Just got back from a fantastic time at Tiki Kiliki’s Hukilau in Ft. Lauderdale. In what is becoming a Hukilau tradition, I lost my camera on Thursday, before the festivities had even begun. Hanford was able to take a few photos with his camera, hopefully we’ll be able to get those uploaded soon. Sadly, I became rather sick during my trip, with either a nasty cold or a mild flu, I’m not sure which. I’m sure it didn’t help at all that I refused to let the rare opportunity to consume delicious Mai Kai cocktails slip me by.
The event blew away all expectations, which already were quite high. The entire crowd became perfectly still, and all faces seemed to be totally transfixed in reverence, during Robert Drasnin’s historic performance. James Teitelbaum is responsible for making that part of the event come together: first, he had to get Robert Drasnin interested, and then, he had to track down professional musicians who could rise to the formidable task of performing a long set of complicated and exotic orchestrations. Amazingly, this 18-piece orchestra met and performed together for the first time when they rehearsed on Thursday, the day before the Friday performance. The live performance by this talented group sounded just like the recording of Voodoo we all know and love. The troupe contained a few notables: Formikaniki (a.k.a Miss Formica Dinette, or Alice Berry) provided primal, yet ethereal, vocals; four members of the Boston Exotica group Waitiki performed, and Robert Drasnin’s own grandson contributed his percussion talents. Another mainstay of Exotica was on hand for Hukilau, Yma Sumac. Meeting Ms. Sumac was an unexpected highlight for me, I found her to be quite charming, still glamorous, and it was pure delight to meet her. I didn’t get to see Charles Phoenix’s slide show, as I was helping out at the registration desk, but I heard it was a big hit, and Tiki Kiliki has stated that she’d like to see Phoenix become a permanent addition to future Hukilaus.
With every visit I make to the Mai Kai, I find somehow that my sense of familiarity does not grow, rather my sense of awe does. Very impressive. I cannot imagine every growing tired of visiting the Mai Kai, and I envy those who are able to make more regular trips there. Our night at the Mai Kai was wrapped up by a performance by the Boston Exotica group, Waitiki. I’d heard of the group quite some time ago, but this was my first time seeing them perform in person. I was quite simply blown away. I have so much to say about Waitiki that I’m going to have to do it in another blog post, which will come shortly. For now, I’ll simply say that Waitiki made me fall in love with Exotica all over again, and in a whole new way. You’re going to get tired of hearing me talk about how much I love them.
The Mai Kai has been very happy with Tiki Kiliki’s Hukilau and monthly Tiki Torch Night events, and they are very excited to work with Tiki Kiliki for next year’s Hukilau, which will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Mai Kai. Naturally, plans are already well underway for next year’s event, which is scheduled for October 5, 6, 7 & 8, 2006, and will feature the return of popular Italian band I Belli di Waikiki. There’s already a thunderous buzz from people eager to see what Kiliki will pull together for the Mai Kai’s 50th, and people from all over the country are already marking their calendars — Sven Kirsten says that he will absolutely not miss this one, and Otto von Stroheim & his wife Baby Doe are also planning on making it — naturally, Hanford & I wouldn’t miss it for the world.