The Week in Tiki (May 11-17, 2015): Robert Drasnin, master of exotica, dead at 87

The Week in Tiki Sad news this week with the passing of Robert Drasnin, the exotica pioneer who composed the seminal Voodoo album. Other news includes special cocktail flights at The Mai-Kai, Tiki Kon’s Iron Tikitender competition, and Angry Birds fly the coop to a tropical paradise. Weekly features spotlight artist Miss Fluff, the Retro Roadmap website, El Capitan & the Band with No Name, and Tiki bar Forbidden Island in Alameda. The rums of the week, Gubba Silver and Gold, are featured in Trader Vic’s Molokai Mike cocktail.
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Exotica legend Robert Drasnin dies at 87

robert-drasnin

Robert Drasnin, one of the last greats of the mid-century exotica music scene and a prolific composer of TV scores, passed away on Wednesday, May 13, at age 87. Drasnin is perhaps best known for his seminal Voodoo albums released nearly 50 years apart.

Voodoo, which came out in 1959, was a touchstone of the mid-century exotica genre. After a new generation of listeners discovered Drasnin’s music in the early 21st century, he amazingly released a follow-up, Voodoo II, in 2007. A composer and performer (sax, clarinet, flute), Drasnin is considered to be one of exotica’s early masters, along with Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman. His songs, such as Chant of the Moon, evoke an almost otherworldly vibe that transcends time and place.

When the Tiki revival brought a new generation of fans to Drasnin’s music, he embraced the attention. He performed at The Hukilau in 2005 and 2007
[Watch: Video1 | Video2] and at Tiki Oasis in 2008 [Watch: Video1 | Video2]. After his 2005 performance at The Hukilau, which included a 16-piece orchestra performing Voodoo for the first time since 1959, he was inspired to write and release Voodoo II.

Voodoo by Robert Drasnin

The outpouring from fans on Facebook was immediate:

“He was so wonderful, talented, selfless and a great friend,” said The Hukilau’s co-founder and organizer, Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White. “I’ll miss him and knowing he’s a part of this world. I’m glad The Hukilau made you smile … one of the greats.”

Vocalist Alice Berry, who sang with Drasnin and his orchestra during his revival shows, posted that it was “hard to express how meaningful it was for me to get to be Robert Drasnin’s vocalist. He lived 87 amazing years, filled with music and love ’til the end – which came all too soon yesterday.”

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (May 11-17, 2015): Robert Drasnin, master of exotica, dead at 87”

The Week in Tiki (Feb. 24, 2015): NYC’s Miller takes Emeril’s Tiki showdown, Bacardi seeks new classic cocktails

The Week in TikiTiki, rum and cocktails are making news this week. We have the results of “The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown” hosted by Emeril Lagasse at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, plus coverage of The Mai-Kai’s “secret cocktails” event. We preview the Legacy National Cocktail Competition, sponsored by Bacardi and held in Miami. Other news includes the Instro Summit surf music fest lineup, two special concerts in Tampa Bay, Chicago Area Tiki Tour tickets, and the auction of a massive collection of Tiki artifacts from Disneyland and Disney World. Our weekly features spotlight LeRoy Schmaltz of Oceanic Arts, The Pegu Blog, Double Crown Records, and Hale Pele in Portland. The rum of the week, Ron Zacapa 23 from Guatemala, is featured in the Zacapa Hurricane cocktail.
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LAST WEEK IN REVIEW (Feb. 16-23, 2015)

Brian Miller wins Emeril’s Tiki showdown

Brian Miller (Tiki Mondays With Miller, New York City) accepts the top prize, the Judge’s Choice award, from Emeril Lagasse.
Brian Miller (Tiki Mondays With Miller, New York City) accepts the top prize, the Judge’s Choice award, from Emeril Lagasse.

The big news out of Friday night’s “The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown” during the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, besides the Judge’s Choice award won by Brian Miller, was the New York City bartender’s announcement that he wanted to leave the Big Apple for Los Angeles. Grasping his $5,000 prize, Miller said he hoped to “take a seat at the big boys’ table” and “hopefully pick up where Don (the Beachcomber) left off.”

However, Miller later had a change of heart, and said he realized that “New York City is where I want to be right now.” Miller wowed the judges with his Pain Reliever cocktail, served up during a three-hour party at the Shore Club on South Beach. Miami Beach craft cocktail bar The Broken Shaker won the People’s Choice award for the creative Paradise Found. The event was hosted by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, who was joined at the judging table by Tiki luminaries Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and Martin Cate, plus rum ambassador Lynnette Marrero. World-class chefs provides small bites as more than 700 attendees made the rounds of booths that featured some of the country’s top Tiki mixologists.

Other participants were The Mai-Kai (Fort Lauderdale), Frankie’s Tiki Room (Las Vegas), Royal Kona Resort (Hawaii), The Rum Line (Miami Beach), and Sunny’s (Miami). The win is just the latest feather in Miller’s cap. With his change of heart, a crucial loss to the New York Tiki scene has been averted.

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Feb. 24, 2015): NYC’s Miller takes Emeril’s Tiki showdown, Bacardi seeks new classic cocktails”