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Don Tiki
The Forbidden Sounds of Don Tiki and
Skinny Dip with Don Tiki

Like hot lava erupting from a long extinct volcano, Don Tiki has revived exotica music from the depths of the discount record bin. The brainchild of lounge aficionados Perry Coma and Fluid Floyd (a.k.a., Kit Ebersbach and Lloyd Kandell), this collective of regular and guest musicians play the same mixture of music that originally put Martin Denny, Les Baxter, and Arthur Lyman on the map in the 1950s and '60s.

For those not familiar with Hawaii's most sought after tiki-lounge band, Don Tiki's two current CDs are a pupu platter of African, South American, and Polynesian instruments, rhythms, melodies, and bird calls. On their debut disc, The Forbidden Sounds of Don Tiki, their instrumentals range from the serene "Madenhair Fern" to the boiling "Hot Like Lava." When the band adds vocals, they drift off into good-natured kitsch in the haunting "Bamboozled" and catchy old tropical fantasy tunes, like "An Occasional Man," both sung by Hai Jung, The Girl from Pago Pago. To make their debut all the more authentic, the legendary Martin Denny plays on two of his own songs, the classic "Exotica" and a new song he wrote for the occasion, "Forever & Ever."

Don Tiki's second CD, Skinny Dip with Don Tiki, has a more lush, suave sound that tries to bring the exotica vibe into the 21st century. The hard-driving rhythms in songs like "Pinakbet" and "Heat" show off their Latin jazz influences, while their slow seductive arrangements of "All Quiet Flows the Don" and "Wet Cave" transport you far away from civilization. In the midst of the CD's sincere instrumentals, the band still finds time for tongue-in-cheek vocal numbers, like the inviting "The Other Side of the Moon," sung by Hai Jung, the velvety "The Natives are Restless," crooned by Delmar deWilde, and the eerie yet intoxicating "Axolotl," which is their tribute to multi-octave exotica singer Yma Sumac.

Being an exotica purist, I prefer the band's first CD. However, I have to admit that the seamless flow of their second release mesmerizes me. Their live show is not to be missed, but if you can't catch them in person in Honolulu, check out their Website for QuickTime videos of the band performing with their troupe of Polynesian dancers.

—Alden Gewirtz



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