Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Second Belgian Ukulele Festival 2009

The Second Belgian Ukulele Festival 2009 (English) Het Tweede Ukelelefestival van België (Vlaams/Nederlands)

8th and 9th of May, 2009 Sint-Niklaas (Belgium)
Hans Koert

On Saturday 9th of May, 2009, the Second Ukulele Festival of Belgium was scheduled in the Stadsschouwburg of Sint-Niklaas in the northwest part of Belgium between Antwerp and Ghent.

The festival had started the previous evening, in fact, with a Ukuleyleyjam in ‘t Ey in Belsele (near Sint-Niklaas), where the
first edition in 2007 started;

Parrondo (photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
an unexpected success with more then 400 visitors from all over Europe; this year the main festival was located in the much larger Stadsschouwburg of Sint-Niklaas.
At the festival, which started at 2.00 am up to the wee small hours, the visitors were regaled on various small concerts by a dozen of groups like Max and Veronica, The Uke Box, Gus and Fin, Les Mecs du Nord, Yan Yalego, the Hot Potato Syncopators and Parrondo.
In the foyer of De Spiegel was a free stage for upcoming ukulele players to show their talents.
The Dutch duo Hein Overbeek and Anne van der Wal on the free stage in the foyer. (photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
I was surprised by the varied repertoire and styles I heard at the festival – not only the funny George Formby imitations or 1930s Roy Smeck standards, you would expect, but also blues (Max and Veronika), Cajun (Yan Yalegro), folk in Antwerp dialect (Hopeloos), fun and humor (Gertrude et Gerard), Esoteric, almost New Age-like sounds ( Parrondo) and pop standards (Gus and Fin) made the concerts very diverge and surprising.
The comic act by Gertrude et Gérard (photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
Although I haven’t seen all shows, like Les Mecs du Nord and the Hot Potatoes Syncopators, the final act of the festival, a Spike Jones imitation by Duke of Nostalgia, Mr. Dennis Teets and Mr. Maris Piper, I was surprised by some of the acts, I love to spotlight for a moment. The two Scottish musicians Gus and Fin, known from numerous YouTube performances, brought a varied program with tunes like the Theme from Rawhide and the Kenny Rodgers hit Ruby.
Shelley Rickey ( from The Uke Box) (photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
The Dutch Uke Box featuring Shelley Rickey vocals and ukulele and Marko van de Horst on ukulele, banjo, toy-accordion and home-made wash tub bass brought some great 1920s tunes like It’s a Sin To Tell a Lie, Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me, the classic Deep In My Heart ( one of my favourite tunes ( Diep in mijn Hart) sung by that other former Rotterdam group De Berini’s) and a sensitive sung Miss The Mississippi which underlines the fact that Shelley has a great voice.
Marko van der Horst (from The Uke Box) (photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
For me this (too) short “un-plugged” performance was one of the high lights of the festival. The Belgian artist José Parrondo surprised with some pre-recorded samples which gave his solo concert a fascinating extra dimension – sensitive; almost esoteric New Wave-like music, but thanks to all kinds of unexpected effects, a humour full experience.
Yan Yalego, on banjo and ukulele, surprised with tunes like St. James Infirmary, Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone, Tom Waits' Chocolate Jesus, the 1920s standard Yes Sir That’s My Baby and the 1936 Robert Johnson classic Rambling on my Mind. Yan Yalego, whose mouth-trumpet imitation is really fantastic, one of the stars on the festival, returned as a guest player with the Italian duo Max and Veronica, later during the festival. Max and Veronica, featured Veronica Sbergia, the singing ukulele player as she labels herself (but she also plays the washboard - women-like with hair brushes (!)) and Max de Bernardi on ukulele, banjo and dobro.
Max De Bernardi ( from Max and Veronica) (photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
This performance was great too, not only because of Max 's metal dobro, but also because of seldom heard songs like On The Road Again as recorded by the Memphis Jug Band (1928); Dirty Mother For You as sung by Minnie Douglas ( better known as Memphis Minnie) or a better known Bessie Smith classic Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.
Veronica Sbergia (from Max and Veronica) (photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
At the end of their performance Yalego joined Veronica and Max for two previews ( I Got The Blues When It Rains and Me Myself and I, a tune related to Billie Holiday, sung in a great way by Veronica and Yalego ( with of course his trumpet imitation)) of their latest album to be released soon. I love to hear it!.
Max and Veronika ( f.l.t.r. Max De Bernardi, Yan Yalego and Veronica Sbergia) (photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
For me it was the first time to visit a ukulele festival and I can tell you that it tasted well for me, although I learned that I need next time ( the 3rd Belgian ukulele festival is scheduled for 2011, organisator Fredrik Goossens assured me) a ukulele myself to take along,
One of the festival visitors demonstrates proudly his cigar-box uke, dedicated to Bo Diddley. (photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
because it seems a code of conduct to take your own instrument or, at least, a ukulele case with you!
Thanks, Frederik and all volunteers for the this Second Belgian Ukulele Festival.
Enjoy Shelley Rickey's review of the festival, titled: The Belgian Ukulele Festival Was a Smash.

Hans Koert
Enjoy some photos from the festival

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Blogger Jo said...

Thanks a lot, Hans, for this great review of the various uke-events at the Belgian festival. I would have liked to attend, too, maybe next time --- who knows?


10:35 PM  
Anonymous José P. said...

Dear Hans,

Great! Thank you for the review. It's nice to read it and to see the pictures so soon after the event!

Kind regards,


5:54 AM  
Anonymous Max De B. said...

Ciao Hans! I'm very happy that you liked our show....thank you for the review and the nice photos!
Best regards....Max

5:59 AM  
Anonymous Steve R. said...

Loved the newsletter Hans especially the Uke Festival. I'm a HUGE Uke fan . Have year heard the Ukulele Orcyestra of Great Britain? They are great. They have a few CDs and great DVD. Go to You Tube and look at some videos. You will be hooked.

And you do know about the contemporary uke player Jake Shimabukuro, right?

Keep swinnging!

Steve R.

3:13 PM  
Anonymous Shelley said...

Shelley blogged the ukulele festival too and this Keep Swinging blog on her Shelley Rickey blog. (click on the link)


10:07 PM  
Anonymous Frederik G. said...

Hello Hans,

Thank you so much for coming over to our festival and for the many wonderful pictures and great review! It was lovely (although all too brief) meeting you and your wife. I hope next time we'll have more time to chat.



11:15 PM  

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