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I've watched the video....yeah it's really “Quiet Village,”,they never talk.
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Kit Ebersbach

How can you write about modern exotica without mentioning Don Tiki?


It is similar to when Don the Beachcomber opened his place in Hawaii and the locals hated it. That was the image they were trying to lose. Later, they embraced it as the tourists embraced it and luaus and thatch became the standard. It's a very confusing thing. But, doing these things in a non-ironic was is what is essential, and what is Waitiki 7.


Aloha Nate,

What a terrific post—you really get to the issues faced by exotica's musicians and aficionados, particularly those of us who are kama'aina (e.g. born & raised in Hawaii). That "Lyman was part of a culture that locals no longer valued" is partly what Waitiki 7 finds ourselves up against back home; most locals in my generation are completely unfamiliar with exotica and its roots in Hawaii, yet upon exposure find a natural kinship to its sounds, vocabulary, and (as you mentioned) tunes.

As you point out, one of the most unique elements of Mr. Lyman's approach to exotica are the Hawaiian tunes he incorporates, like Imi Au Ia Oe, He Aloha No Honolulu, or the others you mentioned. His choice and arrangement of these local favorites shows that he was sensitive to how Hawaii and its music would be portrayed on the world stage. Copycat exotica groups, of which there were dozens, usually went for totally cheese ball tunes written specifically for their record date and without connection to Hawaiiana. That Mr. Lyman was able to find a balance between what's authentic, exotic, popular/commercial, and hip has always been inspiring to me.

Interestingly, the basic instrumentation for which Denny's and Lyman's albums are famous pre-date both groups. Gabby Pahinui's 1949 recordings of Lei Aloha Lei Makamae, Ahulili, and Hame Pila use vibes, glockenspiel, flute, piano, drums, and Latin percussion... I doubt anyone would argue that Gabby is anything but authentic Hawaiian music.

To me this helps to push the debate of "Authentic" vs. "The Other" one step further. Certainly these issues aren't unique to Hawaiians or exotica: they are faced by other musicians who incorporate authentic or traditional cultural music with their own creative impulses. But the frame of exotica for understanding said issues is a particularly just one, since many are familiar with the intense commercialization, marketing, and stereotyping of Hawaii as a tourist attraction: Authentic Hawaiian cultural practices have been famously misrepresented and trampled. While Hawaiiana will never be completely free of others' misnomers, it's the Waitiki 7's intention and hope that our approach to exotica and musicianship may help to clear the air.

Mahalo nui loa for your enthusiastic support of the Waitiki 7!


PS: In 2007, the Journal for Music-In-Education published an article I wrote that talks about this in more detail. Email me for the PDF if anyone reading this is interested.

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