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Tiki Central Forums » » Tiki Music » » Earliest exposure to Exotica. That I can remember.
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Earliest exposure to Exotica. That I can remember.
Quiet Village Idiot
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Dec 13, 2007
Posts: 152
From: Stockholm, Sweden
Posted: 2007-12-29 2:04 pm   Permalink

I don't know if this counts, as it's not exactly classic exotica, but my parents' record collection when I was a kid in the 1970s was probably my first exposure. My dad, a university lecturer in Arabic and part-time Russian interpreter in the Royal Navy, had a number of LPs such as Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade" and Borodin's "Prince Igor" that I remember listening to almost until I knew them inside out. Classical rather than Hawaiian, but nevertheless the kind of stuff that constantly turns up on the "light orchestral" variety of exotica LPs.

My dad also had an unintentionally hilarious 10" by the Orchestra and Choir of the Red Army, with versions of stuff like "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" sung in heavy Russian accents, but I digress....

Anyway, as a little kid, I also incessantly listened to stuff like the Beatles and the Monkees. This led to a life-long love affair with mid-60s beat music. By high school in the mid-80s, everybody else was listening to either rap or metal - but I was too busy ploughing my own furrow with the Chocolate Watchband and all the Nuggets & Pebbles stuff to care.

By university in the early 90s, this retro hipster thing had expanded to include rockabilly, 50s R&B, surf, "Las Vegas Grind" LPs, Mose Allison, you name it. Round about this time, I picked up a UK fanzine entitled "Ungawa", which contained an article concerning one Martin Denny, a completely unfamiliar name to me at the time. This was my first encounter with classic exotica, just in time for the upsurge in interest in this sort of music in the mid-90s, with all the reissues, the "Incredibly Strange Music" books etc.

And, until I started hanging out at this site, I had assumed (for some reason) that most current exotica fans had a similar background to me --- that exotica was another phase or facet of a general interest in retro cool, along with surf, rockabilly, garage rock, whatever. Now, of course, I realise that there's a much more diverse group of people involved. It's pretty cool.

[ This Message was edited by: Quiet Village Idiot 2007-12-29 14:06 ]

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jun 28, 2007
Posts: 313
From: Kumamoto , Japan
Posted: 2008-01-01 3:59 pm   Permalink


On 2007-12-27 12:59, Jeff Central wrote:
It is interesting to note that the early Industrial noise artists like Boyd Rice and Throbbing Gristle's Genesis P-Orridge were speading the Exotica grooves as far back as the late seventies. My first exposure came from listening to TG's "live" cassettes which frequently played Martin Denny's music after their performances. It appealed to me but I had no idea who it was at the time.

Then when TG's "Greatest Hits" album came out on Rough Trade Records the back was dedicated to Martin Denny. Finally, a name. From the mid-eighties on I actively searched for his records like a kid in a candy store. My first one was "Exotica." Upon listening to it I knew this was the music I was searching for. Upon closer inspection I noticed that half of the tracks were composed by Les Baxter. Another name!!

I cannot tell you how exciting it was to discover this music for the first time. It is beyond words.

And the rest is history............

Cheers and Mahalo,

Our introductions to Exotica are quite similar . A buddy also told me about Arthur Lyman around the same time I found out about Martin Denny . Coincidentally , the day I first learned about AL , I went home and my Dad had just back from a yard sale with a box full of old records , among other things . Guess what I found in the box ? Arthur Lyman's Percussion Spectacular in near mint condition ! Fate smiled upon me ...

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 14, 2002
Posts: 161
Posted: 2008-01-29 2:03 pm   Permalink

My exposure to exotica came during the '90s, via my obsession with Dick Dale and Brian Wilson. After "Pulp Fiction" came out, I bought a lot of other surf intrumental CDs and LPs. Eventually, I stumbled onto "Pet Sounds" and "Smile" by the Beach Boys, learning like many that Brian Wilson was a creative tour-de-force, and that he had quite an interesting catalogue of psychedelic material... "Smile" being the most far-out.

By 1995, I had the most important bootlegs of "Smile" and was an active member of the Pet Sounds Mailing List, in the early days of the internet... the list being still on black screen, with white lettering! Anyway, a writer named Domenic Priore posted something about "Let's Get Away for a While" (a track from "Pet Sounds") and "Wind Chimes" (from "Smile") being influenced by Martin Denny. I loved those songs and proceeded to buy a Martin Denny Rhino "Hits" CD at Tower Records the next day. It just seemed magical to my ears. It was moody, campy, hip, cool... the percussion was so subtle.

Then came the "Book of Tiki," Combustible Edison, "Tiki News" and other things I learned about. But that first experience of putting about six Brian Wilson exotica songs onto a mix tape with maybe eight Martin Denny songs, and listening to it all in a row in my car... I couldn't explain it to anyone in Philadelphia. No one understood it. But driving around each day, I had my own private Shangri-La.

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Tiki Bill
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jun 26, 2007
Posts: 112
From: Holiday Florida
Posted: 2008-01-30 5:14 pm   Permalink

The first exotica music I heard was my first trip to Walt Disney World in 1973, I was about 8. Even though the show itself has changed (Who's retarded idea was it to have the tiki poles as the "bass guys" in a doo-wop number, I'd like to SMACK them), they still play Martin Denny tunes in the Enchanted Tiki Room pre-show.

Tiki Bill.

[ This Message was edited by: Tiki Bill 2008-01-30 17:18 ]

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 03, 2004
Posts: 590
From: NOHO, CA
Posted: 2008-01-31 10:57 am   Permalink

What a fun thread, BB!

For me, it was Kelbo's wonderfully whimsical environment in the early '60 that first sowed the "exotica" seed when I was a kid, with hapa-haole Hawaiian music playing among the illuminated blowfish and glowing net floats overhead...

My first conscious exposure to Les Baxter was in the late 60's, through his grand film score for "Master of the World", which, like Victor Young's "Around the World in 80 Days", has its exotica-esque moments, not to mention Baxter's distinctive orchestrations. Without a doubt, Alexander Courage's "Orion Slave Girl Dance" and Fred Steiner's "Space Radio" themes for the original Star Trek series were exotica in spirit if not in genre, as with Gerald Fried's moody, savage, and exotic "Amok Time" (which offers a peek into his other purely-exotica recordings). At my age then, other planets were pretty much akin to mysterious islands...

Elmer Bernstein's colorful, transporting music for "Hawaii" (a *much* better score than film), liberated from the bargain bins at the local White Front store around 1970, sent those irresistible Polynesian percussion rhythms through my veins, and Bernard Herrmanns' magnificent music for "Anna and the King of Siam" was (and is) a beguiling "Westernized" window into the transporting (and addictive) Gamelan tone-scale. Hugo Friedhoffer's lush "The Rains of Ranchipur" was also a marvelous exotia-esque score, the last two works pre-dating the '50's. These and certain others were an early part of my soundtrack collection, not specifically classified as exotica, but I believe seminal influences (orchestrally speaking) in the genre.

My "serious" interest in Les Baxter revived big time, along with a more studious who-did-what exploration of Arthur Lyman's and Martin Denny's works, in the early '90's, when I had the opportunity as best man to stage a major bachelor-party-luau, transforming my backyard into an ersatz salute to The Tikis, with the first raising of the Cosmic Tiki Hut, whole pig & related sides, Weber "volcano", multiple flaming tiki-torches, furtive washes of red, blue and green lighting amid the greenery -- and a custom-edited exotica soundtrack, with music by those luminaries above (plus, of course, the "Orion Slave Girl Dance" -- I'll let you guess how it was used).

I couldn't be more delighted to see the genre alive and well -- and growing -- here in the 21st Century, with (alphabetically) Clouseaux, Don Tiki, The Martini Kings, The Tikiyaki Orchestra, Waitiki, and those yet to come, carrying the (tiki)torch with great style, and blazing new trails through the mysterious and alluring realms of Contemporary Exotica. Looking forward to their future contributions. Oooo.


"Don't let it be forgot,
That once there was a Spot,
Where Blowfish all wore sunglasses,
and Tiki-times were hot..."

[ This Message was edited by: Son-of-Kelbo 2008-01-31 11:03 ]

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Mr. Ho
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Oct 09, 2005
Posts: 476
From: Boston, MA
Posted: 2008-01-31 11:10 am   Permalink

My earliest exposure? When professor humming flower sent me the sampler cd of exotica and Hawaiian tunes in 2003 that he wanted this project called "waitiki" to perform. i was supposed to listen to the bird calls and soon found out that vibes were central to the exotica sound. the rest is history!

Mr. Ho's Orchestrotica
Esquivel Big Band & Global Jazz and Exotic Chamber Music Quintet
“anything but straightforward”–Washington Post

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 11, 2002
Posts: 2026
From: Aku Hall, Chicago
Posted: 2008-02-03 3:09 pm   Permalink


On 2007-12-28 08:16, bigbrotiki wrote:
Jack, check out what I dug up! My MUSICASSETTE version of the above album:

...full of classic Exotica song titles like "Vengance" and "Dancing on your Grave"!

Didn't Yma Sumac sing the latter, and I think that Elisabeth Waldo might have originated the former (although it might have been Gene Rains).

But seriously...


On 2007-12-27 14:11, bigbrotiki wrote:
I wonder how many T.C.ers trace their Exotica exposure back to Throbbing Gristle. I never understood why, when they loved Martin Denny so much, they never made any music as beautiful as his!

I do, and very directly:

I discovered my first vintage Tiki restaurant/bar in 1991. But it wasn't until 1994 that I really go hooked on doing the research and archeology.

That year, I was playing keyboards with the band Pigface, and I was literally living on a bus with Genesis P. Orridge of Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV (he was a guest-star for about half of the tour).

Gen played a Martin Denny cassette on the bus one day, and everyone else hated it and made him take it off.
But only having heard a minute of it, and not having seen an album sleeve or not even knowing whom I was listening to, I immediately understood that this was Tiki Bar Music. I understood all of the connections innately and instantly.

Of course, I quizzed Gen on the music, and he was happy that I was into it. We listened to the cassette together a few times while no one else was around!

When I got home from the tour and looked at one of the Throbbing Gristle CDs, the one with the Martin Denny dedication, and when I saw the TG LP cover designed to look like a Denny LP cover, I felt a flood of enlightenment. It all fell into place.

By the end of that year, I had visited the Islands in the Hanalei Hotel in San Diego (pre-renovation), the old Tiki bar that used to be in the Luxor Hotel, Trader Vic's in Chicago plus about three others... and then launched the Tiki Bar Review Pages in 1995 to document this research.

So yeah, Throbbing Gristle got me into Exotica - FIRST HAND!

Also (this next bit is speculation) I think that perhaps the TG fascination with Denny might have been a bit ironic or perhaps tongue in cheek. After the sonic onslaught and sheer walls of noise that TG generated, the contrast and sheer 'wrongness' of following a performance up with a Denny recording might have been exactly within TGs spirit of iconoclasm, conflict, and refusal to live up to expectations. Or it might have just been a good way to get TG's particular audience to leave!

- James T.

Big Stone Head / Tiki Road Trip / Left Orbit Temple

Also drink with us at: http://www.cocktailsnob.com

[ This Message was edited by: tikibars 2008-02-03 15:13 ]

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Jeff Central
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 23, 2002
Posts: 1681
From: Columbus, Ohio
Posted: 2008-02-04 03:41 am   Permalink

Beautiful James.

Thanks for your input on the subject and what a great story.

I love you, man.

Cheers and Mahalo,

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 03, 2004
Posts: 590
From: NOHO, CA
Posted: 2008-02-04 08:32 am   Permalink


On 2007-12-28 09:57, Jeff Central wrote:

Electronic Exotica has always appealed to me and there is a LOT out there for the curiously inclined.

Cheers and Mahalo,

I'm sure you're already aware of it, JC, but just in case, may I suggest the "Hearts of Space #562: "Gamelan":
This week on Hearts of Space…

=-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- =
=-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- =
PGM NOTE : Ambient electronics meets the music of Indonesia
=-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- =
FEED DATE : 6-02-00
=-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- =

"Jalan Jalan" < 0:00->10:49 >
: NGAIO GAMELAN; Celestial Harmonies 13171-2; 1999
: Info: http://www.harmonies.com/ns

“Metalanguage” < 10:49->16:46 >
“Alternesia” < 16:46->23:19 >
: ALTERNESIA; MA Recordings/Series Momentum M3; 1999
: Info: http://www.marecordings.com

“The Forest Dreams of Bach” < 23:19->29:05 >
: RAINFOREST; Hearts of Space HS11014-2; 1989
: Info: http://www.hos.com

“Part 2: Eclipse” (part) < 29:05->35:38 >
: THE VENERABLE DARK CLOUD; Amplexus XUS12; Italy 1999
: Info: http://www.amplexus.it

“Gambuh Ikat” < 35:38->43:18 >
: ALTERNESIA; see above

“Anjing Ngantuk” < 43:18->46:02 >
: VISHNU; Robert Macht Productions MACH0002; 1999
: Email: machtone@erols.com
“Sembahyang Pagi” < 46:02->53:36 >
“Lotus” (edited) < 53:36->58:20 >
: BALI; Pacific Moon PMR 0008; 1998
: Info: http://www.pacificmoon.com

Very, very cool stuff, I highly recommend it. "Alternesia" is a particular favorite...

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 22, 2004
Posts: 756
From: L.A. baby!
Posted: 2008-02-04 3:20 pm   Permalink


My first exposure to the world of Exotica was when I was very young - 5 or 6 years old. My mother was into exotica and had left the Arthur Lyman album "Bahia" out. Needless to say I found it and put it on the record player. The first track "Bahia" started quietly with exotic bird calls punctuating the dark groove. I was immediately hooked. I played that album until I literally wore it out. I would play it and pretend I was in my grass hut somehwere in a jungle. Keep in mind I was also watching Gilligan's Island reruns at the time.

Flash forward about 20 years and exotica bloomed again with me--which lead to my discovery of the whole tiki community. I have my mother's original "Bahia" LP framed in my house today.

"You're not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on." -- Dean Martin

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