair. I would say, in all honesty, that some of the performers were not that good. One particular “act” was abysmal. To think that he can just simply strum along to Beatles songs and expect people to applaud, is absurd. If he had been a guitarist, and played twice as well, he would have been laughed off stage. The ukulele community deserves better.

    Some performers were superb and deserve all credit. Remco (Zaza), as always, played brilliantly with such panache.

    A festival in Paris could, and should, be one of the world’s premier uke events. Is there anyone who will put on festival next year?

Sorry, Comments Are Broken Right Now