Ahhhh… Waitiki!

Mr. Ho of Waitiki
Mr. Ho of Waitiki

In my recap of Hukilau, I made mention of one of my best finds — the Boston-based Exotica group, Waitiki. Waitiki is four guys: Tim Mayer, “The Mayor of Exotica;” Brian O’Neill “Mr. Ho;” Abe Lagrimas, Jr., “Space Kadet;” and Randy Wong, “Professah Humming Flower.” Randy and Abe met as youngsters in Hawaii; both made their way to Boston, where they met up with Brian and Tim — all four are graduates of prestigious music schools there. Randy’s parents knew Arthur Lyman, and he had a strong impact on Randy.

The Waitiki boys are very, very silly. A very nutty and bright sort of silly that struck a serious chord with me. They are a lot of fun — a LOT of fun — to spend time with. This wacky tone carries over into their original songs, which touch on such topics as watermelon sacrifice and the intersection of adorable furry animals and proper grammar. However, their set at the Mai Kai was a tribute to Martin Denny, with an all-classic Exotica set. Listening to Waitiki play at the Mai Kai, I was struck by two things.

First, any Exotica composed after the ’60s just doesn’t sound the same to me, even those pieces by the greats such as Martin Denny and Robert Drasnin. They aren’t bad works, they just don’t evoke that same feel of the exotic and the mysterious. Randy Wong’s original composition, Sweet Pikake Serenade, was the first time I had heard a modern composition that sounded ready to take its place alongside those great classic songs. Halfway through hearing it, I had forgotten that it was a new piece. Stunning, beautiful, and moving.

Second, their entire set was Exotica as I’d never experienced it before. These songs are ones I’ve heard, and loved, dozens and dozens of times over. Over years of hearing them, I’d created a scene in my head of middle-aged, somewhat-serious men playing these songs quietly and intently. The Waitiki boys have every bit the intent and serious focus while they’re playing, but they play with so much life, so much vibrancy, and so much energy. They made Exotica fun. They brought Exotica completely to life for me in a new way. They made me look at Exotica music in a whole new way. Fabulous.

Okay, so here’s the latest in Waitiki Appreciation: They have a new album out, “Charred Mammal Flesh.” Their expanded 20-piece configuration, called Waitiki Orchestrotica, which was created for the purpose of playing faithful recreations of Esquivel songs, will be playing at an Esquivel tribute concert in Mexico City on April 1, 2006. A few tracks from a September performance of the Orchestrotica is available for download on the Waitiki website. Uh, what else… oh yes, they’ve also been wanting to get a show together in NYC somewhere, hopefully at Otto’s Shrunken Head (where another favorite of mine, Fisherman Vibraphonic Trio, plays on Mondays). And also, the guys are on the lookout for radio stations around the country that would be a fit for their music (KEXP in Seattle leaps to mind, and Senor Amor’s Molotov Cocktail Hour on L.A.’s KXLU).

Waitiki is now on your radar — take advantage of their existence! Get to see them if you can, and get their album & all that stuff. Okonkuluku!

5 thoughts on “Ahhhh… Waitiki!

  1. Holy watermelon slice!

    such kind da kine from muestro favorito fan from californai-yeh. mahalo from the heart and we be in touch about upcoming shows west-side till you die! we just gots get coconuts afford come out west and play tiki music all ovah again! YOu are sos kind with words like these and WAITIKI never thought anybody get us until we played Hukilau. Always made people smile but connections aflame like dames at hukilau. a trip and a trip u know?

    Okonkuluku from the only exotic Ho in the band,

    Mr. Ho

    p.s. how job searchy? me in the market UI man seeking create great user experience somewhere out there beneath the great blue sky of Humu Kon Tiki.


  2. Aloha Humuhumu,

    Wow!! That’s the best birthday present a Professah could ask for… I’m turnin 25 tomorrow, woo-hoo! Thank you again for your kind words about “Sweet Pikake Serenade” – I remember us chatting about it after the Mai Kai show, and hearing you reflect on your experience with the tune really means a lot to me.

    On one hand, yes: I did consciously write that song with Mr. Lyman in mind; I tried to imagine myself as a keiki again, watching him play solo vibraphone at Waialae Country Club. And so as I composed, I thought to myself, “Can I imagine Mr. Lyman playing this,” and by keeping that as my intention, I hoped to create something with real authenticity.

    But just as important to me is creating music for my audiences to enjoy; that people such as yourself, Hanford, and others can feel a real connectedness to the music, the tiki culture, and (as you said) that feeling of “the exotic and the mysterious.” Because without the support and enthusiasm of all of you, composing and performing such music would be a moot point.

    Thanks again…

    A hui hou (Until we meet again)

    -Randy Wong


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