TO All Friends of The NY Uke Fest:

It is with great disappointment that we announce that there will not be a NY Uke Fest in 2014.When we missed our regular Spring date for the Fest, we tried to make a September event a substitute reality. Unfortunately, personal and practical obstacles presented themselves to make this an impossible undertaking. We sincerely regret having to cancel this annual event and we apologize for any inconvenience that our action caused. Hopefully we will resume in Spring, 2015.

Wishing you all harmony and joy until then,




NY Uke Fest 2014






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NY Uke Fest 2014

It’s official and it’s unexpected: this year’s Ukulele Festival will be held from SEPTEMBER 4 THROUGH SEPTEMBER 7!
The time of year is changed and our neighborhood is new. We are commandeering the enormous and famous Firehouse in SOHO (Lafayette and Canal Sts.) where Democracy Now was recorded.
Much more information will follow shortly, so please stay tuned to our website for the latest. Vendors, performers and friends are invited to join us in creating this as the greatest of all ukulele festivals. has been revived to serve as our vehicle.
Suggestions for films, performers, workshops, art and other media that relate to ukulele are actively sought to enhance this annual communal gathering. Here we go!


What follows are notes from last year’s event, if you want to soak up some of the atmosphere from then…

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We had a spectacular launch last night for the 2013 NY Uke Fest!
The entire animated film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed, was all we expected and the live soundtrack performance by Small World Project was mesmerizing. Sebastien, Frederick and Patrick never stopped playing for the entire 75 minutes and the variety of sounds that they produced was astonishing for these three musicians. They literally made the story come alive and jump off the screen. The entire performance was recorded live by Yon and it will be released as a DVD in the near future. Check Small World Project’s website for details on availability.

A word on practicalities. WE have suspended the online ticket sales, but Word Press doesn’t always react immediately, so we have no idea when this is going to take effect. We have reviewed the box office prices that are announce on the ticket page and we will use a different (and cheaper) price than the announce one. So at the box office, the single segment price will be $40 and the All Day Price will be $60. We will also add a two-fer deal for each, so 2 afternoon or evening tickets will be $75 and two All-Day Friday or Saturday Tickets will be $100. We will post a sign at the box office window to this effect and this statement corrects what still might be viewable on the ticket page. My apologies for this confusion.

We are expecting a great day today and a fabulous concert tonight with many great performers including another headline performance by Small World Project.

See you tonight.


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Today is the Last Day to buy tickets on line!

We are done! All preparations are made. It is time for our festival! Raiatea is in town and had a great rehearsal yesterday with Paul and Gaku, her back-up musicians. I heard them do a song and was very pleased! I haven’t heard her sing live since last year, so it was a pleasure to remedy that! She will put her stamp on this 2013 Uke Fest and it will be memorable.

We have another addition to tell you about. Bill Wynne will be joining us to back up the halau in their 3 modern hula songs and he will also do a couple of songs on his own. Bill, who happens to be a friend of Raiatea’s, is an avid uke player and many good players look to him as a model. Exciting that he is in the lineup!

We have a good crowd coming tonight for our opening session of the Fest. Small World Project will be setting up for most of the afternoon, so they can present the soundtrack to “The Adventures of Prince Achmed”, the first animated film ever made! These great musicians from Montreal have written an original ukulele soundtrack for the film of Lotte Reineger, the German female film-maker, who is still regarded as a genius for her technical developments in this film. We have complimentary food and drinks. Some vendors will be present and you can be at the start of another great Uke Fest!

See you tonight!


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We love our ukuleles in New York! We have planned a four-day binge so maybe we can finally get our fill of enough uke. Between Friday and Saturday, there are 5 different workshop periods with a total of 21 topics, ranging from beginner’s uke to Flamenco uke! Great players like Sebastien Dufour, Nico’o and Victoria Vox will share their methods in these very intimate settings. It is a great way to get new ideas for your own playing. Vendors, who are renowned in the field, like Jim Beloff and Music Guy Mike will be making fabulous ukes available and they share a lifetime of knowledge to help you make your choice. This does not happen at the music warehouse! Our concerts offer the broadest array of ukulele talent in one of the 5 best performance spaces in existence. After Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and Radio City, we are next on my short list! You really need to see a concert on this stage and it should be a ukulele concert!

Our planning is done, Marie has put together a compelling list of workshops. Jeff has brought together Kala, Lulu, Randolph and other luthiers as his vendor section takes shape. Our performers are doing last minute rehearsals to polish their songs. Food and drink awaits us too. Everybody here has done their part. Now it is up to the ukulele-loving community to get to the event and make sure it is the biggest and the best yet. Btw, I just receiver the new tee shirts and everyone loves them! Maria, our publicist and our staff of volunteers has got the word out. Almost everyone knows about the Festival, but if you are one who has not heard, I’ll let Gus tell you about it…

See you there,


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WE are just one week away from the 2013 NY Uke Fest! Things keep developing and more will be added, even in this last week, so you should not be surprised at some changes from what is says on the website. For example, while many of us will be at the brunch jam, Luana Haraguchi, Hula Kumu, has offered to teach a hula workshop at the 85th St site of the Annual Hawaiian Potluck Picnic, which will also take place on Sunday June 2. Around 10 AM for this hula lesson, if you choose to join Luana. She and the halau will be coming back to us and will do another luau set at about 6:30 on Sunday evening, Hula belongs at a luau!

Another development for Sunday’s luau-Jeffry Denman, who created the Broadway Ukes that was such a success at Birdland last month, has agreed to recreate his segment of that show on Sunday evening. We will be having  continuous entertainment at our luau between the Open Mic crooners, showcases and lots of hula!

On opening night of the Fest which is Thursday, May 30, we show The Adventures of Prince Achmed, the brilliant animated film of Lotte Reineger. She was a German pioneer who is still held in high regard throughout her homeland for her accomplishment in film. If you are interested in film, you should google her to see what we will have available on Thursday night in a very comfortable setting accompanied by original music by Small World Project. Sebastien and SWP are recording their presentation this night and it will be released as the definitive version. It will be a party atmosphere with refreshments included! Try not to miss this one!

Music Guy Mike  and Lulu Ukuleles are also going to be there Thursday night. After the film but before we start our “Limited” Open Mic, I asked Mike and Lulu to give us an overview of what they will be offering for sale. Since this is a chance to get first crack at some great instruments, it is another good reason to jump at the opening night of the Fest.

Roy Sakuma’s workshop will be held on Friday afternoon, May 31 at 3:30. We changed the time slightly so that we could follow up with a Meet and Greet with Raiatea at 5:30. Roy will be offering a great chord book and two instructional DVDs. I have not seen these available before in the NY area, so it is a good opportunity to learn from one of the best uke teachers ever. If you saw Randy Shimanuko’s performance at last year’s Fest, you know how accomplished Roy’s students are-Randy began with Roy in Honolulu.

See you next Thursday!






Talking Story 9


The Uke Fest is an arena for uke musicians to strut their stuff and show other musicians what they are doing! This is an exciting part of the Festival and it is great to observe as an attendee. We have traditional Hawaiian ukulele players polishing age-old licks that still resonate in our souls: Guitarist-turned-ukers, who are transferring their best leads to uke; East Coast hipsters who use the uke to navigate away from the tried and true path and then we have pre-teens, who come to know music entirely through the ukulele and can whiz through speedy passages that cause whiplash! We all take turns announcing our themes and sharing our skills, but it is great to have a place for this exchange. The Uke Fest is here to nurture an environment that provides this rich opportunity.

A couple of thing to do with Kids: We can announce that the Uke Fest is giving Katie Down 24 brand new Mahalo Ukes for her two programs that benefit Kids. We have mentioned the South African Songwriting Event before, but Katie also teaches uke to kids whose parent(s) are incarcerated. Whichever program Katie decides to use the ukes for, we know they are in the right hands! Another announcement has to do with an addition to the performers’ lineup. Rio Saito will be coming! This Japanese young person is a dazzling performer already and his You Tube videos are very popular. We are happy that Rio will represent the youngest generation of uke players by taking our stage on Saturday night.

Since Brooklyn Brewery is sponsoring us again this year, we are providing free refreshments (beer, wine, water, soda) during the Thursday night screening of The Adventures of Achmed. In addition to this great movie, Small World Project will regale us with the original ukulele score. Thursday is also set for a vendor preview, so several vendors will highlight what they will be making available over the weekend. We have been searching for a way that vendors can address a broader audience than those that walk past their booths, so we hope this is it. We also would like to offer a limited version of an “Open Mic”. This should be a great way to kick off the Fest.



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We want you to play ukulele! We are doing everything we can think of to make this happen! Are you as good as Jake or Sebastien Dufour? If so. we want to invite you to play on our stage as soon as possible. Or if you are an intermediate player, come and show us what you have been developing lately to hone your skill. A beginner? Come join us. We have some great teachers like Jim Beloff or Victoria Vox, who have introduced many people to the joy of ukulele. It is now your turn. Welcome!

 We have generous sponsors, so we have added complimentary refreshments to ourThursday movie night! This includes beer, wine, soda, water with chips, nuts and pretzels and cheese. The location of the film is going to be in the Ceremonial Hall on the 4th Floor of Ethical Culture. It is a fabulous room with lots of atmosphere and an outdoor terrace. I would like to reiterate what you have already heard, that this is a fabulous and seminal film that was made in 1926 by a pioneering woman film maker, who created an animation technique that still delights. Small World Project has written an original soundtrack for this film and will perform it in its entirety to accompany the film! Small World Project hails from Montreal and they are exceptional musicians and old friends of the New York Uke Fest. You will not be disappointed with this opening night of the 2013 Uke Fest!

We continue to add to the lineup and adjust the schedule. Please stay tuned for the latest information. On Saturday night, Andy Wang and Kris Kato will perform a set together. You might have caught Andy a couple of weeks ago at Highline, when he opened for Hapa. A noted slack key guitarist, who also play very competent uke, as you will se at the Fest. We have also adjusted the “workshop” schedule to make better use of time and talent. We are moving Roy Sakuma’s workshop to the 3:30PM-5:30PM slot will follow immediately with a Meet and Greet with Raiatea from 5:30-6:30PM.

 A word about tickets: your Paypal receipt is all you have until the day of the event. Upon your arrival, we will give you a lanyard and pouch with your particular ticket. These have become favorite souvenirs! See you in a couple of weeks.


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A great NY event is shaping up for ukulele lovers in just three weeks! If I had to choose a single happening to attend, I would be unable to decide. The Thursday night movie holds much promise. The film itself is a pioneer work by a female innovator, who developed animation techniques in 1926 that are still compelling today. Appropriate for the Arabian Nights tales, the charm and content of these scenes will remain with you for a long time. The soundtrack that Montreal-er Sebastien Dufour and SWP has written will be performed live in a very intimate setting with limited seating. Quite a few Fest goers consider Sebastien to be the best uke player that we have presented over our Fest tenure, so this night is a contender for “Must Do!”

But on Friday, there is the unbelievable opportunity to attend Roy Sakuma’s workshop and hear him later during the Concert. Wow! Roy as a protégé of Ohta san had every chance to launch a playing career, but he chose teaching uke as his prime path! He has honed this skill over an entire generation and untold numbers of ukulele players are indebted to him. We can sample his message and get a glimpse of how he inspired his students to develop. If that is not enough, Roy will be playing with Sam Ahia, who jazz aficionados will tell you is an esteemed guitarist. Thanks too to Roy’s wife, Kathy, who is partnering in presenting this workshop.

If you were at the White House this week, you got to hear one of our Hawaiian president’s favorite singers, Raiatea Helm. If you missed it, you better consider making this the “Must Do” segment that you pick. I heard Raiatea live at the Diamond Head Theater at Bill Tapia’s 100th Birthday party and hoped we could find a way to get her to the Fest. Well here it is. Raiatea will be doing an extended set of songs that will touch every soul in the audience.

Ukulele players are modest people and I have heard a few say that their favorite part of the weekend is the Sunday luau, where everything gets more relaxed and friendly. Everybody gets invited to the mic, hula is common, food and drink in abundance and vendors are determined to complete sales! If these choices don’t cause you to think twice, you haven’t been playing uke enough! Rather than make the choice, you can opt for the Full Festival pass and join us for the entire weekend . . .