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Boston, Massachusetts, United States | SELF

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | SELF
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"Winner, Best New Album: Exotica category"

Details at www.hawaiimusicawards.com . - 2007 Hawaii Music Awards

"More press reviews"

http://www.waitiki.com/press.cfm - available on our website

""Looking backward while moving forward""

hose who imagine the music made famous by Martin Denny and others has grown fallow or inert will think differently after sitting back and listening . . .

Adventures in Paradise is modeled upon the tranquil and relaxing exotica blueprint but The Waitiki 7 has built a different kind of tiki structure, assisted in measure by the members’ disparate training, experience and education. A realization of experimentation and advancement within a precisely coded genre gives Adventures in Paradise a context that places it in a unique position: looking backward while moving forward. - Doug Simpson, Audiophile Audition

""A Smart and Swank Affair""

As summer simmers ever-so gently into autumn and this Hawaiian septet delivers a light tropical breeze through willing speakers (wait for dusk; the effect is awesome), even listeners garbed in season-appropriate attire might find themselves spectacularly underdressed. Adventures in Paradise is a smart and swank affair, the kind that usually hums between the walls of an air-conditioned nightclub.

Released to commemorate the islands' 50th anniversary as a U.S. state, Paradise effectively marries the cool melodies of 1959 jazz with a contemporary tang that acknowledges the iconic influence (Les Baxter and Martin Denny are among the tunesmiths lovingly acknowledged here) of predecessors while constructing equally timeless originals in a similar spirit.

That aspect's also present in the band's own DNA. Bassist and bandleader Randy Wong grew up around Martin Denny through his family's friendship with Denny's vibraphonist, Arthur Lyman. Waitiki percussionist Lopaka Colon's connection runs even deeper: he's the son of the legendary Augie Colon, whose slaps and trademark bird calls augmented many a Denny groove. Lopaka inherited his father's prodigious talents, weaving a steady thread through Paradise with his own percussive pats and impressive whoops and cries, the latter of which add a remarkable third dimension to an already exotic instrumental dialogue.

And what a conversation. Listen to how Tim Mayer and Mike Dease interact via soprano sax and trombone, respectively, on "Totem Pole." They melt into each other, complete each other's thoughts, and maintain a compelling flow over the distant perpetual cool of Jim Benoit's vibes, which, like Colon's calls, dab the canvas with an extra splash of color (can't imagine "Manila" without those drops) and smooth the edges of Zaccai Curtis' often-chomping piano ("Left Arm of Buddha"). Benoit and Curtis collaborate to a different end on "Her Majesty's Pearl," painting wondrous landscapes over the hushed rush of foamy falls and a lovely interlude from violinist Helen Liu, whose subsequent slide between Benoit's vibe dots and Wong's bass jaunt sets up a most astonishing personal showcase on "L'ours Chinois," where she memorably flaunts her stuff.

As if the music wasn't enough, The Waitiki 7 remain devoted to making Adventures in Paradise as interactive an experience as possible. Within the booklet, the band thoughtfully includes some choice drink recipes guaranteed to refresh just as effectively as tracks 1-13. "Shake like hell with ice cubes," advises one. Consider it done. Heck, you don't need liquor or even a glass for that. - Cory Frye, Under The Radar

""The rightful heirs of Denny, Lyman, and Esquivel""

Adventures in Paradise utilizes most of the sonic signatures of Exotica: bird calls, vibraphones, animal noises, latin percussion, and ukulele, performed with jazz and oriental flair, drawing from a richer pallette that paints a more compelling picture than much of the blanched white-bread sonic excursions around the world . . .

A lot of interesting experiments and innovations arose from the era, and Waitiki 7 embraces the strengths and weeds out a lot of the chaff . . . Waitiki 7 are transcending time and space, resurrecting spectres of vanished musical styles and making them dance on the rim of dormant volcanoes. This is vibrant and exciting music, full of dashing and daring-do, captured brilliantly by the folks at Q-Studios in Somerville, Mass. They are correcting some of the sins of the fathers, namely complacency and commercialism, and making them their own, as is the right and privilege of all children. —J. Simpson - J. Simpson, WeirdoMusic.com

""Just the right mood""

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Hawaii’s statehood, the Waitiki 7 balances a thematic tribute to Martin Denny and musical stars of yore with piano-driven Latin sounds, modern jazz, lounge, and film motifs. Adventures in Paradise, as the name suggests, could double as the soundtrack for a cheery private-dick mystery flick, calling upon exotic vocal calls, flute, horns, and vibraphone to create just the right mood. - Scott Merrow, This Week's Best Albums, ALARM Magazine

""This new band has a great old sound: tiki torches meets jazz meets 1950s exotica.""

Fire up the tiki torches. Break out the umbrella drinks. The debut of Hawaii's Waitiki 7 harks back a half-century to the golden age of exotica, when lounge-music giants like Martin Denny walked the Earth. Yet Adventures in Paradise's exotic bird noises and camp camouflage virtuoso musicianship. A cover of jazz great Lee Morgan's "Totem Pole" showcases a mesmerizing sax-trumpet dialogue, while the sleek violin of "Mood Indigo" would please Duke Ellington himself. And you can't top the title track, the theme from a mediocre '60s adventure series, for cheesy fun. - Jon Young, Mother Jones, Sept. 2009

""Keeping the fire burning for exotica""

While the lounge music revival has come and gone, it’s nice to see that The Waitiki 7 are keeping the fire burning for exotica and doing a bang up job of it. I love this record and even my parents love this record. Being of the generation of the cocktail set New Sounds of Exotica is right up my parents alley and they could even name records that it sounded like. We bonded over this record! - DJ Paul Pop, POP! Stereo Blog, First Coast News

""Loaded with virtuoso talent.""

The Waitiki 7, a born-in-Honolulu ensemble loaded with virtuoso talent, updates the classic exotica mood on Adventures in Paradise (Pass Out)—a 13-track excursion that pays respect to the venerable music’s roots while charting its own distinctive course . . . The contributions of woodwind player Tim Mayer, trombonist Mike Dease and violinist Helen Liu provide Waitiki 7 with substantial improvisiational firepower. Laka, the Hawaiian goddess of song and dance, should be smiling. - Mark Holston, JAZZIZ Winter 2009/2010 Print Edition (Feature)

""Exotica is back. This album is a special liqueur""

Exotica is back, baby. Not your typical “salsa dura,” nonethless, the Latin backbone is authentic, the musical approach pure jazz. This album is a special liqueur. Recapture your own personal cocktail hour (drink recipes are included with the liner notes) and go with the wave. - KXDU

"Exotica band Waitiki rocks New England’s tiny Tiki scene"

Strangers in Tiki paradise
By Jed Gottlieb
Friday, August 24, 2007 - Updated: 12:49 PM EST

Brian “Mr. Ho” O’Neill is particular about his zombies.
The vibraphonist for local exotica band Waitiki isn’t picky about the undead. Where he demands perfection is in dead-strong, faux-Polynesian cocktails.
“Ah, these look like approved containers,” said O’Neill, 30, spying the well-balanced tray of Tiki-head glasses being carried across Malden’s Tiki Island restaurant. “We love approved containers.”
O’Neill and his fellow Waitiki band members - woodwind player Tim “The Mayor of Exotica” Mayer, 42; drummer Mikey “Smilin’ Jimmy Venuti” Connors, 40; and founder and bassist Randy “Professah Humming Flowah” Wong, 26 - know good zombies, mai tais and scorpion bowls when they see them.

And drink them.
After providing the soundtrack to New England’s tiny Tiki scene for the past four years, the guys feel at home inside the few area restaurants that still buy pineapples in bulk and consider wooden carvings of South Pacific island gods choice decor.
But the band’s affection for kitsch doesn’t taint its tunes. Waitiki’s new CD, “Rendezvous in Okonkuluku”, updates the classic lounge exotica style pioneered by Martin Denny in the ’50s with a twist of West Coast cool and Latin jazz.
“They are serious musicians who use the concept of Pacific Rim and East Asian music as a basis for producing a unique fusion,” said Boston lounge legend and Waitiki producer Brother Cleve in an e-mail allegedly sent from under a palm tree outside a recording studio in the French West Indies. “A lot of people miss the improv side as they focus on the iconography, bird calls, tropical drinks, etc., but that just adds to the environment.”
The band began when O’Neill answered a Craigslist.org ad looking for a birdcall specialist. After a trip to Brazil, where he picked up half a dozen hand-carved birdcall whistles, O’Neill knew this was the band for him.
“I had to answer it,” he said taking a pull from his jade-green Tiki glass. “So after replying, Randy sent me a demo CD, not of the band, but of what the band would sound like.”
It was filled with retro classics including music by Denny, Arthur Lyman and the theme from ’50s TV show “Adventures in Paradise.”
Yes, Waitiki is half a century too late to capitalize on Tiki’s heyday. While the craze limped along for decades in Boston after the shuttering of the iconic restaurant chain Trader Vic’s, the final nail in the coffin was likely the Cambridge Aku Aku’s conversion to Jasper White’s Summer Shack in 2000. But the band still has a devoted cult.
Tonight, Waitiki provides musical accompaniment to Mike “Bargoyle” Sullivan’s first annual Northeast Tiki Tour. The 37-year-old Bloomfield, Conn., resident organized a 48-seat bus tour of six top eastern Massachusetts’ Tiki spots when he decided to cancel his annual luau.
“It sold out immediately,” said Sullivan, who has people coming from New Jersey and Pennsylvania for the ride. “I could have filled another couple buses but I just wasn’t ready for it to be so popular.”
While no one thinks the Tiki gods are smiling again, Sullivan, Brother Cleve and Waitiki all point to an upswing in the scene. Trader Vic restaurants are reopening in the West, (no word whether the former Park Square branch will be revived), stores including Target rely heavily on Polynesian pop, and this year the Hawaiian Music Awards launched an exotica category. The winner? None other than Waitiki for “Rendezvous in Okonkuluku.”
There’s even a new guide to Tiki joints, the second edition of “Tiki Road Trip” (Santa Monica Press, $16.95) by James Teitelbaum, which will direct you to outposts of Polynesian style all over the country. (For tips on selected Massachusetts Tiki spots, see related story.)
Sullivan doesn’t know what killed Tiki - maybe people got tired of looking at thatched roofs during the Vietnam War, maybe kids just didn’t want to do what dad did. But he knows that enough time has passed for it to be cool again.
And he’s got a busload of zombie-loving Tikiheads in Hawaiian shirts and leis to prove it.
“A revival?,” wondered O’Neill with a laugh and sip from a gallon-sized scorpion bowl. “Let’s just say we’re busy.” - Boston Herald

"Hawaiian punch: Waitiki throws a Polynesian party to play the music of Juan Garcia Esquivel"

Waitiki is different from other bands. It’s not just that the group plays exotica, a term better suited to a decorating motif or a category of porn than a musical genre. Or that by all accounts it’s one of two ensembles in the world that still performs exotica, which was named after a 1957 album by Martin Denny and is best described -- and not well at all -- as an island-flavored blend of drums, marimbas, birdcalls, and woodwinds. Or that Waitiki shows have been known to include kung fu and watermelons.

The members of the Boston-based ensemble are on a mission to create a Polynesian experience that goes beyond the ears. Formed in 2003 by native Hawaiians Randy Wong, a bassist, and drummer Abe Lagrimas Jr., who moved to Boston to study, respectively, at the New England Conservatory and Berklee College of Music, Waitiki wants to transport an audience as far away from Boston (or Pittsburgh or Newport) as they can get without buying a plane ticket. If that means hauling tiki lamps, trees, martial arts experts, hula dancers, bananas, storytellers, and their own drink menu into snow-fringed nightclubs and urban lounges, that’s fine.

“There are no restrictions on what we can do," says Brian O’Neill, Waitiki’s vibraphonist, who with wind player Jared Laufou completes the four-piece lineup. “It’s a perfect escape."

Tonight at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, Waitiki is presenting a very special show, even by Waitiki standards. The group will swell to a 20-piece ensemble, dubbed Waitiki Orchestrotica, for a rare live performance of the “supersonic space-age bachelor pad" sounds of the late Juan Garcia Esquivel, variously known as the King of Lounge, Mexico’s Duke Ellington, and -- oxymoronic though it may sound -- an easy-listening innovator.

Esquivel, who died in 2002 at the age of 84, blurred the lines between cheesy lounge music and quirky experimentalism. Influenced by progressive jazz pioneers of the ‘40s like Stan Kenton and Maynard Ferguson, a 1950s Esquivel record might feature a 28-piece big band with electronic flourishes, slide guitar, and a choir of voices singing nonsense syllables. After three decades of relative obscurity following his heyday in the 1960s, Esquivel enjoyed a remarkable resurgence in popularity thanks to a revival of interest among alt-hipsters in space-age pop and lounge during the mid-‘90s, when Esquivel was championed as a cutting-edge pioneer.

“He was a genius the way he combined instruments and exploited the new world of stereo sound,” says Brother Cleve, whose band Combustible Edison was at the forefront of the ‘90s revival and who befriended and collaborated with Esquivel in the last decade of his life. “It’s not elevator music. He opened up a whole realm and created a new style of music.”

The members of Waitiki had never heard of Esquivel until last November, when O’Neill happened to stumble upon a recording in a used record store in New Hampshire with a tiny exotica section. Deciding that it was the perfect complement to Waitiki’s own music, O’Neill turned the rest of the band onto Esquivel’s recordings, and they decided to get their hands on some charts and prepare an evening of his music.

But there was a problem. An unpaid bill at a storage facility in Las Vegas -- where Esquivel lived and worked for many years -- led to the destruction of nearly all of the composer’s charts 10 years ago. There was no written music. So O’Neill decided to transcribe the densely orchestrated recordings himself, by ear, at a rate of roughly 20 hours per two-minute song.

“Sometimes I didn’t know how many trumpets were playing, let alone what notes,” says O’Neill. “Sometimes instruments will generate these overtones that aren’t even being played. His stuff is out of this world. It’s been a real job. But you feel like you’ve done something good, to bring this music back.”

Bringing back the traditional exotica and tiki music native to his culture is gratifying on a deeply personal level for Wong, who moved to Boston in 1989 and has since earned a bachelor’s degree in classical double-bass performance at Berklee and a master’s in arts education at Harvard. In addition to Waitiki, Wong leads Akamai Brain Collective, whose music he describes as progressive island jams. He’s a frequent guest player with the Honolulu Symphony.

“Both Abe and I grew up listening to exotica and tiki music, which has its roots in Hawaii,” says Wong. “A few years ago this restaurant opened on Lansdowne Street called the Tiki Room, and we said ‘Oh, neat. Let’s see if there’s live music.’ There wasn’t. And it dawned on us that there weren’t any live bands in the continental US that perform this music anymore. So we thought we’d go back to our roots. I’m a fifth-generation Hawaiian-born Chinese and I write music that is, for me, an interpretation of that. There’s a big Hawaiian contingent at the shows, but one of the greatest things is we seem to cater to a real diverse crowd.“

How diverse? O’Neill enumerates: “Somerville bohemians, serious musicians, Harvard professors, my parents. More and more people are aware of this stuff. “

The band encourages jet set and aloha attire at tonight’s Esquivel show; think mod pantsuits and flower-print shirts. Special guests Gato Malo will open, and Brother Cleve will speak, spin records, and (if he can score a projector and screen) show vintage slides and film footage of Esquivel at home in Mexico. There will be hula, and liquid accompaniment inspired by and named for each of Waitiki’s members, and who knows what else.

For fans of good times, this night is a no-brainer. For devotees of the music of Esquivel, it will be a tribute to the art of subtle inflection and outsized attitude, an evening for basking in the deceptively breezy sound of 20 top-flight musicians translating a cult hero’s pixel-precise arrangements into one chill party.

“In a way this music is heavy jazz, but it’s very accessible," says O’Neill. “When you put in the antics and the visuals, people forget about trying to get it."

Joan Anderman can be reached at anderman@globe.com. - Boston Globe: Cover Story in Weekend Section

"Light the torches for a night with Waitiki!"

Here’s a combination that will melt the icicles in any New Englander’s brain: Polynesian drums, grass-skirted singers, groovy rhythms courtesy of lounge music hero Juan Garcia Esquivel, and the tiki-torch exclamation point - a full tropical drink list.

That should thaw visitors to the Lizard Lounge tonight when the 19- piece Waitiki Orchestrotica performs the exotica music of Hawaii and the “space-age bachelor pad” sounds of Esquivel.

Anyone for a nice tall “Naked Hula” cocktail? How can you not like a band that brings its own drink menu?

Waitiki got its start two years ago after Hawaii natives-turned-Boston transplants Randy Wong and Abe Lagrimas Jr. decided to form a band that would update one of the island’s most famous musical exports: the bright, breezy sound that got its name from Martin Denny’s album “Exotica.”

Back in 1959, Denny’s hit “Quiet Village” found its way into suburban homes all across the United States. It also inspired many Americans to spice up their backyard Sunday barbecues with tiki torches and introduce stern-faced wooden Polynesian statues to the living rooms of their split-levels.

Wong and Lagrimas were happy to add some of those kitschy elements, but they were more interested in melding the exotica fusion of South Pacific and Asian instruments with their jazz leanings.

“For me, it’s a chance to draw a bridge between my artistic identity and my cultural identity,” said bassist and arranger Wong, a native of Oahu.

“Abraham and I grew up with the music. Arthur Lyman, the vibes player in Martin Denny’s band, was a good friend of my family’'s and I used to go listen to him play and talk to him about music.

“I rediscovered it a couple of years ago in college when I was looking to share the music of Hawaii with my friends. A lot of people think of Don Ho and ukeleles and steel guitars strumming away. But there are other sounds from Hawaii.”

Wong and Lagrimas put a notice on the Craigslist Web site looking for someone who could do bird calls. Boston-based musician Brian O’Neill answered and also brought his vibes, percussion and piano skills to the party.

During a subsequent visit to a record store in, of all places, Keene, N.H., O’Neill stumbled upon the music of Esquivel.

“I’d never heard of him,” he said. “I’m kind of new to the whole lounge-tiki scene. But when I listened to it, I thought, ‘Wow, this is like the sister to exotica.’ That started us.”

Tonight’s show will include a number of Esquivel pieces that band members transcribed because the original manuscripts had been destroyed.

The Mexican composer and arranger was a pioneer of precise, complex, somewhat bizarre yet eminently catchy tunes during the ‘50s and ‘60s that eventually made him a staple on the Las Vegas strip.

Esquivel's star rose again during the ‘90s when his music was rediscovered by younger generations as part of the retro lounge scene.

“The link between the musics is the undeniable creativity in the arrangements and performances,” Wong said. Added O’Neill, “We don’t feel that w’'re selling out by doing lame stuff. We take the exotica and Esquivel stuff as being very deep. When you start listening to the nuances, you hear how much there is under the skin.”

That said, good times aren’t far away when Waitiki takes the stage.

“I love everything about it, from the tiki artwork and visual designs to the jet-set stuff where you can escape and just have a cocktail,” said O’Neill. “It’s a way to have fun without it being a brainy experience.” - Boston Herald - Full-page story, “The Edge” section

"CD Review: "Charred Mammal Flesh: Exotic Music for BBQ""

There are very few bands around today doing “Exotica” music--the kind of South Seas inspired jazz made popular in the 1950's by Martin Denny, Les Baxter, and Arthur Lyman. Probably the best known of the modern groups is the Hawaii-based Don Tiki who has put out two killer albums The Forbidden Sounds of Don Tiki and Skinny Dip with Don Tiki. Then, more recently, there is the Houston, Texas-based band Clouseaux. Well, time to add another band to that list. Their name is Waitiki. They hail out of Boston and have recently released their debut album Charred Mammal Flesh: Exotic Music for BBQ.
Charred Mammal Flesh is an album with two personalities. On one hand, there are traditional exotica tunes like Martin Denny’s “Manila” and the popular “Primativa” as well as Don Tiki’s “Flower Humming.” There are also some great original tunes like “Plamingo Flagoda” and “Cave of Uldo.” But, there are some very odd additions to the album as well. Charred Mammal Flesh is filled with several strange chanting numbers (namely “Pan-XOTIK-Da,” Fuzzy Mammoth Breath,” and “Mr. Ho's Yummy Hut Yee-Haw”) and experimental sound collages (“Insomniac Food for The Mayor of Exotica” and “Insomniac Food, Part Two: The Mid-Morning Snack”) that are unlike anything every put on an Exotica album.
Waitiki understands that Exotica is not just about the music but about the mysterious aura the music creates. It doesn’t do any good just to transport you musically to some sort of Polynesian paradise. You must also invoke dancing native girls, witch doctors, and all the strange creatures that inhabit the jungle. It’s like trying to hand someone a tiki mug without a Mai Tai in it. It just feels empty without that dash of magic.
Exotica music is not the only story when it comes to Waitiki. The guys in the band also have another side project called the Waitiki Orchestrotica. The Orchestrotica is a 20-piece big band that was put together to recreate the original sound of Esquivel’s space-age bachelor pad music. That might not sound remarkable in and of itself—until you realize the original charts for Esquivel’s tunes were lost. The guys in Waitiki went back to the original recordings and transcribed nine of their favorite songs by ear. If that wasn’t enough, they decided to show off these transcriptions by playing them live in spring of 2005. They’re hoping to take the Orchestrotica on the road in 2006 to Esquivel’s home country Mexico.
Waitiki can be heard frequently on The Bachelor Pad Radio Show. Waitiki also has a great website filled with audio samples of both their Exotica music and their Esquivel tunes. Tell ‘em Java sent you. - Java's Bachelor Pad: Hi-Fi Archives


“. . . Hawai‘i is big on the spirit of “ho’okipa” (to entertain)...The high-energy WAITIKI Band was afire with irresistible music, the hibachis merrily cooked away with exotic delicacies and the drinks table offered gorgeous refreshers. . . Randy Wong and Abe Lagrimas in lava lava outfits guided the Waitiki crew with lots of ukuleles, gongs, African percussion and Hawaiian Exotica, added to bass, saxophone and vibes. They were a huge success. . .” (Excerpt) - The Lowell Sun

"Se presenta hoy la Orquestrórica Waitiki en el Teatro de la Ciudad"

Translated in English at http://www.google.com/translate?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwaitiki.com%2Fpress%2Freprints%2F040106_jornada.cfm&langpair=es%7Cen&hl=en&ie=UTF8
Es la única que interpreta a Juan García Esquivel, creador musical de Odisea Burbujas

La única orquesta en el mundo que interpreta la música de Juan García Esquivel —considerado por el cliché musical como el padre del lounge—, la Orquestrótica Waitiki, dirigida por Brian O'Neill, se presentará este sábado a las 20:30 horas en el Teatro de la Ciudad, en el contexto del Festival de México en el Centro Histórico.

Waitiki es una big band de 21 miembros que prepara cocteles sonoros de jazz latino y "sonidos asiáticos contemporáneos escuchados bajo una sombrilla tropical". Es decir, sonidos exóticos—tiki, de Polinesia. Waitiki se gesta por medio de los sonidos de la escena lounge tiki exótica de los años 50 y 60, de gente como Martín Denny, Arthur Lyman y Les Baxter .

Ahora, la Orquestrórica Waitiki interpretará piezas originales del maestro Esquivel, creador de la música del programa infantil de televisión Odisea Burbujas.

"Es un proyecto que deseaba producir en vivo. Con el grupo ya tengo una colección extraordinaria, pero ahora lo que el mundo necesita escuchar es la música de Esquivel en vivo", comenta en entrevista Brian O'Neill, quien transcribió las notas de Esquivel sólo de oídas.

Relata cómo fue su contacto con este músico mexicano: "La música de Esquivel vino a mí sorpresivamente. En noviembre de 2004, un amiga, Yolanda LeRoy, me invitó a pasar el Día de Gracias con su familia en Keene, Nueva Hampshire. Durante esa visita fuimos a comprar algunos discos, y mientras pasaba por la sección de lounge vi dos de este hombre. Nunca había escuchado nada de él, pero despertó mi curiosidad. Afortunadamente, estos discos me permitieron adherir otros sonidos a mi orquesta. Su música me recordó al sonido Waitiki, por esa acústica exótica".

Sobre transcribir la música, O'Neill explica que fue un proceso difícil. "Hace un año que hice eso. Luego de tres presentaciones con la música de Esquivel las cosas van mejorando con el tiempo; mis compañeros me proponen cosas para mejorar. Utilizo el i—tunes y un programa que se llama Finale para realizar las transcripciones, pero lo más importante que uso son mis oídos. Nuestro espectáculo, si es acertado, va a escucharse exactamente como las grabaciones".

La similitud entre el sonido Waitiki y el sonido de Esquivel es que "ofrece al público diversión y entretenimiento sin llegar a esa seriedad de algunas orquestas, sin ese requerimiento intelectual. La música de Esquivel provee humor y entretenimiento. De igual forma, mi orquesta tiene alta relación con las armonías del jazz y la improvisación".

Algunas personas consideraban a Esquivel un vanguardista, pero "yo nunca oí su musica como eso... hay muchos estilos de música más avant garde. La de Esquivel es una música chistosa, pero intelectual, y por eso me gusta. Como la música de Waitiki, la de Esquivel gusta de usar melodías e ideas de una manera diferente". - La Jornada (one of Mexico City's main newspapers)

"México Celebra á Esquivel!"

Translated in English at http://www.google.com/translate?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwaitiki.com%2Fpress%2Freprints%2F030106_dfmag.cfm&langpair=es%7Cen&hl=en&ie=UTF8
"Oye, esto no debe ser una coincidencia...¡hoy mismo Juan García Esquivel hubiera cumplido 88 años!", me dice la escritora Silvia Roche, creadora de la legendaria Burbujas. Es viernes 20 de enero y, antes de comenzar la entrevista, Roche evoca el cumpleaños de uno de los mayores músicos de nuestro país. Coincidencia o no, da gusto pensar que tal vez el espíritu de Esquivel esté presente.

O mejor dicho: donde es seguro que el padre del "space age pop" está presente, y con mucha fuerza, es en la escena musical y cultural. Esquivel! (sí, con todo y signo de exclamación, la marca registrada de su rimbombante estilo), revolucionó la música de su tiempo a fuerza de arreglos vanguardistas y una creatividad enloquecida en el estudio de grabación, y su influencia ha sido tan grande que bien se le podría atribuir el regreso del tintineo coctelero al que asistimos desde hace no mucho más de una década. Además, hoy Esquivel vuelve a ser noticia, entre otras cosas, porque el sábado 1 de abril se le realizará un justísimo homenaje en el Teatro de la Ciudad, en el marco del festival del Centro Histórico.supportpic Y es que, catalogado como una de las razones de ser del movimiento retro-chic, este creador y patriarca del lounge no fue especialmente valorado en sus días. "Era una persona que parecía completamente fuera de este mundo, como la mujer que baila sobre la luna en la portada de uno de sus discos", apunta el tecladista Brother Cleve, amigo de Esquivel y actual "embajador no oficial de la Cocktail Nation".

Cleve, quien junto al grupo Waitiki participará en el homenaje del Teatro de la Ciudad, dice que "con la reaparición de la cultura lounge, hemos colaborado en la creación de nuevas atmósferas para que la gente pueda relajarse, sin que nadie deba limitarse al bar, el restaurante o el club". Por esta razón, sugiere que ya habría llegado la hora de colocar a Esquivel más allá de las fronteras de un género. "Con tanta música estupenda como la que hay actualmente", dice, "no hay por qué ver a Esquivel como una simple referencia lounge", señala. Este, por cierto, es tema de polémica. �La audiencia ha madurado lo suficiente para apreciar a Esquivel? �O él permanece, todavía, adelantado y vanguardista? El historiador musical Irwin Chusid cree que seguimos sin verlo en su verdadera dimensión. "Pasa lo mismo que en 1958 o 1967", subraya; "por su estilo, se habla de él como un artista popular, pero de ninguna manera podría competir con, por ejemplo, U2 o los Rolling Stones. Lo cual está bien, porque ni antes ni ahora consiguió vender millones de discos, pero al menos siempre habrá un público perspicaz para su sonido descarado".

Considerado el mayor responsable del boom del lounge (y de la revalorización del hombre que hoy es motivo de homenaje, ya que en los '90 editó compilaciones suyas en el sello Bar/None), Chusid recuerda que Esquivel tenía un "kitsch appeal" tal vez demasiado glamouroso y sin defecto alguno, "sencillamente, demasiado perfecto". Tras escuchar sus discos una y otra vez, pudo ver del otro lado de la fachada hasta encontrar las huellas del genio. "él realmente era glamoroso, realmente era un perfeccionista y realmente quería que sus grabaciones no tuvieran error alguno", apunta; "el ardid es que tuvo más éxito que casi todos los demás que se esforzaban por tener esas mismas cualidades. Y lo hizo con su propio estilo. Eso se conoce como "identidad", y está claro que no todos los músicos la tienen". Hoy, gracias a la búsqueda incesante de ese sonido excéntrico de parte de músicos, compositores, productores, promotores, dj's y melómanos, Esquivel vuelve a brillar. Pero dentro de una modernidad mexicana que, curiosamente, parece exenta de glamour, dominada por elementos kitsch y tikis. "Lo genial es que su música suena mejor conforme el tiempo avanza: es imposible de copiar, y nadie puede hacer discos como Esquivel", concluye Chusid. Eso, además de "identidad", tal vez se llame "estilo".
Y vaya que lo tenía!

"Cuando lo conocí para hacer Burbujas, sentí que era como un niño que nunca había podido jugar. Decía, 'mira, aquí en el puente vamos a ponerle tal cosa, para que la lagartija baile'. Y yo le contestaba que las lagartijas no sabían bailar, y menos con las botargas. Tenía toda la música en la cabeza, y con sólo escuchar algo ya sacaba el arreglo. Era un músico y una persona fuera de serie...¡y para Burbujas hizo música y canciones como para las bailarinas de Las Vegas!

Esquivel trabajó en Burbujas en 1979; para entonces llevaba 11 años presentándose en el Hotel Stardust de Las Vegas, donde consolidó el tono de su trabajo y, sobre todo, su fama de excéntrico, elegante, mujeriego y fiestero. Para él, sin embargo, parece que lo más importante siempre fue la música...y el estilo. "Cuando escribía mis arreglos trataba de no ser confuso", dijo en una de sus últimas entrevistas, "mientras usaba los instrumentos de manera poco tradicional (...) Mi mayor deseo era crear un sonido diferente. Intentaba hacer lo que ahora se hace con sintetizadores, pero con instrumentos normales. Al final, me tomó años encontrar finalmente un estilo".

Sin embargo, la mayor pregunta que genera su vida y obra, permanece: �por qué alguien como Esquivel, con su carisma, talento y humor, nunca pudo zafarse de sus detractores?. La respuesta no es sencilla, sobre todo por la violencia de sus críticos. Por ejemplo, para R.D.Darrell, uno de los más grandes representantes del amor a la Hi-Fi, Esquivel sobrepasaba la línea de la curiosidad musical al grado de faltar al buen gusto y a cualquier tipo de atractivo. "Abunda en el sensacionalismo sónico, tanto en sus arreglos frenéticamente caprichosos, como en sus grabaciones estereofónicas espectaculares", escribió R.D.Darrell, a propósito de Infinity in sound, vol. 2 (1960); "y siempre, sin excepción, sus crudos efectos se cancelan unos a otros. El sonido de un órgano electrónico, los coros haciendo 'zu zu zu', y los nauseabundos sonidos de diversos instrumentos, lo hacen intolerable. Al menos hay un poco de gusto en 'La Bamba', pero por lo demás� ¡ estaré encantado de escuchar rock n' roll cualquier día!".

No obstante, para un fanático declarado como Camilo Lara, el mayor problema con Esquivel es que su música fue víctima del olvido (eso, después de haber grabado 16 álbumes, uno -Infinity in sound- con 7 nominaciones al grammy, y otro, See it in sound, que no vio la luz porque a los ejecutivos de RCA nunca les gustó, con lo cual estuvo enlatado más de 40 años). Un olvido que no habría llegado por la falta de éxito, sino por la irrupción del rock, que desplazó a las grandes y costosas orquestas. Con la llegada del rock, "México le dio la espalda", dice el productor y factótum del Instituto Mexicano del Sonido; "y desgraciadamente esto es muy triste, porque está en la memoria colectiva de México sólo por Burbujas, que no es la mejor manera de pasar a la historia porque ni fue su mejor obra, ni creo que le haga justicia a todo lo que hizo. Lo importante es que ahora sí ha sido revalorado en el resto del mundo, pues en su momento tuvo mucho más impacto en Estados Unidos".

Esta opinión contrasta con la de Carlos Becerra, productor que junto al músico Steven Brown y el promotor Arturo Saucedo ideó el homenaje a Esquivel que se ofrecerá en el Teatro de la Ciudad. "Es interesante comprobar que efectivamente 'nadie es profeta en su propia tierra' y que por ello mucho del trabajo de Esquivel es apreciado en otros lugares fuera de México", subraya; "el ejemplo es la respuesta a su obra de gente como Kronos Quartet, Montefiori Cocktail, Gak Sato, Buscemi, Terrestre, entre otros productores y músicos que aceptaron participar en la compilación remezclada que sale este mes, además de Waitiki, la banda que interpretará a Esquivel en el homenaje; ambos proyectos fueron posibles por su gran entusiasmo".

A casi un lustro de su desaparición, Juan García Esquivel ya es uno de los personajes más coloridos y vitales de una sofisticada subcultura mundial del lounge, además del pilar de la música pop mexicana. Será que su espíritu, por cierto, está presente. O como él mismo lo ha dicho en más de una entrevista: "he sido extremadamente afortunado".
Padre del lounge, hermano de la exótica

"La primera vez que escuché esos arreglos tan interesantes en canciones completamente familiares, a la vez inteligentes y llenos de humor, sentí que había descubierto una música hermana para nuestra exótica" dice Brian O'Neill, uno de los integrantes de Waitiki, la banda originaria de Boston que se presentará por primera vez en México el próximo 1 de abril, en el homenaje a Esquivel del Festival del Centro Histórico.

Según cuenta O' Neill, su gusto por la música de Esquivel terminó en un trabajo que él jamás había pensado: la transcripicón fiel de las partituras originales. En resumen, la historia ocurrió así: un día de noviembre de 2004, O' Neill encontró More of other words, other sounds en una tienda de segunda mano de Keene, New Hampshire, y enseguida pensó en su trabajo en Waitiki. No porque sonaran parecido, diría más tarde (Waitiki toca música exótica y tiki, género que mezcla percusiones, teclados, sonidos de aves e instrumentos de viento), sino porque algo las conectaba. "Waitiki ofrece a la audiencia algo sumamente divertido y entretenido, sin ponerse muy serios", dice; "de la misma manera, Esquivel provee de humor y entretenimiento en música popular y conocida, lo que lo convierte en algo muy retador y estimulante para los ejecutantes".

Así las cosas, el grupo pidió ayuda a su amigo Brother Cleve para que éste les consiguiera copias de las partituras de Esquivel, para comenzar a ensayar. Ahí fue cuando se toparon con la noticia de que éstas habían desaparecido (aunque hay quien dice que la primera esposa de Esquivel, Ivonne De Bourbon, las tiene), por lo que se hizo indispensable tratar de descifrar, desde adentro, "al tipo de los grandes lentes negros". El largo proceso de transcripción -que finalmente arrojaría una docena de canciones -había comenzado. "Lo más difícil de todo esto quizás fue tratar de escuchar las notas de cada instrumento a través de una extremadamente densa sección de vientos" dice O' Neill, más conocido como Mr. Ho; "sólo tratar de identificar cuántas trompetas tocan en ciertos momentos es algo muy difícil". - Feature in Mexico’s Districto Federal (DF) Magazine

"CD Review: "Charred Mammal Flesh: Exotic Music for BBQ""

Waitiki is a Boston based band that first came to my attention through a friend that told me they were repeating their one-off Esquivel only live show that caused so much amazement to those who saw it the first time.

Upon receiving Charred Mammal Flesh in the post, I thought of the UK band Los Chicharrons. Both bands share the same tiki aesthetic. Upon playing the disc, Waitiki are a bit jazzier that Los Chicharrons, but both bands use a lot of jungle drum percussion, and have tribal call outs between and during tracks.

Cults centered around the tiki icon have been a part of exotica culture since the 50s. Sites such as tikinews.com document the lives of tiki related personalities. Waitiki share all of the imagery of tiki fetishists. The CD cover is a three panel color foldout with airbrushed art of a giant pig on a spit, attended by two bikini clad Hawaiian girls.

The music on Charred Mammal Flesh is sometimes tranquil and sometimes invigorating. There are vibes and bird calls like a Martin Denny Record, and crazy rhythms like a Voodoo Drums disc.

Hawaii has always had a special allure, and allegory involving pigs even reached such mainstream culture as George Orwell's Animal Farm. Dan Simmons used a giant pig as the centerpiece of his excellent book Fires of Eden, also based in Hawaii.

Dew Drop In is an upbeat Augustus Pablo (due to melodica) styled instrumental that skirts the area between reggae and gypsy music.

Even though the music is great throughout, there are 2 songs (Insomniac Food, parts 1 and 2) when you may want to skip the track after you've heard it a few times, as Mel Blanc (I think) tells corney jokes in a cartoon voice during the song.

Pan-XOTIC-Da is a 2:30 lead-in to the following song. Its Zappa-esque chant of "eats shoots and leaves " gets you hopped up before settling into the peaceful Asian instrumental China Fan.

Waitiki have made a really fun CD that is unlike most of the music being made today. Their musical vision comes through clear. I'm not sure if this CS is widely distributed, so you may wish to visit their website where you can download songs or purchase the disc. - Gullbuy.com



New Sounds of Exotica (6/8/2010) - CD
NPR "Exclusive First Listen"
NPR "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" Interludes

Adventures in Paradise (8/18/2009) - CD
#2, JazzWeek World Top 40; #12, CMJ Jazz Top 40
NPR "Morning Edition" Interludes
Winner, Hawaii Music Award

WAITIKI (original quartet):

Rendezvous in Okonkuluku - CD and 12" LP
NPR "Morning Edition" Interludes
Winner, Hawaii Music Award
(2007, Pass Out Records 544)

Charred Mammal Flesh: Exotica Music for BBQ - CD
Winner, Hawaii Music Award
(2005, Pass Out Records 150)



The musicians of The WAITIKI 7 bring together a wealth of culture and superb musicianship. At its core are three of Hawaii’s finest musicians: Percussionist & exotic bird caller Lopaka Colon (son of original Martin Denny percussionist & bird caller Augie Colon), jazz drummer Abe Lagrimas Jr., and bassist/bandleader Randy Wong. Exotica has always had strong Latin Jazz influences; in W7, these tenets are held taut by Zaccai Curtis (piano) and Tim Mayer (winds) — both of whom have received past Grammy nominations in Latin and Jazz. Crossing over from the classical world comes the group’s youngest member: twenty-one year old vibraphonist Jim Benoit. The brilliantly exuberant Helen Liu (violin) rounds out this phenomenal group. Six of the members compose and arrange for the group.

“Exotica,” explains Randy Wong, the 28-year-old bassist, music director and co-founder of The WAITIKI 7, “floats in the zone between soundscapes and an early world music hybrid. Denny took popular WWII-era Hawaiian Island songs (themselves already set to jazz harmonies, and incorporating folk songs from the Far East) and a Latin feel and then added birdcalls. He took large orchestrations intended for full symphonic orchestra and pared them down to make them feasible in the combo context. But exotica just sort of stopped developing in the ’60s.”

Which is where The WAITIKI 7 comes in. Although they bow at the altar of Martin Denny and other exotica pioneers such as Les Baxter and Juan Garcia Esquivel, The WAITIKI 7—whose name cleverly fuses that of the famous Honolulu beach with the faux-Polynesian gods ubiquitous in pop culture—is a band for today. The WAITIKI 7 retains the essence of Denny-era exotica and reconstitutes it for contemporary audiences raised on a multitude of clashing musical genres and pop culture images.

The WAITIKI 7 emerged from a smaller band formed several years ago by Wong and Abe Lagrimas Jr., who plays drums, percussion, vibraphone and ‘ukulele. That group evolved into The WAITIKI 7. While Wong, Lagrimas and Colon are the only members actually from Hawai‘i—the others hail from Boston and the Bronx—all seven musicians share a love of the exotica sound and the associated tiki pop culture, which encompasses everything from art and design to painstakingly crafted tropical cocktails and cuisine.

Each WAITIKI 7 band member is an accomplished musician, bearing degrees from Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory and other top music schools. Their collective performing and recording credits span the worlds of jazz, classical, film music, Broadway and beyond. Wong and Lagrimas didn’t set out to revive the long-dormant exotica genre, but the more they discovered about its unique musical properties and cultural significance, the more they were drawn to the idea of giving it new life.

“There’s no exotica scene in Hawai‘i anymore, but growing up I used to go and hear Arthur Lyman, the original vibraphonist for the Martin Denny group,” says Wong. “He was a good friend of my grandfather’s and my father’s. So we were going to support him as a friend, but I think I got that sound in my ear.” While attending college in Boston, Wong and his longtime friend Lagrimas—who had already played with Colon in an exotica-inspired revivalist band called Don Tiki—began to investigate exotica more seriously, and to generate ideas on how it might be made relevant and exciting again. One by one the band that would become The WAITIKI 7 fell into place.

The WAITIKI 7 made its international debut on July 24, 2008 at the WASSERMUSIK Festival held by the Haus der Kulturnen der Welt (in Berlin, Germany), and its American debut on November 1, 2008 at Liberty Hall for the Retro Cocktail Hour’s 500th Broadcast Anniversary. Its first album (street date: August 18, 2009), Adventures in Paradise, charted for 17 weeks, peaking at #2 on the JazzWeek World Top-50, #12 on the CMJ Jazz Top-50, and #23 on the JazzWeek Jazz Top-50, and also won “Exotica Album of the Year” at the Hawaii Music Awards. The group’s second album, New Sounds of Exotica has a street date of June 8, 2010.