Updated Aug. 11, 2012
There are many elements crucial to the appreciation of authentic Polynesian Pop, aka Tiki culture: The history, the architecture, the decor and art, the cocktails. But like the atmosphere of any great Tiki bar, the assimilation of the perfect musical mix cannot be understated.
You can catch many great bands performing at The Hukilau and other major events, but filling your music library with a wide range of songs from the past 50 years can be daunting. Luckily, there are quite a few podcasts that do an excellent job of providing the perfect soundscape. They also giving listeners a chance to sample songs before buying.
Below is a list of our favorites, updated in August 2012 to add the Exotic Tiki Island podcast and GaragePunk Surfcast.
But first, a quick primer. A good starting point for any Tiki music collection is, of course, Seven A. Kirtsten’s The Sound of Tiki. This 17-track collection offers a great history lesson with tracks by exotica forefathers Arthur Lyman, Les Baxter, and Martin Denny plus a visually stunning 50-page booklet (plus Kevin Kidney-designed cover and artwork).
Originally intended as a chapter in the classic Book of Tiki, this CD outlines the basic building blocks of modern Tiki music: Exotica as the heartland with hapa haole, surf and lounge forming the outlying islands of Polynesian Pop (see map above).
With that blueprint in mind, we offer up this list of engaging shows that traverse that wide musical spectrum with songs new and old, plus interesting interviews and news on current events and more. All are available through iTunes and also have Web sites with streaming and download options.
The host: Easily the most prolific and professional podcaster on my list, Koop Kooper produces a weekly radio show and podcast dedicated to the the lounge and exotica scene. Based in Sydney, Australia, Kooper is a former pro tennis umpire who puts his golden voice and hipster charm to good use on Cocktail Nation. His interviews, commentary and advice are the highlights of the hour-long shows, along with his incredibly eclectic mix of neo and classic tunes.
The music: Tikiyaki Orchestra, Pink Martini, Waitiki, Tony Bennett, Combustible Edison, Martini Kings, Royal Crown Revue, Don Tiki, Tiki Joe’s Ocean, Clouseux, Spy Fi, Arthur Lyman, Henry Mancini, Frank Sinatra, DJ Bonebreak, Diana Krall, Julie London, Mr Ho’s Orchestrotica, Kava Kon, Skip Heller, John Barry.
The show: After more than 200 podcasts, Kooper has his mojo working to great effect. He has a vast knowledge of not only music, but also classic and current lounge and retro culture. And the weekly interview segment can be an unexpected treat. Recent subjects are just as eclectic as the music: Tiki Farm owner Holden Westland, legendary comedian Shelley Berman, exotica authority Jeff Chenault, and Barbara Eden and Bill Daily from I Dream Of Jeanie. Kooper has just released a collection of his insightful interviews in e-book form via Amazon.
The site: CocktailNation.net
Related post: Cyber book serves up a taste of cocktail culture via insightful interviews
EXOTIC TIKI ISLAND
The host: Tiki Brian is new to the podcasting scene but he’s a longtime and passionate collector of vintage Hawaiian, exotica and island-related vinyl. He’s found an outlet to let others hear his vast collection (more than 1,000 LPs and growing) in an imaginary place called Exotic Tiki Island. Each episode tells the story of a trip to this mythical land, with Brian’s droll narration adding to the fun. It’s a great concept and a nice change of pace from the usual DJ-style podcasts.
The music: Martin Denny, Les Baxter, Robert Drasnin, Yma Sumac, Jerry Byrd, Tommy Garrett, Alfred Apaka, The Polynesians, The Waikikis, George Cates, Kenny Sasaki & The Tiki Boys, The Ventures, and lots of more obscure artists such as Lani McIntire’s Hawaiian Quartet and The Royal Tahitians.
The show: Brian leads you on a journey through an exotic – and sometimes dangerous – paradise with his album collection providing the soundscape. Visit the Hurricane Hut Lounge, VooDoo Peak, The Bamboo Bar and other distinctive destinations. His voices are a bit clunky at times, but always amusing. And you have to give him credit for trying something unique. Plus, the shows are coming at a rapid pace and getting better with each episode. The first eight were released between December 2011 and July 2012, making it prolific compared to some others. You never know what you’re going to hear, which is part of the charm. One of the most memorable was a boat ride down the “Rivers of Adventure” with the soundtrack from Disney’s Junge Cruise ride.
The site: ExoticTikiIsland.com
THE QUIET VILLAGE
The host: DigiTiki welcomes listeners to his South Seas “hut” to share a Mai Tai and indulge in all things Tiki: Exotica, lounge and hapa haole music, news and interviews. DigiTiki is actually the soft-spoken and highly knowledgeable Mark Riddle, also known as Marty Lush of Tikiyaki Orchestra.
The music: Les Baxter, Yma Sumac, Martin Denny, Eden Ahbez, The Surfmen, Hawaii Calls, Gene Rains, The Vanduras, Herb Alpert, Billy Mure, The Blue Hawaiians, Lisa Ono, Milt Raskin, Cal Tjader, Augie Colon, Bing Crosby, Ernie Menehune, Jerry Byrd, Tikiyaki Orchestra.
The show: Rare and unreleased tunes dominate most Quiet Village shows. DigiTiki has an uncanny ability to come up with songs and artists you’ve probably never heard before. Interviews with fellow musicians and artists tend to get interesting after a few Mai Tais. Among the more memorable interviews were with Hawaiian music legend Ernie Menehune, and the first hostess at Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room. DigiTiki is at his best on special theme shows, including such gems as “The Music of 007,” “Music for a Spookilau,” “Gilligan’s Island,” and “Classic Moon Tunes.”
The site: DigiTiki.com
The host: Cudra Clover is an enthusiastic cheerleader for exotica. She’s also a talented artist and musician who obviously has a lot of fun with her podcast, which concentrates on classic exotica, plus many of the new revival bands. But you’ll also hear lounge, jazz, surf and more, along with theme shows and interviews with current and past movers and shakers in the world of exotica.
The music: Jack Costanzo, Martin Denny, Arthur Lyman, The Surfmen, Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica, The Waitiki 7, Augie Colon, Yma Sumac, Les Baxter, Paul Page, The Hula Girls, Man Or Astro-man?, Tiki Joe’s Ocean, Herbie Mann, Duke Ellington, Combustible Edison, Tipsy, Esquivel.
The show: You’ll hear a bit more jazz and experimental sounds on this show than the others, reflecting the host’s interest and background. Recent interviews have included 89-year-old bongo legend Jack Costanzo, members of Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica, and Andy Nazzal from Tiki Joe’s Ocean. Adding to the authenticity, Cudra is based in Maui, Hawaii. Frequent co-host Captain Kush contributes from New York City.
The site: CudraClover.podomatic.com
SURF GUITAR 101
The host: The charming “Lady Reverb” takes you on a tasteful yet rollicking ride through the authentic surf guitar sounds of the 1960s through today. With an emphasis on (and reverence for) the classic 1960s instrumental surf era, Ms. Reverb also hits all the right notes with some of the best bands from the surf revival of the past 20 years. The SurfGuitar101.com site is a clearinghouse for everything going on in surf music today, so you’ll also get lots of news and insights.
The music: Dick Dale, The Ventures, The Surfaris, Frankie and the Pool Boys, Insect Surfers, The Space Cossacks, The Bambi Molesters, The Reigning Monarchs, The Ghastly Ones, Slacktone, The Volcanos, Jon and the Nightriders, Satan’s Pilgrims, The Madeira, The Bomboras, The Surf Coasters, Man or Astro-man?
The show: Totally authoritative and informative, the show gets only one criticism: Listeners can experience long periods of inactivity. A new podcast was finally posted recently after a 16-month gap. But it’s worth going back and listening to all the past shows. There’s also a SurfGuitar101 Convention held every year in Southern California featuring live bands from around the world. It’s always surprising to see how surf is such a worldwide phenomenon.
The site: SurfGuitar101.com
The host(s): A rotating motley assortment of surf musicians and fans takes on the chore of hosting this semi-regular podcast that’s part of the GaragePunk.com podcast network. As such, you’re going to get some that aren’t so easy to listen to, but it’s clear that all of the hosts are passionate about instrumental surf rock and know the genre well. Many also throw in a few songs with vocals for variety. However, you may find yourself fast-forwarding through some of the more unintelligible DJs from time to time. Some are great, however. In episode 28 (June 2012), Kletzl presented an entertaining and informative look at some unheralded surf bands from Central and South America.
The music: The Ventures, Dick Dale, Man or Astro-Man?, The Astronauts, The Trashmen, The Trashwomen, The Renegades, The Nebulas, The Phantom Surfers, Bambi Molesters, The Pyramids, The Bomboras, Satan’s Pilgrims, and lots of old and unheralded bands such as The Torquays, The Tikis, The Beat Tornados, and The Ramonetures.
The show: One of the show’s drawbacks – the revolving hosts – can also be one of its benefits. Each DJ plays his favorites, resulting in a great variety of bands, some quite obscure. Almost all the hosts also play short sound clips of beach party and B movies between songs, adding to the fun. With 28 episodes between June 2007 and June 2012, it’s somewhat infrequent, but all the past shows are still available for download.
The site: GaragePunk.com
RAT SURF RADIO
The host: If you’re looking for something a little more rough and tumble, then “Dirtbag Surfer” is your man, promising “some of the finest garage punk surf trash to ever victimize yer ear bones.” Broadcasting “almost live, directly from the delightful Sea Cave Room, located beneath the pier in beautiful downtown Ocean Beach (San Diego, California), where the disease meets the seas,” the gravel-voiced Surfer has a deep knowledge of the best underground music going back to the 1960s. If you still need an occasional punk or garage rock fix along with your surf music, you need not look anywhere else.
The music: The Yardbirds, The Troggs, The Kingsmen, Redd Kross, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, The Adolescents, Off!, The Torquays, The Mummies, The Apemen, The Persian Claws, The Phantom Surfers, Holly Golightly, The Neanderthals, The Charles Napiers, The Surfaris, Los Straightjackets, Big Mama Thornton, Vivian Girls.
The show: Dirtbag Surfer (who also performs in the band The Dirtbag Surfers) digs deep into the vault for some very raw recordings, but that’s part of the show’s charm. You’ll hear many songs and bands you won’t find anywhere else, including demos and lots of old vinyl rarities. He also keeps the jabber to a minimum and lets the music do the talking. No interviews or commentary, just a healthy dose of pure rock ‘n’ roll. Be ready to “get blasted.”
The site: RatSurfRadio.com