Here’s a fun lesson from the excellent Stu Fuchs (aka Stukulele) talking through moveable chords & playing syncopated Afro-Latin rhythms. He gives some nice tips on how to play lightly to avoid those hand cramps & also a few useful ways to keep the beat, including singing along with your metronome:
The Mighty Ukulele monthly email of uke events in & around London alerted me to a free afternoon ukulele festival at the Queen’s Theatre, near the easternmost end of the District Line, out in Essex. Facilitated by a seven-piece Chelmsford-based electro-uke band called the D’Ukes, it was a pleasant & relaxing way to spend an afternoon.
There were around half a dozen stalls from local music shops selling ukes, mandolins & banjos; accessories & music books plus an info stall with lists of local ukulele clubs. One stall had a free hourly draw to win an electronic tuner & I was lucky enough to win the first one (probably because I was the only person paying attention when the initial announcement was made!).
There were very few seats available, so I quickly sat down in front of the corner stage area before they were all taken, armed with my lunch & drink from the next-door supermarket, as I knew that once I stood up again I’d probably not get another chair!
Between 12.30 – 5pm there were seven acts due on for half hour slots, plus open mic & jamming sessions. I only knew one act & she was on last, so it was an interesting afternoon of listening to different types of new uke performers, all with various styles & repertoires. I was pleased to note that most followed the unofficial rule that any uke band name must contain a play on words or pun.
First on were Kiss Me Quick, from Southampton. A three piece outfit with one uke-player, a guitarist (who unluckily broke one of his strings half way through & didn’t have a spare instrument, so had to do some rapid improvising) & flautist (who played a melodica & percussion also), they mainly sang recent pop uke hits. Following them was a young solo performer from Canvey Island, Chantelle Pasquale, whom I think is nineteen years old. She sang a mix of newish numbers plus a couple of self-penned ones (some of which she wrote for her GCSEs).
The Fog, playing a cracking version of El Cumbanchero:
The Ukes of Hazard were a club of around twelve members from Hertfordshire. They shared the singing round the group & played a wider range of material, from the sixties onwards. U-Kew-lele were on next, hailing from West London & seven in number. They played energetically, with some rocking numbers from the fifties to the present day & the female vocalists were especially good.
Next came ArteMiss – a three piece female covers band from Kent who played some nicely-done arrangements with humour & quirkiness. The first with a bass ukulele & again, excellent harmonies. Then came The Fog – a slick trio from Bishop’s Stortford & definitely very accomplished musicians (they’ve been playing in various bands since the sixties / early seventies). Their selection ranged from the 1920s & thirties, jazzy & bluesy, plus several original compositions in similar styles. Definitely more like the stuff Chris & Rufus do. The percussionist, Frog, on Cajon drum, looked like his hands might fall off at one stage!
The open mic slot showed a hybrid band of James, Diane & Frog (the first two were the lead players from The Ukes of Hazard, with the aforementioned percussionist from The Fog); an interesting character called Fang from Archway who played an arrangement of (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – he was one of the few on stage with an acoustic instrument &, nursing a few injuries, urged us all to remember we could still continue playing our ukes despite those – & David Alexander, from the Kent uke group there supporting ArteMiss, who sang Crazy Words, Crazy Tune with his sopranino uke, dedicated to the neighbours of all the ukulele players present.
Top billing was the always excellent Tricity Vogue, whom many of you know as she’s a regular on the London circuit. On her way up to this year’s Edinburgh Festival, she was breaking her journey to perform this gig. Despite the intense heat, she kept her bowler hat on, singing in the guise of a man for her show this year, Songs for Swinging Ukuleles.
There had been two beginners’ workshops run earlier in the afternoon, so the festival closed with a mass strumalong of the two songs taught in that: Crash (by The Primatives – which myself & most of the people around me didn’t recognise – though a mate sang it to me on the phone later & I found I did actually know it after all) & Jolene.
I was surprised the D’Ukes didn’t perform any numbers at all, as it would have been interesting to see how they matched up to the other acts. But I guess there were too busy keeping everything running smoothly all day. And they were playing a paid gig later on that night in the same theatre, so maybe wanted to save their energy.
Do have a look at the YouTube links I’ve put on the acts to give you a flavour of the performances. I haven’t been able to link to websites for everyone, as many only have Facebook pages, so if you like what you see you can always google them for more info.
Tricity Vogue singing her Edinburgh road-trip song, Bowler Hat:
Just is case yer wondering where I am, I’m travelling around the Himalayas for three months.
5416m above sea level, 21 day trek, I’m at Thorong La Pass – the highest place on earth you can go without the use of mountain climbing gear. Next Darjeeling, then Kashmir.
And here is the amazing Darren, I was asked up to do a tune with the Wigan boys, at last year’s Ukulele Festival of Great Britain, Cheltenham, Open Mic. I had to say Balham at the start as I was there with two of them, but ye know I love Lewisham. Not bad, until they made me laugh. Playing less then a year. Check out this YouTube of the great Professor Eek accompanied by The Wookies, playing I Useta Love Her. (I’m in black, third from the right.)
See ye in September.
Last year I decided to have a random year of doings which included all sorts of stuff from a boxing match to bingo to a cookery course. And included in my fairly long list was the ukulele. I’d seen clips on YouTube and marvelled at the skill of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain and just fancied having a go.
I’m really a viola player by trade, so came with knowledge which is an advantage, but I pitched up at PLUC having bought one two days previously on New Year’s Eve, in fact right before going to see Dame Edna at the Palladium. I knew two chords…
I can’t tell you how nice it is to do something musical, in a great group of characters, use a skill I already have and not have to be good at it! Very liberating.
I now know about a dozen chords and six months on just about managing to sing along to the odd song. I love coming to PLUC, it feeds my soul just a little bit.
Other PLUC Tales: A Tale Of Two Ukuleles – Tina; The First Rule Of Uke Club… – Anthony; Ron’s Progress; Probably The Most Fun Instrument In The World… – Jos; It’s Been A Year – Part 2 – Jeanette; From Classical To PLUC – Andrew; A History Of The Ukulele – And Its Part In My Downfall – James; Santa Rides Again – Alan F; Steph’s Story; Ron’s Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome; Uncle Ron’s Legacy… – Wee Kheng; Dan’s Story; Five Years & Loving It – Simon; My Ukulele Origins… – Rufus; Why Ed Started Playing The Ukulele; Ron’s Song; It’s Been A Year… – Jeanette
I found a new site of playalong tunes yesterday which allows you to search a huge number of YouTubes for artist or song title. It then automatically generates the chords for songs, which synchronise along the bottom of the screen so you can strum in the same key & accompany the original.
Called Riffstation, it’s only in a beta version at present & is based round their paid-for guitar software (which has a lot more features). You can switch it to ukulele (or guitar or piano). It puts the chords down the bottom of the screen & chord diagrams on the right hand side. Read the rest of this entry »
Festival time has definitely hit South East London. Fri 30 May saw the start of Brockley Max, a music, arts & local history festival that runs until Sat 7 June. The opening event performance stage outside Brockley station saw over 15 acts play, including the humorous, kitsch ukulele band, The Martini Encounter, led by Binkie Martini (who is one of my neighbours & responsible for both me deciding to play the uke & for coming along to PLUC in the first place). Read the rest of this entry »
This month has seen us perform two gigs. The second was in St Swithun’s Church Hall, Hither Green Lane, as part of this year’s Hither Green Festival. We played two sets to an appreciative crowd, either side of a tasty Malaysian meal.
Liz Creasey took this footage of Va Pensiero. If anyone else bootlegged our performance, please do get in touch as we’d love to show the videos on the website.
Many thanks to PLUCer, Katrin, who led her fellow members of the Hither Green Community Choir in their surprise appearance. It really sounded magical up on stage & people came up to us afterwards saying that they’d had tears in their eyes.