Category Archives: Waitiki

Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: The Waitiki 7

The Waitiki 7

Official Site

New Sounds of Exotica, Pass Out Records 2010

Waitiki is dead, long live The Waitiki 7!
After their 2005 debut album, Waitiki released two more albums, 2007’s Rendezvous in Okonkuluku and 2009’s Magic Island Sounds: The Wedding Album, before departing from this mortal coil (figuratively speaking). However, its mission and spirit lives on in the Waitiki 7. Confused? Perhaps I should let band leader Randy Wong clarify the matter:

“We were asked by the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, Germany to assemble an all-star group for their Wassermusik festival that summer, and The Waitiki 7 was born. Second we wanted to expand our scope beyond music, because we were starting to do tiki consulting, mixology (craft cocktails), and other stuff. Lastly, with The WAITIKI 7, we wanted to go after the jazz/world market which meant a more “serious” approach to the music. We need to create a separate identity for that sound because a lot of “serious” music critics etc. would scoff at a band that was as “silly” as our previous quartet work.”

Whereas the original band’s lineup consisted of:

Tim Mayer
Brian O’Neill
Abe Lagrimas Jr.
Randy Wong

The Waitiki 7 consists of:

Tim Mayer
Helen Liu
Zaccai Curtis
Jim Benoit
Abe Lagrimas Jr.
Lopaka Colon
Randy Wong

Despite the sharing of members from Waitiki, this is a new and different band. But although the tone may change, but the music is still great either way. Think of Charred Mammal Flesh as an impromptu jam session among friends at a private barbecue while New Sounds of Exotica is how the same friends (along with a few who missed the party) play for a big club gig.

Following their 2009 release, Adventures in Paradise, New Sounds of Exotica offers takes on both classic and original material and a wide variety of exotic instruments. In addition to the standards like the guiro and vibraphone, there’s a hulusi, guiro, claves, xylophone, glockenspiel, and more!

Things start off with a bang thanks to Coleman and Clar’s “Similau.” Vibraphone beats, coupled with wild monkey shrieks and cymbals, lead into a bongo/vibe fusion. Next comes a piano and bird calls. It should be noted that the band member responsible for the animal calls, Lopaka Colon, is the son of Augie Colon (who provided such effects for Arthur Lyman). It then launches into a fast-paced, clave-filled “Latin” melody pops that’s further enhanced by a violin before returning to the original style.

This album’s version of “Flower Humming” is even smoother than the first Waitiki version and is one of several musical ways The Waitiki 7 shows they aren’t Waitiki anymore. There’s more drums this time around, as shown by the opening, as there’s a distinct lack of reeds/saxophone play. Guiro and piano come into the mix, while a flute helps bring it to a faster pace in middle and towards end of the song. Cymbals come into play there as well, along with a vibraphone or xylophone.

“Bali Ha’i” is quite expanded compared to the original, especially the opening. Said opening has a “happy tropics” feel to it. However, there are no vocals this time around. Chimes then bring us to a good approximation of the “sci-fi” sounding bit in the original via vibraphone. Bongos come next in a funky, almost Latin at times, beat. It’s definitely not like slow, seductive pace of the original, but it’s still great. Besides, it does slide back into style of original towards the end.

Their version of Martin Denny’s “When First I Love” has a slow build of bass and bongos to the use of a violin and the occasional piano riff. There’s also use of maracas or guiros along with a piano/vibe combo woven in and out of song (guest musician Greg Paré provided vibraphone duties for this song). It definitely has the feel of looking back on old memories.

Next is a take on another previously heard song in the Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: Les Baxter’s “Tiki.” Bongos, piano and later, a vibraphone and horn of some kind offer a slow, “sneaky tiki” feel. Occasional chimes are heard, and a drumbeat kicks in later that plays off the sax and bongo. This is followed by a piano solo, more vibes and bongos, and then reprise of opening beat. All in all, it’s a quite jazzy take on the matter

Martin Denny’s “Voodoo Love” kicks off with a cymbal clash and quickly starts a fast, frenzied bongo beat. The bongos, piano and sax get overlaid and the saxophone later dominates. That is, until the bongos come back for awhile and team up with drums/cymbals.

M. Parish’s “Ruby” makes light use of a violin, coupled with chimes, vibes, and maracas. Lopaka Colon’s bird calls and monkey hoots add to the effect of a relaxing jungle stroll and must make his old man proud.

“China Fan” kicks the original up a notch in its opening. Said opening consists of gongs (or is it ocean drums), bongos, an Asian flute, violin and subtle guiro use. Chimes are scattered through Paré’s vibe work, including an amazing vibraphone solo, while the ever pervasive saxophone and piano also come into play. It’s the same song as before, but different and still as relaxing as ever.

The drumbeats and fast-paced vibraphone of “Firecracker” (another Denny classic) sound like running cartoon mice. The use of cymbals is also speedy and wild, like the fuse on a firecracker. The pace slows down with drums and cymbals for a bit, but the drumbeat builds up to heavy use of cymbals. This is followed by a vibraphone beat that builds up to big bang…just like a real fireworks display.

The final track, “Sweet Pikake Serenade,” has soft opening piano accompanied by bird calls. Light vibes and new (to this version) piano flourishes add to the beautiful play-out. It really is like a memory of days gone by. Doing this series has exposed me to multiple versions of the same (or similar-sounding) songs and I must say that it’s very interesting to hear how something can be familiar and yet also have a unique take on it.

As a special treat, the album’s packaging also includes two cocktail recipes, which also acts as a promotion of the drink-making aspect of Waitiki International. I’ll let Randy explain:

“It also allows us to release all kinds of other tiki stuff, music, etc. under the Waitiki umbrella without it interfering directly with The Waitiki 7…Merch-wise it’s comic books, some apparel, handmade fruit butters from the Big Island of Hawaii, and graphic stuff—collectible drink menus, place mats, posters. We also offer consulting services for event organizers & bartenders (custom cocktail recipes, handmade exotic liqueurs and syrups) and do work-for-hire arranging/orchestration, production i.e. someone might want tiki music but not have it be Waitiki-branded.”

As you can see, there’s more to the brand than just great music. So if you loved Waitiki, get New Sounds of Exotica. If you hated Waitiki, get it anyway. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you hear.

Special thanks to Randy Wong and Waitiki International for the review copy!

Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: Waitiki


Official Site

Charred Mammal Flesh, Pass Out Records 2005

In our last exotica installment, I shared a story about the origin of the song “Bwana” (and about the use of animal calls in exotica) that had been told to me by an exotica musician. Since he went unnamed in that in order to help build interest for this particular installment, it’s time to give the man his much-earned credit: Randy Wong, the founder of the band Waitiki (and Waitiki International LLC).

Waitiki was formed in 2005 with the goal of introducing (and reinventing) classic exotica music for the listeners of today. Their debut album, Charred Mammal Flesh (subtitled “Exotic Music for BBQ”) shows the band’s method of going about this: a mixture of covers and original music.

And what exotic music it is! The liner notes instruments including (but not limited to): upright bass, vibraphone, marimba, melodica, and reeds. Given that I have no idea what some of those instruments sound like, some of my music descriptions are based on my best (careful) guesses. But while I don’t always know what I’m hearing, I do know what I like!

The album opens with Waitiki’s take on “Bwana,” which they call “Bwana, Bwana A” here. Not only does its use act as a tribute to Arthur Lyman’s music, but I was also informed that it was also a reference to how Lyman used it to open his shows. After the mysterious-sounding flute introduction, we get the drums and cry of “Bwana.” Due to the band’s numbers being smaller than Lyman’s the returning cry lacks the “oomph” of the original. This has the unintentional effect of making it sound like a tribe in a B movie, where a handful of actors and actresses have to seem like an entire village.

However, this does fit in with the humorous tone of other material on the album and what comes afterward provides a great sense of power. Gone are the happy melodies, native chatter and bird calls of the original. In their place are heavy-sounding, warlike drums. This ties in with the loose storyline connecting the songs that’s given in the CD’s liner notes, where it is explained that a tribe is getting ready for battle.

Also according to the previously mentioned storyline, tribesmen are investigating the “Cave of Uldo” due to the sinister sounds they hear coming from it. Although there are occasional creepy notes at beginning, the rest of “Cave of Uldo” has a somewhat symphonic feel to it and makes great use of a Cajón drum and vibraphone. Next comes Waitiki’s version of “Manila,” Martin Denny’s tribute to the capital of the Philippines. Both bird calls and monkey cries come into play here, along with a flute, vibraphone and some light drum work. The complete effect is very smooth and soothing. Denny’s “Primativa” is a little more energetic and faster paced than “Manila.” The percussion and vibraphone beats mix in with bird calls, monkey calls and primal cries.

“Satyritar” makes great use of guest violinist Helen Liu’s talent, along with the chanting and “magic” sounding chimes interspersed through it. A violin might seem like an odd choice for an exotica instrument at first, but let’s not forget that one was used in Arthur Lyman’s performance of “Beyond the Reef” Despite being inspired the lusty Greek goat-men of myth, it can have a “Middle Eastern” feel at times.

“Fuzzy Mammoth Breath” is an intentionally funny song that starts with the singing/chanting of the title (and noting the eating of charred mammal flesh) with similar chanting about watermelon sacrifice overlapping. We then get an instrumental break featuring percussion and reed work followed by the “Mayor of Exotica” doing sacrificial ritual with natives hooting and hollering. Drums come in and it later returns to style of the beginning, only with some of the lyrics mixed around. Some might complain about the silly tone but let’s face it, you simply can’t do a serious song about sacrificing watermelons.

“Dew Drop Inn, If You Please, My Humming Flower” starts with a quick performance of “Chopsticks” and several gong strikes, which then leads to drums and jolly, jazzy feel. “Plamingo Flagoda” has somber opening featuring percussive beats enhanced by occasional vibraphone use. The mood then gets peppy for a little bit and goes back to original tone then gets happy again with its use of a vibraphone and reeds. Lather, rinse and repeat until we reach the reed-heavy ending.

“Flower Humming” by Don Tiki songwriter Kit Ebersbach starts with some drums and the dreamy mix of vibraphone and reeds does sound very similar to humming at times. In fact, it has a jazz feel to it. There’s also minor use of maracas or guiros and it really revs up toward the ending phase. “Merry Adventures of the Sleepy Space Kadet” is a light and pleasant tune made up of drums, vibes, an upright bass and a ukulele. Nothing in the song itself sounds spacey, but it is like a sweet dream. Apparently, it was inspired by Auntie Alice Namakelua’s “Fourteen Figures.” “March for Chief MauMau” is an honest-to-goodness exotica funeral march, complete with the sounds of marching feet! The mournful clarinet appropriately expresses the sadness over his loss, while militaristic drum beats celebrate the status and power of the deceased chief.

“Mr. Ho’s Yummy Hut Yee-Haw” is a super goofy tip of the hat to the “Yummy Hut” restaurant in Somerville, MA. The opening drums and light use of gongs or cymbals soon give way to chanting of “Yummy Hut” followed by a high-pitched “Yee-haw!” This is followed with cartoony sound effects, silly lyrics and puns about menu items at Chinese restaurants mixed in with some minor vibe work. “Pan-Xotik-Da” is a very, very catchy song whose refrain is a reference to a classic pun about a panda’s diet. Drums mix with overlapping singers, and a vibraphone break brings us to an instrumental section. Guiros and reeds mix with the occasional “Bam-boooooooo” chant up until the big closing.

“China Fan” is a tune that’s just as relaxing as a fan on a hot day. Percussion leads in to reeds and vibes, along with dreamlike chimes and the sounds of waves that lead in to the final track. Said track, “Sweet Pikake Serenade,” is a very Lyman-style work where the sounds of waves and seagulls vibes both lead into and are mixed in with the sounds of a vibraphone. According to the liner notes, a “pikake” is a “Hawaiian flower whose scent is a nostalgic reminder of old Hawai’i.”

When you think about it, the titular phrase “Charred Mammal Flesh” is an accurate and yet somewhat spooky way of stripping down a barbecue to its basic elements (along with the huge pig skeleton on the back over). It also signifies a musical way to add a little extra fun to your next cook-out. That way, you and your guests can both enjoy fine music and chant along with the Mayor of Exotica while you sacrifice a watermelon of your own!

Stay tuned, because there’s still more to this story…

Special thanks to Randy Wong and Waitiki International for the review copy!