By Jaymz Bee
I wasn’t around in the thirties when Tiki Culture first appeared in North America. (Don The Beachcomber, America’s first Tiki themed bar opened in 1934. My parents hadn’t even met in the fifties when it became super popular; both for it’s theme restaurants and nightclubs and the new form of “Exotica” music that was ushered in by Martin Denny and Les Baxter…no it was the resurgence in 1997 when I found myself knee-deep in all things Polynesian. I was running Leisure Lab Recordings for BMG and made a recording of exotica meets space-age-bachelor-pad-music of “Closer To The Heart” by Rush, and many of my collaborators (including Richard Underhill, Jono Grant and Great Bob Scott) shared an affinity for this style of jazz meets world meets pop music – and now twenty years later, here it comes again!
This time, rather than a few arrangements, I find myself working with The Tiki Collective – a group that perform exotica hits of the past and some original music as well. We plan to release recordings in 2017 and will continue to perform live shows in theaters, clubs, private parties and special events.
You will also find hints of exotica music on Matt Dusk’s new Christmas album according to many of the musicians involved. It is a throwback to the days of Andy Williams and Dean Martin and includes plenty of vibraphone! Tia Brazda is also a fan of this style of music and we can look forward to some original tunes for Tiki lovers soon.
Aside from the music there is lots of evidence that Tiki Culture is coming back big time.
The Shore Leave at 1775 Danforth Avenue and Bill Hicks Bar at 946 Queen East ensure that people on the other side of the Don Valley can enjoy ambiance with their cocktails, and the West side of Toronto is teeming with fun places such as Miss Things (1279 Queen West), the Tiki-themed rooftop bar at Bovine Sex Club (542 Queen St. West) and the hippest and liveliest and most authentic of the bunch, The Shameful Tiki Room at 1378 Queen West. This Parkdale hot spot looks like nothing from the outside but step in the door and you are transported to a magical land that feels like Trader Vics meets The Cadillac Lounge. Order a Volcano (a drink that serves 2-4 people) and it comes with a gong and chant while dry ice fills the bar. The food is decent too!
I hope you will help me spread the good word about the local scene. Of course I wish I was “here today, gone to Maui” but I will happily settle for exotic drinks and exotica music at local tiki bars during our cold winter months here in Toronto…and will continue working with The Tiki Collective on music and events that will warm everybody up!
Our show Thursday November 3 is at Lula Lounge and while it may not be a Tiki bar per se, it certainly feels warm and worldly in there – and is one of the best sounding rooms in the country. The Tiki Collective follow the Don Francks Tribute from 7-9pm next week.
Info at: www.lula.ca