The Biddulph Ukulele Day 2014!

I love a ukulele event, especially a new one – and Biddulph Ukulele Day in the UK on July 12 was just that.

Held at two locations in Biddulph town, the event was organised by the Biddulph Ukulele group and was aimed at bringing some tuition, guidance and plain good old fun to the town.

Things kicked off with workshops from two of the UK’s finest players and teachers – Phil Doleman and Peter Moss, and the day then developed into an open mic, mass jam session at the Biddulph Town Hall. Phil and Peter then took to the open mic stage later on in the day to perform a blistering and unrehearsed set that blew the audience away.

The evening had booked our band The N’Ukes, and we can say that the stage was one of the nicest we have performed on. Many thanks to John Hayley for the sound and lighting rig. Take a look!

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We loved it and reports from the full day was that the audience were thrilled with it too. I do hope they repeat it as they have the makings of something great going on.

Schoenhut Ukulele – Long Term Test – And It’s Not Looking Good

Back around three months ago, curiosity got the better of me and I got hold of a Schoenhut Ukulele for review to see what all the fuss was about. I had some issues with it and promised I would give it a longer term test to see how it stood up.

If you didn’t read the original review, you can find it here to see what bothered me.

Basically, the Schoenhut is a direct copy of a Magic Fluke Company ‘Flea Ukulele’ for a tiny fraction of the price of the original. Surprisingly too, when in tune, and some elements are sorted (cheap tuners and terrible strings), it sounds scarily close to a Flea in tone and volume. But after my review a couple of strange and rather worrying things happened.

Schoenhut Ukulele

Firstly, the review (being a negative one) brought out some folks who took great umbrage to my review and claimed I was looking for problems that were not that serious, particularly as it was so cheap compared to a Flea. Granted, I think the Flea is a touch over priced, but people need to bear in mind that the price includes development and design costs, and perhaps more importantly, its a price that reflects the fact it is made in the USA and not China like the Schoenhut. Should that matter? Was I really being harsh on the copy?

The second thing that happened was I started getting email from people saying they liked the idea of the Schoenhut and saw the concept of changing strings and tuners as a bit of a challenge to get themselves a close Flea copy that sounded good. I found myself re-reading my review to see if I had not been clear, as certainly it was never my intention to actually recommend one of these instruments. Far from it.

You see, aside from strings and tuners that can indeed be replaced cheaply, my bigger concern was one of build quality and the strength of the materials used. More particularly, how long was this thing going to last?

At the time of my review I played the uke on and off for a couple of weeks. In the life of a uke, even a £30 instrument, that is nothing. After the review I set it down and didn’t touch it again. Recently though I have been out of the country on holiday and was debating what uke to take that didn’t mind air transit, beaches, possibly getting knocked or worse, crushed or lost. I grabbed the Schoenhut. If it went astray – ah well, it was only £30 and a uke I didn’t really care for – yet it DID have a good tone. Perfect choice?

During the course of the holiday it got played a handful of times, not a great deal, and really not adding much to playing hours in the life of a uke. Then I noticed something very worrying. In my original review I explained that I felt the plastic strength of the Schoenhut compared to the Flea left something to be desired. Sure, it looked very similar, but a test with the edge of a file on an out of the way part of the fingerboard led me to believe that the plastic was too soft. Incidentally, some people didn’t buy that at all. But oh what a bit of play time delivers….

To my horror, after such a short space of time playing the Schoenhut I now have some fairly serious wear marks showing on frets 1-5 (and further down on the A string). They are not so deep as to cause playability issues, but I stress that they are not so deep YET…. With virtually no play (and I would estimate the equivalent of playing it daily for about three weeks) the frets are wearing away.

Schoenhut Ukulele fret wear

Frets… Pretty fundamental parts of an instrument wouldn’t you say!  Now, Flea fretboards have been reported to wear. I have a Flea of about 5 years in age, and it is showing ‘some’ minor wear. That is a uke I have probably played more than any other in my collection over the years, and yes it has some minor wear. I have a Fluke which is about one year younger and that isn’t showing any at all. And then there is the Schoenhut – wear on every fret after about three weeks of play. Take a look at the pictures if you don’t believe me.

Schoenhut Ukulele bad fret wear

Oh, and that bridge that I said was lifting on the original review – it’s coming away more now. I can only guess which will render this unplayable first – a busted bridge or unplayable frets…

Schoenhut Ukulele lifting bridge

In the interests of fairness here, there is another factor I should mention and that is one of strings. I would wager that if I tried to take the wear up with Schoenhut they may argue that the string change voided the warranty (I am using Worth Browns, with a Clear on the A string). My response to that?

1. What is the point of a uke on which you cannot change strings?
2. If that is the way the Schoenhut works, then please please please, don’t ship it with such terrible strings in the first place.

I considered going back to the original review and editing the score, but I don’t like to re-write history on my reviews. If I were doing that though, this would pretty much be a zero now. Another month or so of play will render it obsolete as an instrument and that is just not acceptable at any price.  They chose to copy, they chose to use the cheapest materials they could find, and it backfired badly. This is not an instrument, it’s a novelty.

And as for the Flea? Yes, it is a bit expensive, but the old adage applies – you get what you pay for. And if my original review was not clear enough – please, please don’t consider one of these, even as a bit of fun…

Woodi (Rocket) Soprano Ukulele REVIEW

Plastic plastic plastic everywhere.  Another non wood ukulele review for you now, with a name that would suggest otherwise – the Woodi Soprano.

woodi plastic soprano ukulele

The Woodi brand is actually just the name of the USA company that developed these instruments and in reality the uke is almost totally made of plastic. The reference to ‘Rocket’ in the review title above comes from the fact that the UK dealer who is considering importing these for sale on this side of the Atlantic is likely to sell them under their ‘Rocket’ brand name. Otherwise though, this is a Woodi uke as you would find for sale in the USA.

It’s a soprano scale uke, of traditional double bout shape and made from a kind of satin soft feel plastic which is quite satisfying to hold. The back, sides, back of the neck and back of the headstock is all one piece of plastic, with the top, fingerboard, and headstock face (also all plastic) attached as separate pieces.

It feels more solid, strong and nice to the touch than other plastic ukes I have reviewed, such as the Korala and the BugsGear, and also feels a little heavier. This is a good thing as it really doesn’t feel like cheap plastic at all. The whole instrument with the exception of the fingerboard is screen printed, in this case with a gaudy elephant and rabbit design that is really not to my taste. But I will not let that affect the review as they come in a dizzying array of colours, patterns, finishes and there is bound to be something you will like. Perhaps you DO like this one? Who knows!

But in summary – the build feels great. There are no rough edges like I have found on other plastic ukes and the finish is really rather nice.

woodi plastic soprano ukulele bridge

The bridge piece is a slotted style with a kind of unique design look to it that I like. The saddle is moulded into the bridge and sadly there really isn’t much of it at all. If you wanted to take the action down, I think you would really struggle. Thankfully, the action on this review model is just fine. I am not sure how it is attached, whether screwed or glued (or both) but at the base of the saddle it appears to be fitted into notches cut into the top of the instrument to keep it in one place. It certainly doesnt feel like it is going anywhere and as with the rest of the instrument it feels very solid and well put together.

The sound hole is not decorated with a design or rosette but employs a kind of rim that has been fitted into the instrument which I think looks very odd. Perhaps it is there to strengthen the top (as I can’t feel any bracing otherwise) but it seems overkill to me and I am not a fan.

woodi plastic soprano ukulele sound hole

Up to that plastic fingerboard, we have 12 plastic frets to the body, each of which are painted gold which I suspect will wear off pretty quickly. Like the Fluke and Flea, the Woodi employs a ‘zero fret’ just inside of the nut to ensure accurate string height. That is quite nice to see on what is, essentially, a beginners or fun uke as you should have no issues with tuning at the lower frets on account of this.

Strangely, for a uke that is low priced and perhaps aimed at beginners (or children, considering this design), there are no fret markers at all on the uke, not on the fingerboard or the side. I find this a very strange omission considering how cheap they would be to include them. Also a little odd to me is the profile of the neck. It is satiny smooth and comfortable but it really is quite chunky all over it. The nut is wider than many ukes, which I like, but that coupled with a deep almost squarish neck, means it really does fill my hands. I mention that as if you are buying one for a child I think they really might struggle to stretch their fingers around it.

woodi plastic soprano ukulele neck

The headstock shaping is in a kind of funky design unique to Woodi which I rather like, and tuning is provided by cheap geared tuners in silver. They are pretty entry level and the black plastic buttons feel cheap, but they do the job and don’t stick or grind.

woodi plastic soprano ukulele headstock

Finishing off the package are white nylon strings which feel horrible to my fingers and took an absolute age to stretch out. I would certainly recommend trying some other strings on this uke.

As for pricing, I am not sure what UK RRP will be yet as they are not being sold over hear. The full RRP in the USA is about $100 or about £60 which I think is crazy for a plastic uke. Thankfully it would appear dealers over there are seeing that and they can be found on the likes of Amazon for about $50 at the date of writing this review. If they come over to the UK at that sort of price (i.e. £30) then  I think that is about right for them. Any more than that and I would recommend caution.

woodi plastic soprano ukulele tuners

So, on to the play test. As I said above, the Woodi feels great in the hands and the perception of extra weight is kind of re-assuring. Certainly not what I expected from a plastic instrument.  It is comfortable to hold and with large hands like mine that chunky neck feels ok to play, but I suspect some may find it off putting.

Sound though is a mixed bag. It seems to pack more volume when fingerpicked but strummed can sound quite muted and one dimensional. Sustain is lacking too which is something I expected to be honest.  I certainly think the Korala and the BugsGear sound better than the Woodi despite their flaws.

Accuracy is also something that has me raising an eyebrow too. With that zero fret I expected better intonation, but it does sound, kind of ‘off’ to my ears on certain strings. That may of course be the strings but it is only right for me to mention it. In time I will see if a string change makes much of a difference.

It is all certainly passable and I have played a LOT worse for £30 but left me feeling a little flat sound wise.

woodi plastic soprano ukulele back

So a uke with a tone I am not in love with and some build quirks that have me scratching my head. And guess what? I really rather like it! I actually do. Its not the best uke on the block, and I think there are better plastic ones out there in terms of tone, but there is something about this little one that really appeals to me. I think it doesn’t take itself seriously, was made to be a fun statement and is very nicely and strongly built. I am left in two minds and if the price is right on these I would happily have one in the collection. Just be wary of some of the issues I guess. Video review follows, but first, what are the scores?

woodi plastic soprano ukulele body


Fun factor
Strong build quality
Unique design features
Very tactile to hold and play


Woeful strings
Flat, muted sound
Lack of fret markers
Chunky neck for small hands


Looks – 9 out of 10
Fit and Finish – 8 out of 10
Sound – 6 out of 10
Value for money – 9 out of 10 (if sold for $50!)

OVERALL – 8 out of 10


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Brüko No.9 Tenor Ukulele – REVIEW

I was delighted when this one arrived as I am a big fan of this ukulele manufacturer. Be prepared for a uke with a difference. The Brüko No.9 Tenor Ukulele

Brüko No9 Tenor Ukulele

Readers may have noticed that I have reviewed a couple of Brüko ukes over the years, including the No.6 Soprano. Those reviews will show you that Brüko kind of do things their own way, and I actually like them for that. Like them a lot!

These ukes are hand made in a small factory in Germany with a history of making ukes for over 100 years. They have also sometimes been hard to get hold of, but this has been loaned to me by Omega Music who are now dealing for Brüko which was great news to hear.

The No.9 is one of their standard models and is billed as a Tenor scale uke. But, not to my eyes it isn’t. Not only is the body shallower and shorter in length, so is the neck. To me it is more of a jumbo concert, and in fact almost fits in a concert pod case. Why do they call it a tenor then? I have no idea – that is Brüko for you!

The body is made from all solid mahogany and is finished absolutely flawlessly in a satin coat. The woods are not that much to look at grain wise, but I think it is quite lovely in its simplicity.  The small body size means the top and back can be made from single pieces of wood, as are the sides, with no joint at the base. Adornment is limited to a simple sound hole rosette. The build is impeccable, and almost looks like a dummy uke or a model. I don’t say that to criticise by the way, it just feels almost too perfect!

Brüko No9 Tenor Ukulele body

The bridge mounting looks like rosewood and is a slotted style, with a drop in white plastic saddle. This is pleasing to see as the soprano I own (the No.6) doesn’t use a separate saddle, and the whole thing is made from one piece of wood – a pain if you want to take the action down. I believe though that this is an option so be sure you know what you are ordering!

Brüko No9 Tenor Ukulele bridge

A look inside and everything is fairly neat and tidy, one or two glue drops but nothing serious. And of course, like all Brüko ukes, they don’t employ a makers label, rather they brand the name on the wood with a hot iron. Very cool!

So we move on from a very plain body to an absolutely gorgeous neck. It’s made of three pieces, one stacking the heel of the neck, and then the rest of the neck is made from two thin pieces of wood that run the whole length, sandwiching a long length of shimmery pale maple that runs up and through the headstock. I think it is stunning and definitely a real talking point.

Brüko No9 Tenor Ukulele neck

The neck is capped with a rosewood fingerboard which is finished flawlessly. The edges of the fretboard are rolled and softened meaning no sharp edges and you cannot feel any hint of fret edges at all. Position markers are provided on the fingerboard itself, but sadly nothing on the side for the player.

But then comes a gripe. Considering this is billed as a tenor uke, it only uses 12 frets in total. Yes, they could have lengthened the fingerboard onto the body to add more in, but this only has 12 to the top of the body. That is pretty much what you will find on a basic soprano, and most tenors I have seen have around 14 frets to the body, and perhaps up to 20 in total. I like more frets, particularly on a tenor, but there is no getting away from the fact that this has a VERY short neck. Again, I have no idea why, it is just the Brüko way. Is it a gripe? Yes I suppose so, but looking at it another way, if you know what you are getting, perhaps it is just another Brüko idiosyncrasy. It certainly doesn’t make the uke unplayable thats for sure, but 12 frets ARE a little limiting.

The nut is made of wood (another Brüko feature) which can be fiddly for taking the action down, but thankfully this (like every Bruko I have seen) is setup perfectly.

The headstock is a typical Martin style three pointed crown, but boosted by that lovely stripe of maple and no need for a makers logo. Brüko don’t need one as people in the know will know what it is!

Brüko No9 Tenor Ukulele headstock

Tuners are friction pegs. Not the worlds best, but good enough and the same as you will find on a Fluke or a Flea and work well. Whether you like friction pegs or not is up to you, but I think the look they give the instrument is superb. No pegs sticking out of the sides. I love them.

The package is finished off with Pyramid Flourocarbon strings, of which I am not a fan. They have certainly improved over the Pyramids I have used on the No6 Soprano, but I still find them hard on the fingers, and kind of sharp in feel and sound. More on that below. Finally, these are available for £249 which I think for a hand made, solid wood tenor that isn’t made in a Chinese factory is a bit of a bargain.

Brüko No9 Tenor Ukulele tuners

To play, its a joy. The uke is light and balanced, and the small body and depth make it really easy to hold without a strap. The fingerboard finishing is wonderful in the hand and is as smooth as butter. I don’t think I have sat and noodled as much with a new uke arrival as I did with this one – it just begs to be played.

Sound wise it is bright. Very bright indeed, as are all Brükos I have played. I guess you will love it or hate it, but I am in the former camp. It doesnt really sound like a tenor to my ears, or a concert. It sounds like a Brüko! Intonation accuracy is spot on all over the neck and the action is just perfect for my tastes. The smooth neck makes quick playing up the neck nice and fast, although I do miss those extra frets if I am honest. Sustain is also on the short side for a tenor, and it kind of chirps rather than chimes.

Brüko No9 Tenor Ukulele logo

And those comments seem to suggest bad things…. I knew this would be a tough one to review, because there are issues. But you know what? I pretty much don’t care as I think it is wonderful for just being what it is. Your mileage may vary of course, but I think everyone should own a Brüko uke. I guess the way it should be approached is like this: Do not think of this as buying a tenor ukulele that sounds like brand X, Y, or Z.  Just think “I am buying a Brüko musical instrument”……. And Brüko do things their way.

I would recommend it in a flash, but know full well that this could divide opinions.

Bruko 9 tenor size comparison
Size comparison with the standard tenor sized Pono Tenor


Gorgeous build quality
Sublime neck feel
Stunning neck detail
Rear facing tuners
Brüko heritage


Low volume and short sustain
Short neck and lack of frets


Looks – 9 out of 10
Fit and finish – 8 out of 10
Sound – 7.5 out of 10
Value For Money – 9.5 out of 10

OVERALL –  8.5 out of 10


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Debunking The Ukulele Plectrum Nonsense

“Oh no, no, no, it’s a ukulele, you CANNOT play with a pick”… Heard that comment before? What a complete load of nonsense. Listen up, you can play how you damn well like.

ukulele picks
Left: Individual finger picks, Top right: Guitar picks, Bottom right: Leather pick

I’m not really sure where this myth really got started, but I am increasingly seeing such statements online. I suspect in the first instance, it goes back to traditional playing styles (Hawaiian, Music Hall etc), that don’t employ the use of a pick, but you know what – the uke is just a musical instrument and if you can get a good sound out of it using loaf of bread, then why the hell not? Instruments and playing styles develop in all forms of music and I think that has to be a good thing. If we lived under a rule that the uke music could not develop then the instrument would be a very boring thing indeed….

Aside from the ‘it’s not traditional’ purist debate, there also seems to be a couple of other key driving factors behind those who have strong views on the use of picks.

First up there is the ‘damage’ argument. This seems to be a suggestion that the strings, or the body of the uke are going to be damaged if you use a plectrum. Well, yes, if you go at it hammer and tongs, you might do, but, really, so what? Strings are consumables. Wear them down and you then need to spend about £7 on a new set (a couple of pints of beer). It happens, they are not designed to last forever. In fact you are supposed to change them now and again! People really shouldn’t be precious about their strings – it’s kind of like buying a car and not taking it on certain roads as you don’t want to wear the tyres down. So long as you are sensible with what material you use to play the strings (i.e. metal may not be a good thing!), you will be fine.

And what about damage on the uke, such as wear on the top? Same applies – it happens, but do you own a ukulele to make music or to be a museum piece. Personally, I have wear on all of my ukuleles, but that shows me I PLAY THEM A LOT! Take a look at the uke below that probably gets played the most in my house, my Fluke – worn to shreds. Does it bother me? Not really, it still works. And no, this was not a cheap instrument, but such things don’t get me down.

fluke ukulele

Now my own wear and tear may be on account of my playing style which is kind of rough and ready (and I play a lot of rock and roll), but I won’t be the only one.

But time for the bombshell – I have worn strings and tops on my ukes like this and I DON’T use a pick. Read that again. It’s because I grow my fingernails out for picking and the last time I compared, my nails are just as hard as standard guitar picks. See where this is going?

It is a simple fact that a medium guitar pick is really no harder on the instrument than strong nails are. So why are nails acceptable in the ukulele world, but picks are not? And what about the pro players that use individual finger picks like those in the first picture above? They are CERTAINLY harder than my fingernails and are used by many top players. Are they committing a cardinal sin? Of course not. Are they destroying a set of strings in each song they perform? Nope.

The misconception that guitar picks are too hard to use on a uke even led to the creation of the felt or leather soft picks, pushing the argument even further and giving players something that I would wager is actually softer than a human finger tip to strum with!! (we all have nails, and even if you don’t grow them out, I would argue that a short nail is going to create more wear than a felt pick!).

The other argument seems to be one based on sound. I have heard people say that a guitar pick makes a uke sound too harsh or overly loud. Well, really that kind of depends on how you play it. Just because you are holding a pick doesn’t mean that you have to thrash the living daylights out of the instrument. Newsflash – it is possible to play softly with a guitar pick!

And therefore back to the felt and leather picks on the market – to my ears they make the whole instrument sound TOO soft and muddy. The ukulele, particularly the soprano variety has a traditional staccato sound to it, and if we want to go with the traditionalists then the sound of strong nails on the strings IS the way a uke should traditionally sound. They are designed to sound jumpy and snappy. Felt and leather picks, to my ears, take all of that sound away from the instrument. And when you then consider that such soft picks are the ones that are considered to be ‘acceptable’, then…. you get my drift..

Do I use plectrums myself? Not really, on rare occasion perhaps, but it doesnt offend my ears when I do. For me I prefer the flexibility of using fingers to pick and strum and I find harder with a plectrum. And that is perhaps one of the only good reasons I can think of as to why a pick may not be a good idea – at the end of the day four strong nails is equivalent to controlling four picks at once and I find that more versatile! Certainly the fans of things like split and fan strokes will agree with me there, as those sort of playing tricks are not going to be possible with a pick.

But that doesn’t mean that using one is wrong, it’s just my personal preference and if you want to use one, go for it. Want to use your nails, individual fingerpicks, guitar picks, leather picks, felt picks? Then do so!  Just please stop telling  others that it is unacceptable or that they will destroy the instrument…

N’Ukefest 2014 – A Roaring Success

Well another year over and we said goodbye to the third annual N’Ukefest Ukulele gathering in Cheshire UK. Here is a very quick look back.


This year we wanted to to make this one bigger and better than ever, the previous two N’Ukefests being small and ad-hoc affairs, and so the planning for this started in late 2013. A change of venue too this year, moving to the better equipped Cotton Arms in Wrenbury Cheshire.

After the months of work on the devilish details, physical setting up started at the venue on the Thursday before the festival, and we were surprised to note that some eager punters had already arrived on the campsite. After a day decorating and setting up gear and stages, we retired on Thursday to await the onslaught on Friday.

Friday was the informal start of the festival where people could meet for a chat and a drink, and enjoy it they did. After a hard day setting up the stages, the punters arrived in their droves on Friday and much beer was supped into the (very) early hours! The nice thing about uke players is they will always create a jam for others to join in with wherever they are. Top marks go to the guys from Carlisle Uke Club who led a jam and singalong (with some sublime playing) inside the pub on the Friday. But it didn’t end there. The Pavilion building for which we were holding the evening concert on the Saturday was soon put to good use by Paul Elcock of the SUSSies who had rigged a projector showing song sheets for a mass play along with yet more players.

Carlisle Uke Club entertaining the pub
Carlisle Uke Club entertaining the pub

Up early on Saturday morning to rig the outdoor stage and the place was soon full. Our raffle tent was quickly set up by Mary Agnes Krell and family and was soon displaying the fantastic prizes that had been donated from around the world.

N'Ukfest Raffle Stall
N’Ukfest Raffle Stall

We then started the open mic performances with a day full of bands, solos and clubs from around the UK taking their turn on the stage, all ably mixed by Chuck from The N’Ukes. We really didn’t know what to expect or how we would manage amplifying such a wide variety of acts, but aside from some very minor glitches, we are pleased to report that everything ran on time and nothing broke down! I shouldn’t pick favourites really as all acts performed so well and with great gusto, but I particularly enjoyed The Splintered Ukes from Liverpool, Autumn McCann and Joe Grant Mills and Michael Adcocks sublime playing in the style of Roy Smeck (ably joined on stage by Peter Moss).

The highlight of the open mic day for me though was an idea created by Steve in The N’Ukes, in an attempt to make the event more inclusive for new or shy players. So we coined ‘Play With A Pro’ and offered people to sign up to form three groups of players to go away and work on a song they have never played before and then perform it on stage with one of the evening performers. It was a concept that could have crashed and burned I guess, but when you had pros leading the groups like Phil Doleman, Mike Krabbers and Tim and Jake Smithies, how could it go wrong?. The groups looked nervous, but the group leaders took them through it perfectly and the three performances had some of the best audience receptions of the day!  Oh, and did I say that by the end of the open mic session, two thirds of all of our raffle tickets had sold out?!

The Splintered Ukes
The Splintered Ukes

With not much time to spare after finishing the open mic stage, the evening acts were ushered to the Pavilion stage for the quickest of sound checks. Minimal fuss from these artists who have performed many many times around the UK, and we were ready to go at 7pm. Kicking off the show were our pals Ooty And The Cloud from Chester who delivered a suitably dreamy and classy set and soon had the pavilion full.

Dead Mans Uke followed with their fantastic, thrilling sound that really did have the audience amazed – I love their style and attitude and it was so good of them to come.

Dead Mans Uke
Dead Mans Uke

Next up, Krabbers and his set of introspective and also funny self penned tunes was a particular highlight and drew a great audience reaction – love that mans voice.

Then on to some sublime technical skill and a guy we love and were so pleased to have along. Phil Dolemans sets are wonderful to watch and always delivered with total professionalism. He certainly went with a bang.

Then a trio of guys we have been friends with for some time who we just knew would get the audience bouncing – Chonkinfeckle. One way or another the guys from Chonkinfeckle have contributed to each N’Ukefest so far, so we were delighted to have them back for the third time and see them perform a really tight set as a full band.


Closing the night were the N’Ukes – we were rough and ready, and extremely tired, but I think the audience enjoyed it. A highlight for me was some of the other evening acts joining us on stage for the final thrash out of Should I Stay Or Should I Go by the Clash. Note to self – when organising a ukulele festival, don’t think you will be fit to play anything at a start time of 10.45pm….. It was a blur really…

Accordingly, straight to bed for me after the gig, but I know that the fun and games carried on in the campsite until the early hours. ( I shall keep the stories to myself….)

Up and at them for day two and things kicked off with the guys from Carlisle again and I had been dying to see them on stage. They have a really tight thing going on and were a joy to watch.

Special mention to Wirral Uke Orchestra, and a couple of their spin off bands such as The Mighty Flea for their very tight and well arranged sets. With an ‘Orchestra’ it’s not straightforward to play so many ukes with such variety, but they nailed it I thought.

Wirral Ukulele Orchestra
Wirral Ukulele Orchestra

Early afternoon we had sold out of raffle tickets, and Mary Agnes Krell joined us on stage to announce the prize winners (at all times being put off by the blowing wind and her billowing skirt!). The generosity of those who donated still staggers me. And the raffle was not all, we also had a cake stall set up by locals Eileen and Rosie Mason with all proceeds going to the charity too.

And I said I wouldn’t pick favourites, but who am I kidding… later in the afternoon we had an act that we just knew would blow the festival away. Nervously taking the stage was Zahra Lowzley from Edinburgh who burst into one of the most impressive ukulele performances I have EVER seen. Quite incredible and everything from classical to flamenco, dub step to bluegrass. Staggeringly good. I say this as no exaggeration – some people in the audience were in tears at the emotional playing and she received the only (and well deserved) standing ovation of the weekend.

Zahra Lowzley
Zahra Lowzley

And soon it was over. The feedback from attendees has been amazing and we are so glad it went off well. And what of the reason for it all? Well, the event was put on to raise money for two very worthy charities, Macmillan Cancer Support and The Wingate Centre in Wrenbury, a disabled children’s charity located close to the N’Ukefest venue. And the total? £3,731.58!!! We are totally thrilled with that sum and it smashes the target we had in mind by some distance.

Thanks on behalf of The N’Ukes go to all who attended, took part or contributed in any way at all. If I start listing names, I will miss somebody and don’t want to offend, so, thanks to all – you know who you are!!

Dead Mans Uke – Flaming Formby Hot Sauce – REVIEW

I can honestly say that when I started blogging about the ukulele, I never once thought I would find myself writing about food. Until that is UK act Dead Mans Uke came along with a gem of a merchandise idea. Flaming Formby Habenero Hot Sauce!

Flaming Formby Hot Sauce

Tim and Jake Smithies of Dead Mans Uke came up with the novel idea recently, and via the culinary skills of the Cambridge Chili Sauce Co, presented me with this bottle of Dead Mans Uke brand sauce at the last N’Ukefest.

It’s made from Habanero peppers and boy, can you feel the heat. This is a HOT sauce and quite refreshing for it. I find a lot of the supermarket shelves are filled with sauces that claim they are hot, but are actually anything but. This one though has a fiery kick that will satisfy the most avid chili fan. Even the label reads,

“Dead Mans Uke cannot be held responsible for any damage or pain caused…”

Love it!

It’s not all heat heat heat though, and has a fruity and slightly sweet taste too. I’ve had it with cheese and it goes down a treat, as it did on grilled chicken, and my wife mixed it with mayo to create a chili dip!

But on to that name and the label.  The packaging was designed by Jake Smithies of the band and features a gurning George Formby on fire….. For readers from around the globe, Mr Formby was a master of a certain style of cheeky chappie banjolele uke from some years ago, and still revered by some people over here in the UK. Readers of this site may also remember that I am not, personally, the biggest fan of the Formby style. As such, a bottle of sauce that features the burning head of said Mr F was naturally going to appeal to me in a perverse way.  And as Tim Smithies said ‘Turned out hot again!’

You can pick up your bottles via the Dead Mans Uke website at and be sure to check the band out too. They absolutely rocked the crowd at N’Ukefest 2014!

Dead Mans Uke