That French Girl with a Ukulele: From Hawaii to New York

Daphné essiet performing at Nublu on Jan 6th 2018

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daphne essiet with ukulele in uke store

I consider myself to be a “Renaissance Femme” (=woman in French). I create beautiful visual art, write poetry – but I also compose and perform my original songs, and when it comes to my music, I was often asked why I picked up the Ukulele instead of a Guitar. I like to believe that I did not pick up the Ukulele but instead the Ukulele picked me!

I used to travel extensively as part of my corporate job. At first, I was a bit bummed that I could not make music the way I wanted to but when I realize how privileged I was to travel technically “for free”, it soothed me a bit.

Discovering the Ukulele

In December 2015, I ended up spending a week in Hawaii for work. My assistant at the time did not take into consideration that coming from Australia, we would cross the international date line (the imaginary line that runs along the Earth’s surface from the North Pole to the South Pole in the middle of the Pacific Ocean) – and although we boarded our flight on Saturday evening in Sydney – we still arrived there on a Saturday morning in Waikiki airport…

back to the future marty
Non de Zeus!

She also thought we would be tired because of jetlag (we kinda were… a bit), so she did not schedule our first meetings until the following Tuesday. (Yay)

Needless to say, we were THRILLED when we realized this (which was last minute – as we were boarding the flight). I had work reports to write and emails to answer, but you better believe it that despite being tired I knocked it all off during my 10 hours of flight so I could go to the beach and explore the island right away.

One afternoon, I walking around close to the hotel we were staying in, and I stumbled upon a Ukulele Shop that was giving daily free 30-minute classes. I thought to myself: “that would be a fun thing to do” and I decided to take advantage of this opportunity to assiduously attend every one of them and acquaint myself with this new instrument. I ended up going to the classes every day for almost a week.

It was me, in the middle and the Japanese tourists hahaha

Deciding to Get a Ukulele of my Own

When I returned to New York, I decided it would be a great idea to purchase one: it was small and lightweight enough to carry it while on the road – and would be an excellent way to finally arrange all those songs I had been writing over the years.

Since I couldn’t take classes, I started to watch Youtube Videos and learn all the chords and fingering so I could work on my own compositions.

My First Ukulele Performance

In September of 2017, my travel load decreased tremendously. I decided to take this opportunity to register for a poetry class at CCNY and perform poetry for the first time to a live audience on December 6th.

I was excited about my performance, my good friend Tiffany thought I should start singing live again. At the time she was putting together a showcase and asked me to participate. I hadn’t sung publicly since 2015 but I thought “why not”? I agreed without really putting too much thought into it. When she give more details I found out I would be part of a few other acts at this club called Nublu in the Lower East Side of Manhattan my insecurities started to flare up: what if I wasn’t good enough? What if people did not like my songs? Yes, I was spiraling out of control but I had given my word and I could no longer back out at this point.

For the six weeks, I practice like I had never before, prepared in between set transitions material, and even rewrote a few lyrics. I was initially planning on hiring a band, but Tiff insisted I do a solo 30-minute solo set voice + ukulele. I didn’t feel ready, but she was very convincing…

poster of Daphné Essiet show at Nublu New York on January 16th 2018
Poster I had created on Photoshop with pics by Brianna Rizada

On January 16th, 2018 – I had a brief 30-seconds soundcheck then I performed: I was a nerve wreck. Fortunately, thanks to one of my superpowers “being able to fake it big time” nobody seem to notice, (although I was shaking throughout the entire set). Here’s a video of that night. You can see more on my YT Channel

I was terrified…

This first solo show was a proud moment and I promised myself to perform at least once a month from then on – which I did! Over that year, I practiced consistently, trying to book shows around New York as well as in Paris and Flic en Flac (Mauritius) where I was vacationing.

daphne essiet at silvana
pic by Brianna Kilgore
daphne essiet performing in Flic en Flac Mauritius concert
Daphné Essiet at Silvana in New York
Silvana Harlem, pic by Louisa

So What Now?

Before the first locked down, I was really planning on touring: I wanted to put together a set mixing poetry, art, and music in intimate venues and libraries. For now, I am focusing on my other passion and even use music as inspiration for my projects, such as this awesome Ukulele Tab Singer-Songwriter notebook – the one tool I have been looking for but never found to purchase!

I still want to perform and I believe that when the time will be right, things will come together as they should. So Stay tuned ~

in the grass in Central Park

More about me here


Published by French Girl In Brooklyn

A blog about #ME: The Self-declared Woman of a Rich Ethnical and Cultural Background moving through life with a very unique lense - #WRECB

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